I have been an anti-national ever since I understood the nature of its allegiance to the country one belongs to. At the same time, I am not a patriot either with its blurred image as it is often a consequence of nationalism.
Patriotism and nationalism have obscure borderline between them. It is a “problematic pair” to find independent definitions to isolate each concept. Both the words are synonyms to each other according to their dictionary explanations. Still, certain attempts have been made to detach the two.
Nationalism arises from the word nation. As such it seeks love, devotion, pride and unconditional loyalty for it. This commitment must be confined within a nation’s borders. It is an outright, and avid engagement with the country one resides in.
Nationalism also seeks pride in nation’s identities contained in monolithic societies.
One religion, one language, and one culture dominate the monolithic societies. Together these are showcased to represent the overall nationalistic character of the nation. The politics of the country is espoused and steered around the sensitivities linked with these aspects.
However, in the universality of the contemporary society, nationalism has confined perspective. It denies or ignores the fast-emerging reality of multicultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious expressions of nations. In the nationalism of the majority, minorities’ share is limited or unimportant.
As technology, internet, and social media are the current factors cementing the multi-facet character of the world’s societies, the sentiment of nationalism is not much of an appeal.
Moreover, nationalism thins out when people migrate due to political, economic and other reasons or as refugees. It is often a dilemma for immigrants settled in host countries to pick one national loyalty and reject the other.
Nationalism has lost its impact because no single identities are monopolizing cosmopolitan populations. But it is used as a political tool to arouse the religious, cultural and linguistic sentiments of the majority community.
Nationalism leads to the political exploitation of the dominating community apprehensive of being overwhelmed by the population mix of multiple and distinctive identities.
Xenophobia is thus forged thru the nationalistic politics.
Governments are elected in a manufactured atmosphere of fear and hatred for minorities, foreigners, and refugees. Enemies are concocted within a nation where bigotry, racism, and injustice are encouraged and played for political sovereignty.
Albert Einstein said: “Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”
Nationalism finds accomplice in patriotism for political gains and opportunism. In this behavior, patriotism becomes a victim of nationalism.
Patriotism is derived from the word patriot. Its character is better understood in valor, bravery, sacrifice, duty and devotion toward the nation and its citizens.
The purity of patriotism lies in the concerns and care of nation’s people, devoting and even sacrificing for their protection and peace irrespective of their class, caste, religious or cultural affiliations. It encourages pride in the achievements of the nation, while seeks critical analysis of its failures which even involves governing leadership.
Nevertheless, patriotism is also an evocation to support and shield parochial aspect of nationalism. As it keeps subtle binding with nationalism, military patriotism is manifested.
But military patriotism induces an ever-escalating global war budget in the name of “defense.”
As patriotism is a major motivating factor, armed forces are raised and maintained with the spending of billions and trillions of dollars for the “defense.”
The question is: defense from whom?
Countries are not being invaded by other countries anymore. That era, which dominated the histories of humanity, ended with the Second World War 73 years ago.
The thirst of the political Left and Right ideologies for political dominance and expansionism are not the factors either. That period was over with the end of the Cold War between the Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc in late last century.
What is aimed now is the business or corporate expansionism. The reason being an ever-increasing appetite of capitalism which significantly impacts both the democratic and communist political systems. Business-political nexus is thus created.
In this expansionist development over the last several decades, borders for battleground are not needed. But the war industry’s clout keeps the borders hostile. Aggressive patriotism, infused with nationalism, is set up across the border lines.
From that perspective, military patriotism is a deadly commitment.
Eighteenth-century French philosopher Voltaire said, “It is lamentable, that to be a good patriot one must become the enemy of the rest of mankind.”
We can admit that patriotism has been a motivating factor in the service of humanity. Both nationalism and patriotism have historical contributions toward pride, unity, independence, and sovereignty of a nation.
But the world has changed comprising of varied demographic character. Nationalism and patriotism are now divisive concepts within a nation’s borders. Most fights and conflicts worldwide are happening within a country, not between nations.
When nationalism stirrups patriotism, the latter develops into a chauvinistic tool of power politics.
Both nationalism and patriotism relate only to the confines of the nation’s border, while the world thru technology, mass communication, and social media is fast emerging a cosmopolitan mix of one world- community.
“Our true nationality is mankind,” H.G. Wells
As such, our concerns and issues are now at the global level of wellness of all the humanity. This empathetic awareness creates respect and understanding among peoples of the world irrespective of class, caste, religious or societal differences.
In this concern, our environments, which have no space in the nationalistic and patriotic jingoism, are also equal partners seeking their attention and protection.
As we are fast developing into a multi-facet global community, what we need is humanitarianism and environmentalism without the caging borders of nationalism, and the obscurity of patriotism.
And a lot of new bottles are needed by some provincial governments in India when it comes to filling up with new names to the ancient cities and towns in the country.
While they can’t change the historical and cultural character of the cities, but the new labeling seems to be the current political hype running across India, especially in the saffron-ruled state of Uttar Pradesh.
If you’re visiting India and going to Allahabad, don’t get confused when the landing sign reads “welcome to Prayagraj.” Yes, that is the latest name change for the city known for its biggest religious fair in the world, called “Kumbh Mela.”
Allahabad, I mean Prayagraj, was the hometown of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and it is for the country’s most popular film star Amitabh Bachchan.
Another name-change casualty occurs to the major rail junction town of Mughalsarai, near Varanasi (formerly Banaras) as it is now officially called Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya.
And if you are traveling down to the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the cosmopolitan city of Ahmedabad has been recently renamed called Karnavati.
For those who are visiting India after a long time, the name-change travel advisory includes that Bombay is now called Mumbai, Bangalore is Bengaluru, Chennai replaces Madras, and Trivandrum to Thiruvananthapuram.
(I had to copy and paste the last one to avoid mis-spelling).
So, if you are visiting India, don’t feel lost in your favorite cities adopting new names. Some of them need little practice to pronounce correctly. However, these are the same towns and cities with the same character and the same hospitality.