Origins

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Earlier in the week, when we were still living in 2008, I finished Amin Maalouf’s Origins: A Memoir about his paternal grandfather and great uncle. The book alternated between being fascinating and downright boring, depending whether the author’s tales were of limited family or general interest. The best of the book were its tales of emigration (notice how we tend to romanticize our forefathers as Émigrés while today’s similarly situated migrants are the less stylized “immigrants”) and the following observation:

All too often we tend to equate the two attitudes, with the assumption that nationalism is an acute form of patriotism. In those days – and in other eras as well – this could not have been further from the truth: nationalism was the exact opposite of patriotism. Patriots dreamed of an empire where diverse groups could coexist – groups speaking different languages and professing different beliefs, but united by a common desire to build a large modern homeland. They hoped to instill a subtle Levantine wisdom into the principles advocated by the West. As for the nationalists, when they belonged to an ethnic majority they dreamed of total domination, and of separatism when they belonged to a minority. The wretch Orient of our day is the monster born of the two combined.

We still confuse the two today.

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