“To love your country is to desire to see it become the best version of itself, to point out its failures, to recognise how we each have been complicit in allowing its worst to persist, to work together to create a community in which every resident has all that they need — love, food, shelter, health, peace, prosperity — and are truly treated as equals in every regard.” That quote from Jenn Monroe of New Hampshire is one of the best descriptions of patriotism.
What does it mean to love your country? The question was posed to several residents across Antigua and Barbuda. They said it means: giving back, participating actively, valuing your country, displaying national pride, working honestly, and remaining loyal. One of the goals of the Antigua and Barbuda National Youth Policy is to ensure that our young people are not only morally-centred and environmentally conscious, but also to develop “patriotic youth who demonstrate love for country and a strong sense of national pride”.
Researchers tell us that patriotism is not merely a special affection towards one’s country and a sense of personal identification with that country, but also a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of its welfare. In other words, the common good should supersede self-interests. Does this mean death to self? Not at all. The preservation of self is critical to survival. However, young people should be taught from an early age that they must consider the bigger picture without fear.
They should not always do what they want, but also do what they ought. Why? Because constant failure to think of others and do the right thing develop into unhealthy personalities and unpatriotic citizens. The National Youth Policy indicated that history would have already exemplified the dangers of dysfunctional personalities and countless pseudotransformational leaders whose distorted moral values and self-serving interests outweighed the common good.
Twenty-two-year-old Anwar Joseph, who holds a degree in psychology and criminology and also founded the support group Sanity Chasers, underscored the importance of maintaining psychological wellness. He believes that patriotism is inextricably intertwined with love for others—building confidence in people who are vulnerable and promoting psychological wellness. One of Europe’s most influential Enlightenment philosophers Jean Jacques Rousseau pointed out that “modern man’s enslavement to his own needs was responsible for all sorts of societal ills, from exploitation and domination of others to poor self-esteem and depression.”
Acknowledging that patriotism is rooted in social responsibility, 17-year-old Journey Browne believes that love of country is also entrenched in cultural preservation. But she fears that this nation’s culture will one day be “wiped out” and emphasised the need to teach and practice “the raw unfiltered culture with young people like myself who can prevent our culture from being lost”.
Anwar identified globalisation as one of the greatest threats to cultural preservation. As more youth embrace foreign cultures, they become less knowledgeable and disinterested in their own. Anwar believes that an effective strategy is needed to stop the haemorrhaging of “Antiguanness and Barbudanness”. Patriotism necessitates that youth internalise the uniqueness of being Antiguan and Barbudan. Preserving our culture is crucial to maintaining our identity and visibility in the melting pot. The National Youth Policy appealed for intensified efforts “to write cultural practices into the school curriculum. Understandably, it is cultural for culture to change,” it stated, “but this country’s culture is changing too fast … drastic measures need to be taken to stem the loss of all local practices, perspectives, beliefs and preferences”.
As a proud Antiguan and Barbudan, Journey told YouthZone that “the peace and safety the island brings me is indescribable”. She exclaimed that the 365 beaches are a source of tranquillity. Journey said she will continue to make a difference by keeping these tourist attractions clean and encourage others to do the same. Like other patriotic individuals, Journey understands the value of civic pride and environmental sustainability. She realises that the empowerment of current and future generations hinges on our recognition, appreciation, and conservation of this nation’s valuable resources, as well as our ability to initiate change one step at a time.
It is true that patriotism alone cannot bolster national development, but as writer John Woods pointed out, “it serves as powerful motivation for an equally important but often less celebrated notion: citizenship”. Several years ago, calypsonian King Short Shirt sang “Our Pledge”, a memorable hit with a universal message. The promise was to be “good citizens from now on” so that our beloved “country will be not just a society but a just society. Let this be our pledge.”