Sunday, October 24, 2004

To die for...

The Encarta dictionary defines "Patriotism" as "Pride in or devotion to the country somebody was born in or is a citizen of".

Both pride and devotion are manifestations of our emotional selves and therefore, to be patriotic, we need to identify with the idea of a nation beyond the political boundaries that demarcate it. Myriad factors could contribute to this identification, but chief among these is, perhaps, a cultural commonality comprising language, religion and general ways of life which has stemmed from a shared historical memory. And very importantly, a measure of the strength of a culture is how absorptive it is of the inherent differences in it, in addition to being emphatic about its commonalities.

Two discerning aspects of this cultural commonality are that, for one, such a commonality is constantly in a state of flux, being redefined in a matter of decades; its underlying differences in continuous struggle with its commonality. Secondly, the strength of and belief in this commonality obscures a broad, rational, even humane, understanding of and respect for what lies outside. Both these factors are primarily responsible, at an emotional level beyond social, political and economic reasons, for the numerous wars that we have fought and for the fact that one country's terrorist is another's patriot and freedom fighter.

Historically, though not conceptually, patriotic fervour has claimed, and continues to claim, far too many lives.

I think that respect for and justice to human life should supersede patriotism.

It will also make history exams easier to pass.


Vaish said...

"I think that respect for and justice to human life should supersede patriotism."
Well said! I totally agree.

And LOL about the exams!! :D

Usha said...

Not to mention the geography exams: the map lines should go!

ManojG said...

Souvik buddy, thoughtful and articulative as always..Hard for anybody to say "I dont concur!"

This is not to dilute the idea conveyed, but I was trying to think about Patriotism in a totally different perspective. The idea goes beyond culture, emotion, pride or any other humane nuances. Man is after all, an animal, and the notion of 'Territoriality' is innate, and to be guarding the interests of a group - an instinctive, biological responsibility.

Patriotism, could therefore be a manifestation of this facet of the man animal.

I am sure, at a glance, this may not make sense, but when all those volumes of history, philosophy and religion fail to justify humane behavior and action, we need to get back to science for explanations.

PS: Pls delete this comment if you feel my idea is totally tangential and is polluting that beautiful writeup of yours.

Souvik said...

To the contrary, I think you are right in mapping patriotism to the idea of territoriality. It is also animal therefore, in a way.

But, I still think that is not all, just the way my narrow cultural commonality definition is not all there is to it. So there are sundry elements beyond the instinctive, like you pointed out, & the emotional, like the dictionary says that contribute to patriotism.

Defining patriotism, in its truest sense, wasn't much more than a fringe aspect of the post. I was trying to reflect on to what extent can we justify the killings & the wars in the name of patriotism & indeed if the need to own for oneself, however instinctive, should not be a second to preserving & respecting the lives of others.

Political boundaries are hypothetical margins after all; is it possible to consider the absence of nationhood & the unification of mankind as a whole, in a less instinctive, emotional sense but perhaps a more human, ethical sense?

But more than that, thanks for taking time out to reflect on what I had to say. I'll make you more Poha, by God!