The Right Kind of Patriotism

And Who are the real Anti-Nationals

With the happening of many disturbing incidents regarding patriotism in the recent India, it seems like there has never been a more important time to redefine, or to properly define, the concept of patriotism. Most Indians seem to have a vague, impractical and almost imaginary notion of what it is, how it is sustained, and why they experience it.

Although there are few who would be skeptical about the impact patriotism has had as a uniting force in the Independence Movement that eventually set us free from the increasing number of people today are doubtful whether “too much” patriotism is a good thing. Does this sense of national pride that once brought about unity among us also have the opposite power to bring the worst form of separation? Or: Have we failed to understand it properly?

But what patriotism? Patriotism is a private, personal sense of respect toward one’s country. The degree of patriotism depends on the degree of one’s acceptance of the basic values of one’s land. Such devotion usually considers the reality of a country, which is an integrated sum of its ideologies, cultural atmosphere and political actions.

Now is a fundamental question: Should you, in envisaging a better future and maintaining a sense of national pride (patriotism), consider the realities and actualities of your country — or should you simply support it without any causes, consequences or defined course of action? In objective terms: Is patriotism rational, or instinctive?

If patriotism is instinctive, inherent, and has nothing to do with the prevailing conditions of a country (i.e., detached from reality), it means this devotion is based entirely on one’s feelings and impulses; that one respects one’s country for no reason than that everyone else seems to respect it, or worse, simply because one was born in it. Whether people are being pulled to the level of destitution or have freedom to prosper, whether politicians are using their power to serve people or to rule them, whether there is dictatorship, oligarchy, or democracy in one’s country, are irrelevant matters if patriotism is instinctive.

But, on the other hand, if patriotism is rational, and reality of one’s country should be considered in maintaining patriotism, it would mean that this devotion arises from an of some condition or criterion that is judged as being conducive to the progress of the country. That is, you love your country because you have it as worthy of your love and devotion.

Why should you judge your country? Since man does not have a choice about the country in which to be born, since his nature demands that he decide whether something is good or bad for him valuing it, the only way for him to know whether he should hold his country in high esteem and protect it by all means, is by judging it.

The process of judging one’s country is neither easy nor simple. But judging one’s country with after analyzing the facts of reality, is the only proper way to maintain patriotism in one’s heart. If one judges it as worthy of love and respect, one should by all means fight to protect its if not, one could (and should) try to bring about positive change.

The criteria for such rational patriotism can serve as appropriate standards by which a country can be judged: No restraints on fundamental rights, better and quicker ways to dispense justice, implementation of good governing policies, effective administration — anything that leads to individual progress and freedom, which is the basis of any nation’s progress.

Since these criteria are not arbitrary, but are of a man’s life and a country’s progress, one should decide whether, and to what extent, one loves and protects one’s country The more one’s country succeeds in maintaining them, the more one respects and protects it.

Only those who understand the reality of their country and the extent to which these criteria are maintained or abrogated, can actually bring about positive change; those who evade the responsibility of thinking, of judging, and who blindly act out or condone anything that is done in the name of patriotism, are the real “anti-nationals.”

And for that reason, India cannot be brought to further advancement and technological breakthroughs by brushing its follies under the carpet, or by pretending that everything India-made is good. It can be done only by pointing out the flaws, discussing the progress, and moving toward a society where individual rights are inalienable, upheld by judiciary as well as the common man, i.e., moving toward a free society.

A free society is one where the common man has understood the supreme importance of individual rights: that rights are a necessary precondition of freedom, the ultimate protection against tyranny and exploitation, and that the role of government is to serve, not rule, and that government should therefore be strictly delimited in its scope.

Now think about this: What would happen if these two types of patriots (the rational and the instinctive) were challenged to show their patriotism publicly?

The “instinctive” type would fail miserably to articulate his patriotism as he would have no arguments to make and no logical reasons to offer, except his which are but unclear and unsound, as to why he loves his country.

But he quickly understands his supreme need to protect this deep-rooted belief which so far has given him a sense of belonging with his fellowmen, and which is now being threatened by a question. So he desperately tries to “defend” and show his patriotism through violence against the questioner or debater. The fundamental thing that he does not understand about patriotism is that a true patriot respects, not violates, the rights of others.

A man trying to prove his patriotism through violence is one of the worst contradictions: he is showing how much he values something by destroying it. The value here is: Freedom.

The extreme version of this “instinctive” patriotism is an insatiable urge to prove the superiority of one’s country by waging wars on other countries. Do we not see such mentalities in India? Do we not see people from different parts of the country rallying and screaming to end the troubles with Pakistan by waging a war on it? Do we not see the deeper insecurity of this same mentality when they call any dissenters “anti-nationals” and command them to go to “inferior” Pakistan?

To whatever extent a man has accepted that patriotism is instinctive, unconditional, and detached from reality, he is to that extent irascible and dangerous.

And the other type, the rational patriot, would have reasons to love his country, and arguments to make when those reasons are questioned. He would not use force because he understands the importance of rights.

After the invention of wheel and fire and barter system, rights are arguably the biggest step toward civilization. The abolition of slavery is the consequence of the introduction of man’s inalienable individual rights. All progress of mankind has been made possible by the adherence to these rights.

Rights can therefore be called the spine of a country. It is through the abrogation of these rights that the destruction of a country will begin. History makes this point very clear: strongly established countries collapsed into dictatorships when they violated the rights of their own citizens (dictatorships), and richest nations had been reduced to the poorest due to the same fault.

Thus, the right kind of patriotism is one that safeguards and upholds the

At such a time as now, when our rights are being curtailed, dissenters are being silenced, and atrocities are being committed in the name of patriotism; when government is succeeding in stipulating trade behavior, while safeguarding fraudulent companies; when it is glaringly evident that the standards of public education have hit rock bottom, producing every year servile minds instead of thinking ones; when politicians in power are no longer there to serve but to rule, and launder people’s money — a true patriot is anyone who upholds individual rights and supports such a precarious structure as ours while bringing, as best he can and at whatever level he can, a change towards a freer and better India.

Student | Interested in philosophy