German Word of the Week: Hurrapatriotismus

It means "rah-rah patriotism" or jingoism; a blind, reckless, willful extolling of the virtues of one’s country at the expense of all (or certain) others.  I like it because it evokes a crowd screaming "hurra" after various exhortations; quite a resonant image. 

I am happy to report that there is very little of this indeed left in Germany.  Every card carrying member of the educated classes rejects patriotism with a sneering ferocity that I often find a tad extreme.  But then again, George Bernard Shaw once said "You’ll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race."

I don’t have a real-world example at the ready; doubtless many of you readers will.  But what I do have is even better: a description of Hurrapatriotismus from someone who saw it in its rawest form.  I speak of the bilious Englishman Henry Mayhew, who wrote, in 1865, a 2-volume book entiteld German Life and Manners (full title: German Life and Manners, as Seen in Saxony of the Present Day: with an Account of Village Life–Town Life–Fashionable Life–Domestic Life–Married Life–School and University Life, &c, of Germany at the Present Time: Illustrated with Songs and Pictures of the Student Customs at the University of Jena). I previously quoted this masterpiece of cultural chauvinism here.

Here is Mayhew’s prim and disapproving accoung of Hurrapatriotismus among the Jena students:

During our residence in the Thuringian capital, the city was lighted, for the first time, with gas, and it was astonishing to hear how the benighted townfolk rave at the expense and uselessness of the innovation, asking one another where was the need of so much light in the streets at night-time, and vowing that the old oil-lamps were good enough for them.  And yet the beer-befuddled fools would go off to their tavern that night, and sing in their cups, about their "Deutschland!  Deutschland! ueber Alles (Deutschland, before everything!) though not one of them would forego a single glass of small-beer for the sake of bettering it.

With boys this sentimental and inactive patriotism may be excusable; but with men, whose deeds you expect to correspond with their words, the continual windbag-braying about their love of their country becomes rank fustian, when you know how much is required to be done for it, and how not one of the pot-house brawlers is ready to do the least thing for its advancement — beyond, indeed, marching through the streets in some boyish procession, with a big banner flying, and a band of music playing at the head of them.

[Vol II, p. 77]  The next two pages go on in a similar vein, even calling Germany a "Mud-Utopia"!

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