Sailing Videos, Patriotism, and Civilisation

I’ve been watching a lot of videos about people sailing around the world, the Caribbean, the coast, or wherever. I find myself somewhat envious of these people’s lifestyles: no traditional jobs, no deadlines, and otherwise able to do pretty much what they please. I know they do something to pay for maintenance, camera equipment, &c., and there are events, laws, &c. that hamper them in many ways. No life is perfect.

A couple of things have cropped up because of me watching these videos: first, my family all thinks I’m a bit strange (my wife and I both had grandfathers in the Navy, but not much first hand experience with watercraft); second, my mother seems offended that I wouldn’t want to fly an American flag from any craft I would own. I have a few reasons for this.

First, I am not defined by the country where I was raised. It has had a huge impact on the culture where I fit, but so have other countries`- even some I’ve never visited. Obvious differences between the country where I was raised and myself: spelling (colour v color), units of measure (feet v metres), names of things (football v soccer). Despite having never left the North American continent and only leaving the US twice, I don’t feel any sense of belonging to the country as a whole. American humour (as seen in TV programmes, films, and stand-up comedy) has little appeal; I would rather eat the original versions of dishes than the simplified, over-flavoured versions common in the US. I can’t swear that I would feel any greater belonging anywhere else, but I certainly don’t feel it here.

Second, I have no patriotism. I’ve seen the meme that the rest of the world sees Americans as ‘My country. Always. We are the greatest.’-type patriots, but that type of American (and there do seem to be a lot of them) confuse me. The US has done little for me from my perspective. I have been provided with an education (through secondary school); I have been protected from despotism; these are things one should expect from any reasonable government. A good government would protect the well-being of the nation’s children (see Finland’s baby boxes, and many nations’ maternity and paternity leave programs); a good government would provide the post-secondary education for which an individual is suited (some people shouldn’t program computers – just like some people shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a hammer). I could continue complaining about how the US government doesn’t align with my views of the world, but no government will ever match perfectly.

Third, and most practically, an American flag attracts attention. The US have pissed off a lot of people, so those people may seek retaliation against anyone flying the flag. Americans are often viewed as having money with which they are willing to part or can part, making vessels with American flags a good target for thieves, pirates, con artists, or wily salespeople. Americans are also seen as bigoted, obnoxious boors who think the world should adapt to serve them (anecdotally proven), and they make no attempt to adapt to other cultures; there is a tendency to socialise with those most like oneself and wall oneself off from the cultures one is visiting. This is purportedly common amongst those who have decided to move to another country as well.

I am sure that I am deceiving myself when I say I’d like to socialise with the locals if and when I travel, but I suspect that I would gravitate to those most like myself. Now, here’s where I think I’m different from the individuals who cling to their countrymen: I see my culture or societal niche not as my nation of origin, but as my interests; I would be comfortable around most science-fiction, fantasy, RPG game, or comic fans, those who are fascinated by the idealised versions of historical periods, and those who are enthusiastic about their particular areas of academia and trivia.

As for the civilisation I mentioned in the title? I’ve realised that one of the reasons I like those sailing videos is that to me, civilisation is not civilised.