‘My country, right or wrong’ is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying ‘My mother, drunk or sober.’
Chesterton said a lot when he said that. To most people, all that it means is that patriotism cannot be taken to an illogical extreme. I would take that one step further and say that GKC actually said that if you let rationality govern your judgement, then patriotism is not something you can subscribe to. This post probably seems apposite (or otherwise) given that we are less than a week away from India’s Independence Day.
Frankly, I never did care who ruled over me. Khushwant Singh wrote this interesting article
about how the days of the Raj were not necessarily bad. Actually, most of us don’t care about who rules over us. I haven’t heard of one Indian who packed his bag and left India because the party he didn’t vote for came to power. If you are going to use the “Democracy” card, then bear with me while I laugh. When I say, I don’t care who rules over me, I mean, I don’t care who rules over me as long as s/he has a sense of Rightness, Goodness, Fairness (which is not the same as equality or uniformity) and Honesty. All need to be in uppercase, because we have come to a world where words are abused to the extent that they need differentiators. Tomorrow, when Honesty is abused, I will use hOnEsty. Till then, read with least strain. I couldn’t care a damn if I was living in a country run by the Brits if only they could be good people. Unfortunately, they are human beings, like the Indians. I would love to be ruled by Scandinavians as this will bring in some blondes to this rather monochrome population! Yes, blue eyes too. Anyway, my point is made. I don’t think Independence helps unless I am being released from evil and brought to good.
India, has been released from evil and paraded naked through a bunch of parties and governments with every single person stripping a pound of flesh as India walks by. To consider this Independence, is short of stupidity. We think we have achieved so much and become an IT superpower and so on. I can debate each and every point in there, but will leave that to a later date. We are only independent in our capacity to have our own flag and constitution (which is skewed in so many places). I think if we had sensible rulers, we could have been granted the privilege to have as many flags as we wanted and in wonderful colours.
But this post is not about Independence. It is about this wasted industry called patriotism. It features in everyone’s speech and is something everyone has to vote for. From the Sachin Tendulkars to Asha Bhonsles to every Bollywood actor and actress to every person whom NDTV gets on screen for their sentimental advertisements about the nation’s unity in some matter, everyone has to be patriotic in order to score some brownie points. No matter what, no Indian (or AnyCountrian) can stand up and say, I do not feel patriotic. It is unacceptable. It is like saying “I do not like my mother”, perhaps worse (since the number of people charging at you would be more in the former case, most people not caring about your mother).
Patriotism is stupid and pointless in the light of intelligence and wisdom. When the citizens are intelligent and wise, they will know how to take care of the place they reside in. No matter where they go. To fragment the world into ego-centric plots of land with imaginary borders and even more imaginary sense of belonging, is ridiculous and highly unnatural. But we still do it. Go up in the air and you will see no border dividing a country from another (except in the cases like that of Sri Lanka, etc.). Then why do we insist on setting these lines? Would you spit on the floor in the house of your neighbour? If you wouldn’t, then doesn’t it make sense that you wouldn’t rape or pillage in Pakistan or Nepal? Then why can’t I walk into these countries and engage in work that makes me useful and benefits people? Because I am Indian! I wish I wasn’t. I wish I had a global citizenship.
Why do I need to be patriotic? How many people claim to be patriotic towards their own house? I like JK’s words:
“Identification with the rag called the national flag is an emotional and sentimental factor and for that factor you are willing to kill another – and that is called, the love of your country, love of the neighbor . . .? One can see that where sentiment and emotion come in, love is not.”
If caste based distinctions is an evil in a country, then so is nationality based divisions in this world. In which case, patriotism is a highly unnecessary “virtue”.
