Patriotism, Love for Humanity and Education

Carry van Bruggen, Vaderlandsliefde, Menschenliefde en Opvoeding'.jpg


In 1916, the female, Jewish, Dutch writer Carry van Bruggen published the essay ‘Patriotism, Love for Humanity and Education' as a scathing complaint against the rise of patriotism in the Netherlands and across Europe. To read a selection from the original and the English translation, please click on the sources above.


Van Bruggen presents to us a unique and fascinating point of view. In her essay, she fully rejected patriotism as collective madness. She mocked the ‘hypocrisy’ of those Dutch intellectuals who were surprised by so much violence in a civilized world. She wondered who they were kidding, since for decades Dutchmen, just like the Germans, had raised their children to become fervent patriots convinced of the differences between nations, class, and race. Her aversion to patriotism, her critiques of a biased history education, and her plea for more international understanding aligns her with radical war critics such as Bernard Shaw, Romain Rolland, and her Dutch colleague Frederik van Eeden.
Yet, as a Jewish woman, she also shows us a more unique reaction towards the war. Her sensitivity to an exclusive interpretation of patriotism originated from the fact that she felt like an outsider in a society where the idea of a homogeneous nation increasingly triumphed. Therefore in her essay, she confronts the ‘collectivist poverty’ of nationalism against the value of self-conscious individualism, a question which was heavily discussed among Jewish intellectuals in Europe during and after the war.