Human beings tend attach themselves to relationships. We become loyal to our work places, schools, families, sports teams, religious institutions, political parties, favorite product brands and nations. More often than not, loyalty is one directional. Once loyalty is given, there is an implication of staying true to that person or idea, even in cases where rational decision making would say otherwise. Gaining loyalty based on some arbitrary societal vector can often lead to a means of control and even subjugation.
In 1994, the US Department of Justice released a study showing 80% of murder victims were killed by people that they knew, 16% by family members and 64% by acquaintances. Only 20% were victims of strangers1. A 1992 review showed that children under the age of six were most likely to be the victim of abuse by a family member (50%) and least likely by a stranger (9%)2.
We are brought up to fear strangers, however criminal justice studies show that you are most likely to be victimized by someone you know. Family bonds can create a sense of loyalty. While those bonds can create a strong sense of belonging, they can also lead family members to overlook or even cover-up abuse and crimes. Trust given by close friends and relatives is essential for building a strong social context. It can provide a safety net for those who become victims of circumstance or bad decisions, but it is also one of the easiest bonds to exploit by unscrupulous individuals.
I once took a contract job developing data entry software for an Australian travel agency. Within the first week, my manager, who had been with the company for over six years, had his position made redundant. Prior to that, I worked at a university where a manager had mentioned that a major reason she was staying at the university was because of the tuition discounts for her children. Due to budget restrictions, her position was removed and she too was laid off.
High-tech fields grow at an incredible rate. The average stay at a single company for a software developer is twenty-three months3. Japanese workers typically stay with the first company that hires them for their entire lives, a type of loyalty that’s not common in Western cultures today.
Previous generations tell stories of job loyalty and working decades for a company in return for a pension and retirement benefits. But where unions were once strong and able to bring about those types of benefits, the recent economic downturn has shown that loyalty from employees means nothing to large companies.
In 2013, General Electric began layoffs of nearly a thousand jobs at their manufacturing facility in Erie, Pennsylvania. GE’s Transportation devision is one of their best preforming units, and boasted record profits of over $1 billion in 2012. Even though General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt saw his compensation rise 80 percent to $20.6 million in 20124, the company still decided to cut their labor staff, rather than balance their losses by reducing wages of higher paid workers.
In perspective, loyalty to a company means very little. Even those with highly skilled positions can find themselves on the chopping block should their wages become too high compared to company earnings. Employers pay people in exchange for time, and some companies try to instill a shared sense of vision with employees. Moral can be increased by getting staff to share a sense of pride and meaningfulness of their work.
Some startup companies do have shared ownership between all the people who found the company. Some highly skilled positions come with stock or stock options, which also provide a way to have an authentic piece of ownership in a company. However this model is not common, especially with low wage, unskilled and mid-skilled labor. The sense of belonging is a fictional one crafted to increase moral and reduce the possibility of employees creating real ownership of their work.
He’s worked at the paper
A man’s here to take him downstairs
And I’m sorry, Mr. Jones
Yeah, and all of these bastards
Have taken his place
He’s forgotten but not yet gone
And I’m sorry, Mr. Jones
It’s time -Fred Jones Part 2, Ben Folds
Race and Heritage
I’ve found it odd that people take pride in their race. It’s often more socially acceptable for a disenfranchised minority to take pride in their racial heritage than that of a privileged one. Examples of the later include “white supremacists”; groups that are typically shunned compared to groups promoting Native America or African American pride. The example isn’t truly a just one since one group, by its very name, expresses the desire of superiority where as the others typically emphasize co-existence. However I would argue that in either case, taking pride in one’s race is rather irrational.
People do not choose which race they are born as, nor is race an attribute that can be altered. Although one’s ancestry may have provided a betterment or detriment to society, it makes no sense for one to take pride in a heritage he or she was born into any more than it does for an individual to be blamed for the proverbial sins of the father. Descending from a slave owner or a member of the Nazi party should not cause shame nor should descending from a great scientist or artist be a source of individual pride.
