Saturday, February 05, 2005

Are you Patriotic ?

"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" - G.B.Shaw

Note: This is not specific to India (although examples maybe quoted based on India)

I was listening to a radio show a few days before and there was a 30 minute topic on "Are you a truly patriotic Indian". The program seemed to offer a lot of scope for inanities so I listened. The host of the show wanted to give out the image that he was very patriotic and he kept saying some praises about India, which I anyway completley did not understand ( why did he have to say things like this). I immediately lost respect for the host and began to compare him with some of the biggest idiots I have seen in my life. This was a sample conversation in that show ( reproduced as is). And this program was aired on Republic day ( Jan 26) in bangalore FM.

Caller: Hi! I am Ajay
Host: Hi! Ajay welcome to the show. the topic we have here is "Are you truly patriotic".
Ajay: Hi! today is my birthday
Host: oh! thats great happy birthday Ajay!
Ajay: says something stupid.
Host: Okay! when your friends call you do they wish "happy republic day" first or "happy birthday".
Ajay: Happy Republic day sir . Thats what they wished first.
Host: Are you sure it is Repubic day and not Birthday? And do you wish all your friends republic day?
Ajay: ( in a stupid way) no sir! its republic day only. I wish all my friends republic day.
Host: Boy! You are really patriotic!

I couldn't listen anymore. I was vomiting buckets already. Are these really words coming out their mouths? Our grandfathers must've turned in their graves. I sometimes don't even know the meaning of Republic Day? Why are we republic again? How does that make a difference to the country? But thats moot. Have any of you ever called anyone to wish Republic day? Or even Independence day? I have seen just about every place in India and I have never seen anybody wish anybody Republic day! EVER!

But this is just a sample. Many people seem to think patriotism is good. I was like this before and succumbed easily to the evils of patriotism and the prejudices it created. Overtime I have changed. For the better. Now I get revolted by it. Let me tell you why?
Think about these incidents ( and I quote them randomly)

1) The killing of Rajiv gandhi ( by a suicide bomber) , Indira gandhi and many of poiliticians all over the world. Who killed them ? Patriots!! Except that they were patriotic to a different cause than the people who got killed.

2) The Godhra incident where one religious community burned down a train full of people. And the reverse burning down of that community by another community. Gujarat was burning. Why did all this happen? Patriotism. A strong patriotism to some cause they belived. People were burning each other down because they were patriotic to two different causes.

3) The killing of Tamils in Bangalore during the cauveri issue. The supreme court ordered karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu. The karnataka farmers were aggreived at this loss of water and so a completely unrelated set of people ran amock the roads of banglore finding and killing Tamils. Why? well if you want to be a patriotic kannadiga you bloody well kill some Tamils.

4) The killing and burning of just about anybody on the roads in Bangalore because some Christian missionary ( Benny henn who?) was coming to give a religious lecture. I did not know about this and so took my vehicle to work. I escaped death by a whisker.

5) The killing of sikhs all over India when Indira Gandhi was killed by a sikh. The killing of members of community X when some member of community X committed a national crime.
6) The smashing down of the Twin towers and the killing of so many young innocent people by " patriots" who believed in some arbitrary thing (which nobody till date is aware of). Makes you feel.. is patriotism safe? is it a violent emotion?

Growing up in 80's and 90's this is the only definition of patriotism I have seen.

So what is patriotism?

Patriotism is a tool which can bring out the deepest darkest facet of human beings. It is a prejudice inducer, a bias creator. It causes the evil person from inside you to surface. In all the instances of patriotic acts in the last 30 years, this is what patriotsim was used to acheive; " we are all of the same community/ same state/ same blood type. They ( the villians) have committed a crime against one of our clan/members. So if you are patriotic you should go and kill them"

This is patriotsim at the macro level. At the micro level its based on caste where people try and polarize a group saying " we belong to caste X he is caste Y and so dont talk to him. dont help him". It makes stereotypes and sweeping generlizations possible. If at any point you suddenly became logical and asked " Once more ! List out the reasons one-by-one why I should do this?" All this violence would never happen. Without patriotism the world would be a safer, better place.

You say these magic words "patriotism", which makes a person believe that he is part of a bigger unit and see the results you get. Tell him if he acts in a prejudiced manner against a person of a another group then he would be considered patriotic. Bang!! there you go!!! you have a patriot in no time.

