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I consider myself a patriotic guy. But as a student of history and ecology, I believe that excessive tribalism, from political parties to nations, is causing or worsening many of our world’s problems.
I’m not saying that organizations and nations aren’t important. I am saying that the planet takes precedence over any nation’s self-interests. The planet—on the order of 4.5 billion years old—could have blinked and missed the brief few thousand years during which humans became “civilized” and started forming nation-states. What we call “World History,” in our hubris, doesn’t even register on a geologic time scale.
I used an example of a Roman citizen in an earlier blog. Imagine yourself the most patriotic citizen of ancient Rome, ready to fight, and if necessary die, for your country and its ideals. Then fast-forward to the present. You’re ancient history. How much of what you lived for—and died for—makes any difference to those living today?
On the other hand, as the opening Socrates quote suggests, powerful ideas can long outlast those who utter them. Likewise, an excessive zeal for nationalism—and the accompanying urge to conquer all other nations—may mark you as one of history’s many bad examples. But one thing is certain: Given enough time, your once-mighty nation will wane and be superseded, whether conquered slowly by change or quickly by military might.
We all need to think about what kind of legacy we want to leave for future generations. Do you want your legacy to be lost in the ashes of a former empire, or to stand the test of time, like Socrates’ powerful ideas? Do you want to be a minor footnote of history, or a building block of future art, science or philosophy?
Most importantly, do you want to leave the world a better place than you found it, so that future generations will praise your wisdom? Do you think that those who are advocating drilling in the ocean’s depths and mining the last vestiges of wilderness to scrape the bottom of the fossil fuel barrel will be praised for their foresight… or condemned for their short-sighted selfishness?
“If I knew something that would serve my country but would harm mankind, I would never reveal it; for I am a citizen of humanity first and by necessity, and a citizen of France second, and only by accident.” ~Charles de Montesquieu
by Kyle Crider
Kyle is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.