Patriotism vs. Nationalism: Beware of the Jingoism of in the Name of a Nation

There is a worldwide resurgence of the nationalist pitch in politics. A globally surging separatist oratory is slowly and surely pushing back the strides made towards an international integration. To every nation, community and ethnic group the outside world, ‘the other’ has become a den of enmity and hostility. This
kind of nationalism poses a threat, reasons Shernaz, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.

Suddenly it seems, anti-nationals have sprouted in our country. One could be slurred by that definition for just about anything one does or does not do. The accusers are people brimming with a nationalist spirit. In their ardour they confuse and interchange nationalism and patriotism which in fact are very different. Nationalism, more often than not, is pretended patriotism. It is an over-zealous investment of
passion in one’s country over and above the rest. To a nationalist there is no country greater than his; his maximum loyalty is.

To a nationalist there is no country greater than his; his maximum loyalty is toward his racial or national group, overriding any other allegiance; he is ready to do whatever it takes, (however depraved, illegal, harsh it may be, even if it causes harm and pain to others) so long as it furthers his objectives. The patriot is more pragmatic, has a broader vision and knows that every nation is grand to its citizens. He does not believe his outclasses the others; he simply knows that there is a lot of good in his country and also plenty that can be changed for the better. Even as he takes pride in it he has the courage to criticise the wrongs he sees and always endeavours towards bringing about profitable change.

Patriots have a sense of national responsibility and commitment towards duty. Their dedication is not like evanescent soap-bubbles but a steady lifetime practice. On the other hand, the haughty approach of nationalists drives them into hysterical, disturbing flare-ups often resulting in killing sprees, rampage, and destruction of public property. Hooliganism often wears the garb of nationalism. Patriots are law-abiding, conscientious, accountable, caring and maintain a civic sense. Their love for the country does not limit itself to waving the flag, singing patriotic songs and saying ‘Vande Mataram’. It goes way beyond that. They have an innate sagacity of moral obligation to protect the country even from enemies within;
it could be the government itself or social mores that are outdated and beg termination.

The patriot strives constantly to be a good citizen with integrity and high standards thus becoming a national asset himself. Much as he will fight for his rights, he honours the fundamental rights of others regardless of their cultural, social or ethnic identity. Patriots are a boon to society. Imbued with a spirit of service, they subordinate narrower self-interest to the wider interest of society at large. They are
honest tax-payers, treat national property and resources with respect and do not squirm their way out of obligations through corruption even if it is rampant. What is not right is not right, just because everyone else seems to be indulging in it. Our country is a mosaic of diverse cultures, religions, and languages. Inflammatory rhetoric of authoritarian leaders has channelised the gullibility and emotions of the

Our country is a mosaic of diverse cultures, religions, and languages. Inflammatory rhetoric of authoritarian leaders has channelised the gullibility and emotions of the general public to achieve personal ambition; minor differences have too often ballooned into catastrophes and as we credulously rally around national, communal and party flags we have failed to mull over the detrimental consequences of the nationalist and populist forces being unleashed. There is a palpable undercurrent of insecurity and vulnerability as democracy seems to be inched out by fascism. And yet, hope shines in the form of our judiciary which gave us three monumental judgements in the past week. May this tribe of fearless and honest judges increase! We, as individuals, and as a people, cannot afford to be complacent when the freedom of humanity needs to be saved worldwide. We have become a global village but only in name. The mushrooming nationalist trend has distracted nations and their people from the horrors humanity faces daily — starving, sick children, erosion of human rights, injustice, deprivation, imprisonment and massacre of those who dare to speak out against throttling regimes or dehumanizing poverty. As citizens of the world, our loyalty has to be directed first towards all mankind and this planet of
ours.

There is a worldwide resurgence of the nationalist pitch in politics. A globally surging separatist oratory is slowly and surely pushing back the strides made towards an international integration. To every nation, community and ethnic group the outside world, ‘the other’ has become a den of enmity and hostility. This kind of nationalism poses a threat, though not the only one, to national and international stability and
co-operation.

I cannot better emphasise the perils of nationalism than Lisa Wade, Phd. does in her article ‘Why is Nationalism Dangerous?’ 

She lists and elaborates on the following:

Nationalism is a form of in-group/out- group thinking: It encourages the kind of “us” vs. “them” attitude that drives sports fandom, making people irrationally committed to one team. When the team wins, they feel victorious (even though they just watched), and they feel pleasure in others’ defeat. As George Orwell put it: A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige…his thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations.

Committed to winning at all costs, with power-seeking and superiority as the only real goal, nationalists feel justified in hurting the people of other countries: Selfishness and a will to power — instead of morality, mutual benefit, or long-term stability — becomes the driving force of foreign policy. Broken agreements, violence, indifference to suffering, and other harms to countries and their peoples destabilize global politics. As the Washington Post said recently, in its unprecedented editorial board opinion on Donald Trump, “The consequences to global security could be disastrous.”

Nationalism also contributes to internal fragmentation and instability: It requires that we decide who is and isn’t truly part of the nation, encouraging exclusionary, prejudiced attitudes and policies towards anyone within our borders who is identified as part of “them.” 

A leader with a nationalist mandate will feel entitled to breaking the laws of his or her own country: If the Constitution interferes with nationalist ambition, then the Constitution can be set aside. Trump has discussed controlling the media, interfering with the judiciary, unlawful torture, and extrajudicial murder. Some of his supporters want to imprison his political rivals. None of this is legal, but he doesn’t care.

A nationalist leader will have to lie and distort history in order to maintain the illusion of superiority. A nationalist regime requires a post-truth politics, one that makes facts irrelevant in favor of emotional appeals. As Dr. Ali Mohammed Naqvi explained: To glorify itself, nationalism generally resorts to suppositions, exaggerations, fallacious reasonings, scorn and inadmissible self-praise, and worst of all, it engages in the distortion of history, model-making and fable-writing. Historical facts are twisted to imaginary myths as it fears historical and social realism.

Thoughtful and responsive governance interferes with self-glorification, so all internal reflection and external criticism must be squashed: Nationalist leaders attack and disempower anyone who questions the nationalist program and aim to destroy social movements. After Trump’s acceptance speech, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullers responded: “He… threaten[ed] the vast majority of this country with imprisonment, deportation and a culture of abject fear.” Anyone who isn’t on board, especially if they are designated as a “them,” must
be silenced.

©Shernaz Wadia

Photos from the Internet

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