Patriotism – A Delusion

I was born in a family which glorified patriotism. Both my parents loved this country. I grew up listening to the tale that his brother-in-law offered my grandfather a good job in the Railways if he crossed over to East Pakistan during the Partition. But he chose to stay back in his motherland in relative poverty. So, one may say patriotism was “enshrined” in my blood. This notion went unquestioned for quite long. This was the rhetoric everywhere, whether it be in the school curriculum or in public forums or even when I met my relatives/community members.

However, it was only recently, when my mental horizons broadened, I discovered newer thoughts, studied them, all of which I did in my college, AFMC, did I realise that it is not all white. In fact, it is not white at all. It is just a whitewash, a superstition employed by governments throughout the world. It is a narrow vision, an exclusive tunnel of thought that excludes everyone that hasn’t had similar experiences, hasn’t had similar origins, and hasn’t had similar allegiances. It restricts the thought process to the point that one glorifies everything that is done by their state and demonises anything done by “the other” without giving an iota of contemplation. It can reach such an alarming proportion that “citizens” are ready to lay their lives for the cause, not even knowing if it is right or wrong!! It is this narrow patriotism which made the European colonisers brutally confiscate foreign lands just to create markets for their goods which would help their citizens (or their Crowns??). It is this patriotism which makes the “Caretakers of the world” – The Western powers to abstain from saving the Syrian people from a brutal regime, just because they are not sure how would it serve their (or their citizens’) interests. It is this patriotism (or sub nationalism) which alienates Biharis from Maharashtra or makes Mallus (Malayalis) an object of despise in my college. That too when they even belong to the same “nation”. Humbug!!!

Leo Tolstoy, defined patriotism as the principle that will justify the training of wholesale murderers; a trade that requires better equipment for the exercise of man-killing than the making of such necessities of life as shoes, clothing, and houses; a trade that guarantees better returns and greater glory than that of the average workingman.

What is the alternative?? Humanitarianism. The concept which can develop the entire world. Not a concept which will develop just a single nation, which is many a times at the expense of another. The concept that is not “inbuilt in human nature” like patriotism but that which requires a mountain strong spirit hell bent on peace. The ideology which is all inclusive, a Rainbow vision which shines its mercy as the Sun, that is as gracious as Mother Earth, that showers its blessings like the Rain unmindful of who reaps the benefit, that like a Tree gives its shade to all who seek, that like the Wind gives solace to all, that like a River quenches the thirst of all who come. It is this spirit of humanitarianism that made Mother Teresa, a Yugoslavian to serve in Calcutta. This was what made Gandhi, an Indian, to fight for the independence of South Africa, situated more than 5000 miles apart. That is why Socrates as well as Diogenes of Sinope said “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world”. That is why Neil Armstrong, on stepping on the moon, did not say “A small step for Neil, a giant leap for America”. It is patriotism which can make 2 strangers hate each other. It is this that will repel me from a Pakistani the moment I meet him. It will make me shout on my Independence Day “Bhaarat Mata ki Jai, Pakistan ki *** ** *****”. How does it help?? But humanitarianism, will make me love and help a stranger, by default, irrespective of whether he is a Pakistani or a Chinese or a Caucasian. And THAT, will surely help. It is the hollow patriotism that makes one follow the policies of his/her government blindfolded. It is humanitarianism that makes me question them. I am an “Indian citizen” but I may move on to a new place like say Australia. What will my patriotism say? Work only for your country. What will humanitarianism say? Work ALSO for the local community you are living with. The choice is yours. I would like to sign off with a beautiful quote from The Quran (49:13) where God says :

“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”