Orwell was a politically complicated man, to say the least. Although he espoused communist ideals more or less continuously throughout his life, he also left the ILP (Independent Labour Party – a British pro-communist movement) at the outbreak of WW2 due to their refusal to support rearmament against Germany. Additionally in his work, such as the above essay and his famous novels, he does virtually nothing to spare the communists of his day from his uniquely incisive and brutally honest scrutiny. It seems to me that he was a man far more concerned with intellectual truthfulness and honest self-assessment than he ever was with any particular religious or political platform. In that regard, I would classify myself as a kindred spirit.
Orwell makes too many good points in the above essay for me to belabor any one of them in great detail, (I know how notoriously difficult it is to stay engaged with any given blog post all the way through as it is), so instead I’ll just bring what I believe to be his two best points about the defining qualities of nationalism to the forefront. Again, this concept of nationalism as defined by Orwell should be taken to mean a very negative, self-hypnotic and militantly-proselytizing attitude about not just one’s own country, but about any particular cause about which one is passionate.
As nearly as possible, no nationalist ever thinks, talks, or writes about anything except the superiority of his own power unit. It is difficult if not impossible for any nationalist to conceal his allegiance. The smallest slur upon his own unit, or any implied praise of a rival organization, fills him with uneasiness which he can relieve only by making some sharp retort. If the chosen unit is an actual country, such as Ireland or India, he will generally claim superiority for it not only in military power and political virtue, but in art, literature, sport, structure of the language, the physical beauty of the inhabitants, and perhaps even in climate, scenery and cooking."
2. Indifference to Reality
All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side. The Liberal News Chronicle published, as an example of shocking barbarity, photographs of Russians hanged by the Germans, and then a year or two later published with warm approval almost exactly similar photographs of Germans hanged by the Russians.”
It seems to me that we could all do with a little bit more sober self-assessment, and it’s worth pointing out at this juncture that I too suffer from some measure self-deception when it comes to the military. Particularly because I’ve served, I’m all too keenly aware of this organization’s (and truthfully the U.S. Government’s as a whole) many imperfections, and that that realization to a large extent has colored my appreciation for the work that I used to enjoy doing.
Overall, I’m still basically trying to say “don’t drink the kool-aid,” I’m just remarking on the fact that even your own personal brand of it can be just as dangerous. Take time every day to stop and evaluate your deeply held views for signs of inconsistency, whether that be your political views, your pursuit of your faith, or any other hot-button issue that you consider yourself to be on the “right” side of, to include your sense of "patriotism." If you don’t examine your life and personal views fully and honestly, you’ll be no better than another Stalin or Hitler when you one day rise to power.