Patriotism: A lot of people talk about it, fight for it, or even die, but, few understand. For most people, more than understanding, patriotism is about a feeling, or an emotion, towards their motherland. But, why can’t we make an attempt to understand it? I, for one, would certainly like to try.
The first thing we need to know about patriotism is that it is natural. Like a child’s love for its mother. For example, in my case, I was born and brought up amidst Himalayas. And every time I gaze at those mighty peaks, a sudden surge of emotions occurs in my body and I can’t stop telling myself—that’s my home. I am sure, you also get the same feeling when you see your home. It’s natural, isn’t it? And you can barely overcome that emotion, no matter how hard you try.
Now, if someone were to induce this emotion, or manipulate it, in order to achieve a political purpose, I could not agree with that kind of patriotism. Today, since we live in politically charged atmosphere where anything and everything is politicised, we need to be more thoughtful while taking any decision based on emotions.
Moreover, the idea of patriotism is personal; just like any religion. It should not be shoved down someone’s throat. As I said, I get a blissful feeling, every time I gaze at Himalayas. But a lot of other people, who grew up alongside me, do not share similar sentiment. Is that a problem? Certainly not. They may like or dislike the place, in their own way. That’s their choice. I have no right to make them feel what I feel or how I feel. That would be absurd, wouldn’t it? Yet, there are people out there who try to do exactly that.
While we are on the subject of patriotism, it is important to talk about nationalism. As mentioned before, the feeling of patriotism is mostly natural, but the same cannot be said about nationalism. A number of things induce (or made to induce, I should say) this emotion, starting from your childhood. There is national flag, there is national anthem, and countless other national symbols or activities, that keep reminding you about nation. Most of your textbooks will suggest that yours is the greatest nation in the world (and every nation says that, quite unsurprisingly). That does not mean I object to each one of those exercises. They are important, as we need certain guidelines for the sustenance of an organisation. Isn’t nation an organisation in that sense? I will leave the judgement part on you.
What I am trying to say here is that my idea of patriotism is simple. I love where I belong to. I love those mountains. I love those people. I love the culture they have created, language they speak, the clothes they wear and the things they do. That does not mean I love India (or any other country for that matter) any less. I love them all, but not in the same way, of course. How can others decide what you love and how much love it?
In the times that we live in, there is a widespread issue of identity-crisis. Religious maniacs want you to be religious, nationalists want you to be nationalist, communists want you to be communist, feminists want you to be feminist (already regretting writing this; too late, though). It is not easy to not give in to such demands; it is important, nevertheless.
Here is what bothers me the most: we are often told in the modern narrative of nationalism that not only do you have to love your nation, but also, you are expected to hate the enemy. Who is the enemy? That depends; but, it will always be another nation. How can a whole nation be my enemy—I ask; and there seems to be no reasonable answer.
It is a good time to remember this bitter fact that nations come and go. Patriotism remains. Should I love my mountains any less, if some day China seizes their control? I cannot and I will not. But of course, people then, will tell me that China is the greatest nation; and I will be silent, as I am now. And I will have to pay my taxes to the government, as I do know. And there won’t be any other relation with the government, as there is no other now.