The following was written in response to the above question as posed by Dave Hill of Temperama.
I've been wondering - could it be that loving one's country, like loving one's kids, is the kind of thing that it's pretty easy to accomplish alarmingly badly? After all, it's seriously tempting to go about both enterprises in a thoroughly narcissistic fashion, it being so much fun broadcasting one's gargantuan pride in one's love object and basking in the supposed reflected glory. But then to this end, a narcissist must distort his representation of the victim, aggrandizing the poor flunky into a near-total fiction. And the sad thing is that there can be nasty consequences. A child who suffers this sort of treatment will most likely develop either a crippling sense of failure, his own narcissistic defenses or quite probably a bit of both. In the case of love of country, such behavior is probably a significant factor in starting wars.
Of course, it is perfectly possible to love both children and country without scrabbling around to fulfill the need for personal aggrandizement. This grown-up kind of love involves an inclination to see things as accurately as possible, and like as not, also working to make good.
Problem is, I do love England narcissistically. Don't seem to be able to help it. In equally dubious taste, I frequently love manifestations of narcissism in England. My life is ridiculously improved by neo-classical edifices rearing up out of deer-strewn parklands. I hanker after crumbling castles and cloisters of Gothic cathedrals. It's bad really seeing as it is all extremely dodgy ethically. Basically it seems I love to introject and crow about these patron-promoting bits of puff which also happen to be products of feudal/aristocratic societies.
But I do actually manage a more meaningful relationship with England and this time, I acknowledge more accurately what I'm getting into. I'm talking here about the issue of freedom for families and the related matter of parental responsibility, particularly in the light of child welfare/education law. This is a proper relationship: I appreciate the good and recognize the bad. I fret about the bad, but I don't hate England for these faults.
For the good news, it is the case that the English have, until recently, had reasonable grounds to think that they may have some sort of private life, and that parents have a right to educate their children as they themselves see fit.
For the bad news: it is clear that the situation is getting murky in these areas. We stand on the brink of significant changes as a result of which we may well lose all reasonable hope of a private life, and effectively hand over responsibility for the welfare and education of our children to the state. We are teetering on the very edge of this abyss, and the situation is not helped by the fact that most families are not even vaguely aware of the threat. We should be putting up warning signs all over the place.
Back to the good news, it is still the case that parents are in law responsible for the education of their children. Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 still stands and states:
"The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable - (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise."
For the bad, we have the Children Act of 2004 in which, in the most apparently consoling sort of a way, the State, probably entirely by accident, effectively steals responsibility for children from parents.
In broad intent, the act places a duty on Local Authorities to make arrangements through which various agencies co-operate to improve the well-being of children and young people. The result? LAs are now required by their own inspectorate, (something newly called a Joint Area Review), to amongst many other things, provide services to ensure that children are ready for school, enjoy recreation, achieve stretching national education standards, develop positive relationships, self-confidence and enterprising behavior. LAs are also required to know what percentage of children are getting their five portions of fruit and veg per day.
Section 10(3) in the act carries the acknowledgement that in making arrangements, children's services authorities must have regard to the importance of the role of parents and carers in improving the well-being of children, but in this very assertion you sense the threat to the position of parental responsibility. Acknowledging the importance of parental contribution is an entirely different thing to asserting explicitly that parents have primary responsibility and in the failure to say this, and despite the 1996 Education Act, we sense the ever increasing encroachment upon the duties that we as parents should rightfully have taken upon ourselves.
So at what point do parents actually lose primary responsibility? Once the machinery of the univeral database (see section 12) is up and running, the state will, if the database works (which is admittedly very doubtful), not only have the capacity and the duty to provide for the safety, happiness and general well-being of all our children, they will also become the ultimate arbiters of whether these objectives have been achieved.
What role is left for parents? Not much, I'd say. Can we really be deemed responsible for children when they are compelled to live a life that we haven't necessarily chosen and which is judged by criteria with which we may not agree? Do we really feel that someone as remote from our own personal beliefs, motivations, personalities, behaviors should decide how our children should conduct their lives? By way of just one example, we still must have daily acts of worship that are broadly Christian in nature in schools. All well and good if this is your belief structure but potentially thoroughly confusing if your parents happen to be critical rationalists, humanists, atheists, Jews, Buddhists - what have you.
A wedge is being driven between children and their parents and the more people realise quite how much we are losing, the better it will be for everyone since it should hopefully prompt us to kick up a stink. After all, we should be prepared to fight for the things we love properly - for the warts and all.