Voltaire on patriotism

According to my A Word A Day email, Voltaire, that rascally satirist, said the following:

It is lamentable, that to be a good patriot one must become the enemy of the rest of mankind.

It is also lamentable that even with wise men to zing us so expertly, we still haven’t learned much.

PatrickQuotes10/23/05 3 comments


Dad • 10/25/05 4:12 PM:

It’s a good quote, but one that’s obviously wrong. Even in Voltaire’s time, it was possible to love one’s country and yet be tollerant, even loving of the rest of mankind. Today, while many still have the “America, love it or leave it” mentality, most of us are patriotic without making everyone else an enemy. In a way, voltaire’s statement is like saying, “Too bad you can’t be a good husband without hating all the other women in the world.”

Patrick • 10/25/05 4:19 PM:

I think you’re missing the barb, which is the sarcastic use of the word patriot, as in The Patriot Act, or as broadcast by governments that want willing, unthinking subjects. You took the quote at face value, and, knowing a little of Voltaire’s work, I don’t think that is how it should be read.

Dad • 10/29/05 9:39 AM:

You could be right.

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