Just something I've been thinking about recently with the Olympics going on. 

When I watch these sporting events that prior to this week I couldn't have cared less about I find myself cheering for my home team (not literally cheering, I don't get that enthusiastic, but I certainly want them to win).

Why do I feel this way? Is it rational? What do I share with Team GB other than the fact that we live in the same (somewhat large) geographical region? When one of them wins a medal, that has nothing to do with me. Why should I be proud just because some person who was born 300 miles away was faster than someone who was born 3000 miles away?

Psychologically speaking, at a guess I would say this phenomenon is related to the selfish gene theory. Put simply, we want our genes to survive, so we are supportive of those closest to us, our family, because they will share the most genes. People in one's own community are more likely to be family, therefore, we support our own community, and a nation is simply a very large community.

But the fact that it can be explained through evolutionary psychology doesn't make it the 'right' way to think. Evolution is not as fast as modern human development. Our 'caveman' brains tell us that we should support our own community because it is good for our gene survival even though the vast and migratory nature of communities of nations have far outstretched the logic of this idea.

However, there are other reasons to support one's home team. Athletes who take part are representatives of the nation they are from. A nation is not just a community but also an organisation. Just as members of government are chosen to represent the country's citizens' opinions as a whole, the athlete is chosen to represent the country as a whole too. Therefore whatever is achieved by the athlete is also to some degree an achievement held by all citizens. That sounds odd but consider the phrase 'human achievement'. Not every member of the human race need visit the moon for it to be a human achievement. The fact that one person can do this (aided by many others) shows that as a species we have the capability to accomplish this feat. 

Furthermore, as member of the same 'organisation' we must have something in common more than mere close proximity. Should one live in a state of anarchy, this may not be the case, but we don't. Most of us live in countries with at least some degree of control over laws and organisation. If I was so inclined I have the option to (at least try to) move to a different country. 

So I suppose I'm now of the opinion that national pride is not as foolish as I once thought. 

If anyone has a response I would be very interested to hear from you.

Views: 47

Tags: 2012, London, Olympics, nationality, philosophy, psychology


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Comment by Julia on August 3, 2012 at 9:16am

Hm I don't think the comparison to politics works. I think national pride stems from people belonging to a certain culture. For example one might not share the political opinion of the Olympic champion, but still feels some sort of connection to him or her. That’s because they share the same language and world view or an understanding of society. (So even in a state of anarchy you still can feel a certain connection to a group of people - whatever the reason might be: they wear the same cloths, celebrate Christmas or just really like to watch vlogs of two brothers.)

Also, Nationalism is a pretty young concept. I haven’t read enough about it to make an educated statement, so I can only say that I really like my nation and that I still find Nationalism often very silly.

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