(3) Our Man In Carolina


I don’t care a damn about men who are loyal to the people who pay them, to organizations…I don’t think even my country means all that much. There are many countries in our blood, aren’t there, but only one person. Would the world be in the mess it is if we were loyal to love and not to countries? ~ Graham Greene

At first sight, we might be tempted to dismiss Graham Greene’s anti-nationalist themes in “Our Man in Havana,” but I think they deserve a second look. After all, the novel is set during the Cold War and the West was newly embarked on propositional nationality. There is something inherently difficult in loving the acronyms and abbreviations, isn’t there? All the U.S.S.R.s, U.S.A.s, and the U.N.E.S.C.O.s. It’s even more difficult to do when one’s personal health and freedom are at stake. Take away the nation, replace it with a propositional ideal, then ask men to sacrifice for it? Far better Greene’s suggestion: love and loyalty to one’s own at the expense of the bumbling propositionalists.

This sort of family loyalty might be the step needed to return to clannish feudalism and real nations, but that will only happen once everyone has the same awakening as Greene’s characters; once the West rejects Enlightenment models of the rational state. In the meantime, might anything be said for patriotism?

Our man in Carolina might have something to say.

We’ve got one heck of a hurricane barrelling down on us, and this, only a few short weeks after the worst flooding we’ve ever experienced. Our ground is still saturated and with the hurricane, everyone is concerned the floods might return, only much worse this time. The potential damage is frightening.

Whenever disaster looms, I notice a rising sense of community, at least here in the South. We’ve been lucky to only experience this with natural disasters (in my lifetime), but I imagine it’s the same with war. Our bond with each other is never felt more strongly than when threatened by an outside force. If there is anything noble in patriotism, it’s in this feeling of community-under-threat. And while I don’t have all the ethics of it worked out, I wouldn’t be able to knowingly exacerbate the threat just to benefit myself financially.

It goes without saying, however, this feeling of loyalty to a community is much different than feelings of loyalty to a propositional abstraction, especially one as demonic as the United States government. I hope the eye of Matthew skirts up the coast and hovers over DC for a few days.

…so maybe our man in Carolina isn’t too different from our man in Havana after all?

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