A REPLY TO CRITICISMS.
I received your letter, and hastened to read your article in The Northern Messenger. I am much obliged to you for drawing my attention to this. The article is excellent, and I have learned from it much that was new and joyful to me. I knew about Mitskevitch and Tovianski. But I ascribed their religious direction to the exceptional dispositions of these two individuals. From your article I learn that they are only the forerunners of a Christian movement, so deeply touching in its nobility and sincerity, which has been called forth by patriotism, and which still endures.
My article, "Christianity and Patriotism," evoked very many objections. I received these from philosophers and journalists, Russian, French, German, and Austrian; and now from you. All the objections, yours among them, amount to this: That my condemnation of patriotism is justly applied to bad patriotism, but has no foundation as regards good and useful patriotism. But, as to what constitutes this latter, and how it is distinguishable from bad patriotism, no one has yet troubled to explain.
You say in your letter, that "as well as the militant, inhumane patriotism of strong nations, there is also the opposite patriotism of enslaved nations, who seek only to defend their native faith and language against the enemy." You thus identify good patriotism as the patriotism of the oppressed. But the oppression or the dominance of nations makes no essential difference in what is called patriotism. Fire is always the same burning and dangerous fire, whether it blaze up in a bonfire or flicker in a match.
By "patriotism" is really meant a love for one's own nation above other nations; just as by "egoism" is meant a love for oneself more than for others. It is hard to imagine how such preference for one nation above others can be deemed a good, and therefore a desirable,