About 70,000 years ago, Homo Sapiens evolved from East Africa. Realising the need to socialise, they started clustering together in the form of tribes. Tribes grew, the human population expanded covering almost the entire landmass. Borders were drawn, governments were set up, sovereignty was claimed and states were formed. People started finding out commonalities and things like religion, language and ethnicity came out as a common denominator. A pride was associated with that ‘oneness’ that marked its superiority over others and “Nationalism” was born.
Today, Nationalism is probably one of the most debated topics. Being a nationalist is a matter of pride. Donald Trump even converted nationalism into a complete political campaign and claimed: “When a person is a nationalist, there is no space for prejudice”. But the figures tell an entirely different story. Hate crimes have shown a significant increase in America after Trump’s was as president of America. The problem arises due to the complexity of the topic and the emotional attachment of a person with his nation. Nationalism is usually used in an idealistic context rather than a pragmatic one. Secondly, complicating nationalism with patriotism makes it even more difficult to understand. People often confuse nationalism with patriotism and are increasingly used to mean the same thing. Patriotism and nationalism are two different concepts and confusing them can be dangerous. Patriotism is the love and devotion to one’s country and support for its interests, while nationalism is extreme patriotic feeling where one believes in the superiority of their own country over others. It would not be imprecise to term nationalism as ‘patriotic racism’.
John Lennon believed that without nationalism the world would have been a peaceful paradise, but we must also comprehend that without nationalism we would have been living in tribal chaos. Nationalism up to an extent is good, but hyper-nationalism is not! The feeling of superiority of one’s nation, culture over the others induces hatred which leads to lack of respect for other cultures. Over 6 million Jews were persecuted by the Nazi army, and Hitler used nationalism to convince the German masses. The intuition of Germans being superior to others led to nearly 17 million deaths. The entire human race evolved from East Africa, how can one be superior to other?
Not far from home, The use of nationalism as political propaganda by Bhartiya Janata Party(B.J.P.) and its ideological parent organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(R.S.S.) is perilous. Projecting communalism as nationalism makes the secular environment of the country very vulnerable. Communalism of the majorities(Hindus) is even more alarming. When minorities are communal we can see it and understand it but the communalism of the majorities is apt to be taken as nationalism, and the same seems to be happening. The glorification of ancient India and Hindu culture is acceptable. But marking it superior to other religions is not. It is an integral part of a progressive society to challenge old customs and traditions and change them if the circumstances demand it. Evil and inhuman practices were abolished after someone challenged it with a stronger rationale. But nationalism usually blocks our rationale instincts as we are carried away by emotions. MNCs have even started capitalising it. Entire marketing is done keeping this exaggerated emotion of nationalism at the centre which blinds us. Advertisements manipulate our feelings when plotted around the army, soldiers etc. Ever wondered why Akshay Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan are cast in these advertisements? The capitalisation of nationalism is a flourishing industry now.
Patriotism is good and healthy. It means you want to do something for your country and improve its existing conditions. But being unreasonably proud, however, suggests that despite all the shortcomings like high rape rates, poverty, corruption, sexism, casteism, and flawed political, judiciary and educational system, we are somehow proud. Which somewhere implies that we are okay with all the above things. First, let’s change things that are shame worthy cause there are a lot! Being unreasonably proud of our country, culture etc is impudent.
The surge of hyper-nationalism in recent years after BJP came into power can be detrimental. It is naive to put ancient traditions on a sacred pedestal and to follow them blindly. Best ideas must be embraced no matter when and where they are born.