Absolut Commodification

At the risk of repeating myself, this is the crucial difference between patriotism and nationalism: patriotism is love of one’s country and defensive, while nationalism is expressed typically through contempt and fear of other nations and a will to power over other nations. — Daniel

As Rod says, the ad would have been slightly easier to laugh at fifty years ago, but I can’t say I find it all that offensive even now. And as a fan of counterfactual histories and peculiar maps, I think it’s too bad that Absolut is apologizing instead of kicking off a series, each targeted to a particular country’s most implausible irredentist fantasies. — Ross

Well, I love Ross’ malicious good humor (and set of maps links!), and Daniel’s contempt for the will to power is always an important hedge against mass stupidity, but The Case of the Infamous Greater Mexico Ad seems to me one of those occasions for healing between the patriotic community and the nationalist community in the United States. Given the historical and contemporary circumstances, contempt and fear of Mexican irredentism matches up pretty well with the defensive love of one’s country. But as we all know, it’s possible for both American patriots and nationalists to welcome even very large numbers of Mexican immigrants interested in becoming American citizens. The real, unforgivable shame of this Absolut ad is how it plays so crassly off the opposing, ostensibly ‘pro-Mexican’ attitude that’s actually a big insult — to welcoming Americans, yes, but more to all Mexicans who stream northward to get the hell away from Mexico, not to reconquer the American west. And here Absolut wants to wring another peso out of the hombre who has to drown his sorrows in a dream — and wants him to drown them in Swedish vodka!

So on the one hand we have a perfect demonstration of the difference between love of one’s country, which often travels, and love of one’s nation, which often wants national boundaries themselves to travel; and on the other we have a nice proof of how love of market and profit leads not to the breakdown of patriotism or nationalism but to their conversion into commodities that bear little, if any, resemblance to the real thing.