Patriotism has come to mean rivalry against other countries, a sense of I-am-better-than-you. Patriotism means that I do not trust people enough thus wanting to have a military force to “protect” me. Patriotism means that only I care about my country and others are out to ruin it and exploit it. Patriotism means that I should turn a blind eye to the wrong that happens within my society. Patriotism gives us sanction to wage war on other countries. Patriotism means that if the entire world burns, we must only concern ourselves with saving our countrymen. Patriotism means that collateral damage in a war is unavoidable and ok as long as it happens in another country. Patriotism means that I have to be proud for something I haven’t been part of. I need to be proud of the art and architecture of a place although I haven’t chipped a rock. I have to be proud of the ancient scriptures and literature even though I have never read them or understood them. Any proliferating group of human beings can produce something good (technologically, artistically, philosophically, etc.). Patriotism tells me that I should feel indebted to my country and hence, obliged to do it favours. Patriotism expects me to enlist when the country goes to war. Patriotism expects me to love the county’s soil, flora, fauna, natural entities, etc. I do, but I also love the Alps and the Amazon. Patriotism is also this sense of belonging which is the refuge of a hollow person. Patriotism is the sentiment people appeal to in order to make their pointless statements find some followers. As Samuel Johnson said, ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.’
One of the things I would like to see is the dismantling of the entire military. In the land that coined the word “Ahimsa” (and it has nothing to do with Mr. M.K.Gandhi) having a military unit is rather contrary. Or we agree that we never cared about “Ahimsa” and we were just glad that Mr. Gandhi’s stunt got the Brits out of India and we are happy for that. The military is our continuing affirmation of patriotism. It is our knee jerk reaction to every situation of conflict. It is what we think we should deploy the minute something goes wrong and “threatens our freedom”. I think we would be better off investing that in making life in India worth living and hence, creating an army of understanding citizens versus a small battalion. Having interacted with a few people in the army, I only feel sorry when they speak with great pride about India. I am yet to understand how someone can pride themselves for an act or phenomenon that had nothing to do with them. I think the day the military is dismantled and all we have is internal security for law enforcement and managing petty crimes like thefts and riots (I wish we could even do away with that but that requires everyone to be sensible), that day we can bury patriotism and be a sensible nation/world.
A lot of rather strange people would respond with “What do you mean? Aren’t you grateful that your country has given you good roads, hospitals, educational institutions, industries, electricity, transport, food, etc.?” My response to that is “What do you mean? Isn’t the country grateful that I pay my taxes, pay my school fees, paid money at all shops, paid my electricity bills and bought medical insurance and paid all the hospital bills on time?” Subsidies are in place to make it attractive for people to stay on in a country and not out of a sense of patriotism. I don’t think I will be patriotic towards Big Bazaar though now it would be called brand loyalty! The country is doing us no great favour. Make it difficult for people and the country loses their best minds and hands and hence, their place in the market and economy. The country will move Earth and heavens to ensure that the big MNCs and super-big IT companies of India get all the privileges but not your little cobbler joint. Loans for houses are packaged with all kinds of deals while farmers in Maharashtra die because they cannot repay loans taken from shrewd moneylenders. India, and for that matter any country, doesn’t care for you because you are an Indian. They care about you because that might improve their image (as a political party or institution or market for FDIs) or because you resemble a chest of gold for them. This is not a cynical take on things. Why else would I (the government and the people) act to the effect of widening the rich-poor divide? If patriotism must be, then it should be a two way traffic and since the land will not care a damn to produce golden apples for you, the people demanding me to be patriotic must do something which is selfless and overwhelming for me. Better still, we all relate and connect at a level of Fairness, Goodness and Honesty. No need for sentiments and faith.
A true patriot cares so much about his country that he will disallow anything wrong being done to and in his country. He will fight against all liars and cheats and exploiters of natural resources and fellow countrymen. He will be honest and work to his best abilities in order to ensure that his country prospers. He will work every single day to the improvement of living conditions in his country. He will be honest, fair and genuinely good, wishing the best for the country he lives in. He will ensure that there is no corruption in his country. He will ensure that the laws of the land and the policies are well formed and are not favouring just one segment of the population or one geographical sub-zone. The country’s good mirrors his own good and hence, he strives to be morally good. And in a while, he and you, my dear reader, recognise that he is simply being a good human being who recognises how to live Consciously in a world which needs Honest, Fair and Good citizens. He then ceases to be restricted to a country and expands to become a global citizen. By this measure, no one is a patriot.
Think about it. You can either cease to be patriotic or bring ruin to this country. Either way, Happy Independence Day.
[Epilogue] I thought I was singular in my conviction regarding patriotism although I quoted a few big names. Before hitting the publish button I decided to search a bit and was delighted to find fellow mad-men! Some are shared below: