Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Patriotism - What is it? - II

Hmm, I got a reply from KoPoS on this. A lot of valid points were mentioned in that.

Now clubbing together what I have said and Kopos has mentioned, let me try my hand at this topic once more.

As we try to define this particular word, we now come across a lot more confusion.

One definition we came at was: "Patriotism is an emotion, an attitude. Either you have it or you dont. And of course, as per me patriotism is just a sense of belonging to the state and more importantly that of that state belonging to you. Its about the rights but mainly in the responsibilities."

Is this not very close to something called "Religion" ? Religion too may be defined along these lines and said that it is an emotion. An Attitude. We have it or we dont. So if people who donot follow any religion, or who donot know if God exists or not, call themselves "Agnostics" and some who think God does not exist call themselves "Atheists" and still go about their daily lives without any issues, what then do we call people who donot believe in the concept of a nation/patriotism?

Jesus Christ was of this notion, so was Leo Tolstoy and so are so many monks today. In fact near Pondicherry there is an Ashram called as Auroville, where sand from various parts of the world is brought and a huge meditation center in the form of a globe is constructed. To stay there and be a part of Auroville means that you are declaring that you are a world citizen and one who has no allegiance to any specific nation whatsoever and are a brother of the whole world.

So is it that Patriotism is then a "Notion". A notion that has been nurtured and developed over a period of time so that a "Group" of people get together and try to prosper in a structured way. The concept of the whole is more than sum of parts may be of use here. i.e, when 4 people get together and form a team , then they tend to perform better than 4 indivuduals separately.

ok, so we have a definition of patriotism as a matter of convenience for general welfare and upliftment of a group of indivuduals. These indivuduals who swear allegiance to a group then call themselves as members of the nation.

Now, in this kind of a formation it is very fruitful, if by chance/through revolution, the members have a "Common Link", so that they can identify themselves with that link. The link could be that of religion (as in the case of Arab Nations), or it could be that of a common tongue (Chinese), or it could be a common ancestral civilisation and a history of togetherness in geography (Britain).

Now throughout the world, we see that there is a problem when this "Common Link" is missing . That is when we face issues. Take Yogoslavia. Take Sri Lanka. Take Israel/Palestine.

However, there are countries where the common link is missing, and yet still stand united.

For these nations what I ask is, "Is it then a question of time before they break apart ?" - We have seen that during the storm Katrina , in the US, Blacks and Whites clearly stood separated black and white. What we saw in France during the recent communal riots, was an indication that perhaps civilisation is nothing but a set of barbarians eating with Fork and Spoon. In a matter of days riots are breaking out. People of different religion or tongue quarrel.

Coming to the case of India....there are lot of things which we can discuss here as well.

Now if we take common ancestry , I do agree that we had a large part of the nation influenced by the Indus Valley civilisation. But then, why are Pakistan/Bhutan/Nepal/Myanmar and Bangaldesh not part of this nation. They ought to be. If we consider the geography, they were ruled atleast in part during history by Mauryas and Mughals.

In fact, Chola Traders had very good relations with Malays, and to this day Tamil is one of Malaysias Official languages.

So as of the present, history and geography donot completely provide a complete justification for Indias present boundary. In fact, after the 70s war with Pakistan and China, China conquered thousands of square kilometers of J& K and handed them over to Pak, and it even captured parts of Arunachal and Assam ,which it has handed it over back to us. Now, what of those lands? Do they not atleast "Rightfully" belong to India?

The reason for the whole conflict in the J&K would be that the Hindu Rulers during the independence swore allegiance with India, but the populace was largely Muslim, and Pak wants a bite of the cake. I dont take a stand on this issue, saying that either of them is correct, but my question is more toward the concept of "Boundary" and a "Nation".

Israel has taken a mountain peak from Syria and refuses to hand it who does it belong to? is it Israel because it has military might? or is it Syria because of a historical claim to the land?

Tamils want a portion of Lanka and Sinhala claims it is their motherland and no share would be given to anyone.

So are we then seeing a failure of the concept of nations?

We saw USSR break apart. We saw so many other nations disintegrating to smaller ones....

Are we to learn some lesson from that? Is Big necessarily Better?

I would attribute a part of Indias success as a democracy to its concept of States and a State Government. A state government is a sort of mini government within a government which is providing the much needed identity to a person. The concept of a state in a sense comforts people that they too are being fairly represented and are being noticed.

Even here we saw what has happened to Uttaranchal, Jharkand and Chattisgarh and what could potentially happen to Telengana.

So we see that the success of a nation lies in an "Identity" for its members. Its members need to feel safe. Need to feel noticed. Need to see that they too matter in the whole. If that does not happen, then a nation tends to fail.

When a nation/state neglects a part of its populace, a struggle for a separate identity ensues, and what results is either a new state or a nation. There is absolutely no business of saying that there is a sort of a "Feeling" of oneness. When you are hungry, you want food first. Next you think of development. Nobody says, "All right, I will remain hungry , and let the nation prosper". As Bharatiyar says "If one man is hungry, may the whole world stay hungry". So as long as the last man in a nation is not hungry, the nation is potentially capable of falling apart at any point of time and patriotism along with it.

In the end, the way I would define this word is perhaps : Patriotism is a notion of togetherness that is created for convenience and for common good and prosperity of the group that calls itself one.

As long as it is a positive attitude that says "All right, I will try to improve by working hard to raise myself" , rather than a negative one of "All right, I will try to improve by working hard to lower others", it would do good. The moment that rule is violated, we will see many more Lankas/Kashmirs and Israels.

After I say all this, I tend to think that a World Economy may perhaps not be a great solution in one sense, that it would again tend to break apart due to the "Identity crisis" I have mentioned earlier. Perhaps only when all men completely believe that they all came from the same mother at some point of time will this concept tend to succeed. If not, it may remain just a wishful thought.