Patriotism or national pride is the feeling of love, a sense of attachment to the homeland and with the citizens who share the same sentiment. Patriotism is the love that supersedes any individual’s vested interest. Just like our parents’ love- unconditional and sacred, patriotism is to serve the country through our hard work. Just as a farmer, who tries to produce crops in a way that feeds the people of his land, patriotism is the inner calling or ‘Swadharma’ which feeds the health of the mind and therefore, the health of the nation.
However, in a world increasingly being taken over by extremist ideologies, the idea of patriotism has been distorted to serve the likelihood of a few. The new concept of patriotism, a form of jingoism, is where loyalty is sought for the dominant ruling establishment and not for the country. A loyalty which is militarized and any opposition to it is now largely being considered as anti-national.
In George Barnard Shaw’s words, “Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it”.
The genesis of the word ‘Patriotism’ goes way back to the Greek century. The Greek word ‘pater‘ (father) is the basis of the word ‘patris’ or native land and so patriotic means ‘the love of country’. The word Patris thus being connected to Patriarchy.
The nature of a patriarch is chauvinistic, egoistic and overbearing. So maybe yes, patriotism means love for one’s country but now that affection is turning to prove who is the strongest.
This patriarchy is not gender-specific, rather it includes the underlying notions of war, supremacy and violence that has percolated in our way of resistance.
The use of water canons, thrashing/ maligning one’s character on social media and use of extra-constitutional means by the state all point towards the fact that as a patriarch, it has now become predetermined to prove oneself correct always and legitimise authority over others.
Today, a revolutionary air blows around us demanding change not through intellectual dissent but rather through physical onslaught. A purely philosophical movement may be inert but an overly aggressive movement is surely destructive. As protests sweep through the streets, burning down buildings with bullets and stones stealing lives, it is clear that the idea of patriotism is in peril. In the year that went by, we saw many such ‘patriotic acts’- The ultimate being a chaotic transition of the US presidency.
White nationalism, religious fundamentalism, the brutal conduct of the police against the anti-CAA protesters, #MobLynchings by religious fanatics, the spread of populism and retreat of democracy worldwide, poisoning an opponent, the rise of the far-right in Europe, and the list continues. All these recurring actions are a violent form of ‘pseudo patriotism’ which have dampened it in spirit, swinging the pendulum towards a cynical narrative of inferiority and insecurity.
Countries across the globe have witnessed oppression and have suffered at the hands of their own people. But now the time is to mend this history of flaws. To dream of a commitment to equality and justice. Patriotism must not be the fabric blindfolding us to injustices rather guide us towards change.
Although many of us fear associating ourselves with the term ‘political’, we all come across certain words like capitalism, socialism, jingoism, nationalism, patriotism etc. in our day to day lives. But Patriotism has been around and in trend for quite a long time. Just like a salesman, today, ill-informed hooligans are around selling their super biased products wrapped in the box of hate speech and discord. But unlike a good customer, we have mindlessly fallen in line to buy things on their face value. We form our opinion blindly by listening to the best salesman. Therefore even after remaining ‘apolitical’, those WhatsApp forwards sell their products very easily to us. Hence, being rational and developing a critique of violence within democratic institutions is necessary.
The principle of ‘caveat emptor’ (let the buyer beware) holds true.
Misinformation and provocation have from time to time turned peaceful protests into violent unrest causing harm to citizens and deviate the course from the real cause of the protest. But amidst the growing violence, these disobedience acts by protesters have assimilated into our culture. Symbolism has become a part of social movement strategies which establishes a multidirectional relationship between Popular Culture and Protests.
For centuries, popular culture has been an opening to self-expression and it’s in these times of dissent that it’s needed the most. There is a need for an exchange of information and projection of an image that resonates with the public and thus, calls for an association between the two.
Gandhi in his time created the culture of charkha and khadi. The binge-watch Netflix series ‘La Casa de Papel’ (Money Heist) used Salvador Dali Masks (a symbol of the Zurich movement rejecting capitalist society) and Bella Ciao (an Italian song against the fascist regime). In India, the anti CAA movement made ‘Hum dekhenge’, a ghazal by Faiz Ahmed Faiz popular in the times of rap music and beatboxing. In Hong Kong, people sang a song from an Oscar-winning movie ‘Les Miserables’.
Engagements with the cultural codes of “the people” gives legitimacy to drive mobilization. Using these methods has a long-lasting impact on us and this tradition of culture and political awakening must be taken further.
In these unprecedented times when the environment is increasingly being subsumed in anger, fear, hatred and resentment it is for us to realise that our notion of patriotism must cultivate the health and life of our community, bringing welfare for all and staging an all-inclusive society. To cultivate this within us, we should first reflect upon whether we are masters of our own thoughts and actions or not. Nobody should dictate us because nothing is too high as a price to be paid for owning yourself.