If anything, one’s loyalty to their own race, even in the spirit of co-existence, tends to draw attention to prominent members of that social group. Inventors, scientists, social activists and leaders are praised as sources of inspiration and idolization while any flaws they might have are often ignored. Mahatma Gandhi often slept naked with young women in order to build his purity and train himself to not be sexually aroused5. Martin Luther King was a smoker and was involved in so many extramarital affairs that his wife was reportedly disillusioned with their marriage6.
Loyalty to someone based on their race is just as illogical as the worship of great leaders based on their cult of personality. Each individual person has their own traits and degree of trustworthiness. To simply take pride in an entire people group, which one has no control over belonging to, can lead to justification of faults and defense of crimes.
It’s considered acceptable to take pride in one’s race so long as one doesn’t hold another race as inferior, somewhat more so for a disenfranchised minority than a race that makes up the majority of a population. I would argue that even without the fear and hatred that comes about with racial supremacy, a basic pride in one’s race is not healthy nor is it beneficial to society. Despite the best intentions to build solidarity and pride within a community, loyalty based purely on genetics can diminish the loyalty we should have towards all of humanity despite our differences.
Nationalism is a form of loyalty often bred from an individual’s association with a state. It builds a source of solidarity among individuals, for most, based purely upon the region and political system they happen to be born into. During periods throughout history, new countries sought immigrants for a necessary labour force. Ellis Island processed countless immigrants traveling to the United States in hope of a better life. Australia campaigned heavily for new immigrants from Europe. The early railroads in America relied heavily on the labour of Chinese immigrants.
“Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it…” -George Bernard Shaw7
With the world population estimated to be approximately 7 billion people, only 232 million people live away from their country of origin6, or around 3% or the world population. Yet a number of nations still have strong anti-immigratant sentiment. The White Australia policy of 1901 was an anti-Asian initiative that lasted well into the mid-20th century8. In the early 1990s, the Australians Against Further Immigration party began a political campaign titled “Australia is Full9.” Today, Australia is criticized by the UN Human Rights council for the conditions in its offshore refugee processing centers on islands like Naru10.
So, what does immigration have to do with nationalism? Often the people campaigning against immigration in post-colonial nations such as the United States and Australia, are themselves the descendants of immigrants. The establishment of their respective nations lay waste to existing populations and was perpetuated by violence. Nationalism is often the idea that a state can instill a sense of pride in a constructed culture, often brought together by war and legal systems.
Nationalism can also be a precursor of patriotism, the idea of being loyal to a state. Patriotism helps instill the belief that a state is right and correct. That sense of loyalty, the moral imperative that one owes dedication to their country, is what is often manipulated and used by leaders to rise a military. When leaders are able to accrue enough resources, that loyalty can also be used to build an empire.
Loyalty to one’s family and country can build strong bonds, grow dedicated friendships and show the unconditional love of a parent. It would seem that loyalty is a trait to be praised, but in many of these examples, loyalty can also lead people to overlook faults. When we give our loyalty to a group or a cause, it can be used to control and manipulate.
We should not be loyal, simply to our families and certainly not to workplaces that exchange our labour for money or government leaders who seek to acquire prestige. We are not separated from each other by physical borders or social classes, but by the way in which we place our loyalties to those entities. For humanity to grow together, our loyalty should never be to individual people, organizations or governments. Our loyalty should be to the entire human race.
“Our true nationality is mankind.” -H.G. Wells7
Overview of Child Abuse and Neglect: Trends and Roles of the Child Welfare Agency and the Juvenile Court Torbet. Halemba. Sickmund. National Juvenile Court Data Archive. 1995 ↩
On the High Turnover Rate of Software Developers or How to Retain your Best Software Developers and Programmers September 26, 2010. Uy. Retrieved on November 14, 2012. ↩
GE Transportation announces 950 layoffs in Erie, Pennsylvania. 20 April 2013. Lusanne. World Socalist Web Site. ↩
Martin Luther King Cheated On His Wife & Other Lesser-Known Facts About The Civil Rights Leader For MLK Day. 21 January 2013. Stone. International Business Times. ↩
232 million international migrants living abroad worldwide–new UN global migration statistics reveal. 11 September 2013. UN Press Release. ↩ ↩2
Australia’s asylum seeker policies heavily criticised at UN Human Rights Council review. 10 November 2015. Millar. ABC News. ↩