Believe it or not. In an overly emotional(often demonstrative), less rational and weak country like India.. patriotism poisons people at the grass root levels, at job interview levels. Believe me I have seen it! So bad that in a work place if you ask someone for help, he may or may not help you depending on his level of patriotism. If he has strong feelings about your caste/religion/state ( the state factor is big in Bangalore and many other places) he may not help you. Because not helping you makes him patriotic to his caste/religion/state.. If you are a cricket team selector from Delhi, you bloody well select a few Delhi people otherwise you arent so patriotic.

In a technology era where one does not need to fight for a country's independence or a noble cause anymore, patriotism is an evil evil tool. It makes you loose your logical skills and rationale and converts you into an animal.

If you are thinking this cannot pose a lot of problems ....get a load of this. The people who really want to change a country or system are those who don't like the way it is. If you are a good soul and feel India is a bad dirty country with a lot of corruption and you want to change it. Then first you have to say that India is a bad dirty country with a lot of corruption. This makes people aware of the problem first and then work on the solution. If you say India is a beautiful wonderful country .. then there is no need for change. But when you say the truth, the evil people who want India to remain a bad dirty corrupt country will get upset. So they will use the "patriot" angle. They will say "look he is an NRI, a forign return, a phirangee, he thinks low of India. These bloody foreign educated people. Once they go out of India they start making fun of it"

Since most Indians are fools ( they really are.. i say "most" because I want to exclude myself, my family and friends out) they will immediately take the patriot angle rather than the sensible angle. And before you know they will be supporting violation of traffic rules, spitting on roads, corrupt government officials (who are every where) and traffic cops ( 100% of all traffic cops in India are corrupt). They will say these dirty things are the Indian tradition. That is how stupid most people are.

So there you go. I hate patriotism. The reason why I hate it is obvious. If some one comes and talks a lot of "mera bharat mahaan" to me, I seriously feel like laughing on his face. I have no special feelings towards "India", the brand these patriots have created. From what these patriots have done.. India more like a condom or underwear brand nowadays. I sleep during Independence day ( or catch a movie) and I don't know what the hell Republic day means. I do not stand with Indian flag wavers in cricket staduim because I know that that when they get tired of waving it they will use it as a khercheif to wipe their sweat or worse a lungi. I support the India team only when it plays well or at least tries to play well. I do not consider patriotism as supporting a lazy, spoilt, arrogant, losing team. I do not force forigners ( especially those from the US) to sit down and listen to my stupid praises about India. I do not critisize the US or any other country (even pakistan) for that matter. I do not list out stupid things on why India is a great country or why we are a peace loving counrty ( we are not). The most important thing is I never run away from my problems by saying "America is bad too" and I keep away from the trash-the west bull shit and focus on only my problems. I dont do so because it doesn't do justice to my education. I think people who do all the above are idiots.

If IT investors from the west visit India, I would like to take them to a government office. Show them how corrupt the system is and plead to them to stop investing in the country anymore. Once the IT money dries up because of this reason, the industrialists would want to cleanse the government offices. Wouldn't that be a neat way to stop corruption? Use a thorn to pluck out another thorn stuck in the leg.

One thing I have learned is. There is no sense to patriotism. You are basically saying "My country/caste/religion is great because I was born into it". There is no other reason. Because if you were born to a different country/caste/religion you would be supporting that country/caste/religion and not this one. So your "support" depends on who you work for. Which means "merit" is no more a factor. That is anti-intellect and I will not be a part of it.


Atta Girl said...

Consider the word “fanatics”. The examples you mention are a sign of a fanatical outrage and not a patriotic fervor. I think you are confusing between patriotism & fanaticism.

I consider that fanatics as insecure loyalists and patriots as secure loyalists. It is this secure/insecure ball game that results in destructive/demonstrative outcomes. The usual tactic that fanatics adopt to hold themselves together is by predicting a doomsday of their community, thus, sowing the seeds of insecurity. This drives folks crazy and they adopt mindless methods to prove their points.

I agree with you to the extent that there is unnecessary emotional drama in India. Patriotism is beyond chanting emotional ‘I love my India’ rants. I also agree on the point that it’s important to identify the problem and admit to the ‘bad n dirty realities’. Anyone who is aware of the developmental needs of India and has chosen to take action to alleviate the problems is more of a patriot in my view. (Here, I don’t mean that one devotes an entire lifetime).

//You wrote//~~~~One thing I have learned is. There is no sense to patriotism. You are basically saying "My country/caste/religion is great because I was born into it".~~~~//

You are right. I was born in India so I’m attached. I simply love India. It is home. Whether it is great or not it doesn’t matter to me. More than that, I respect this country for all that it has given me. The fact that today I can even look westward for an education is because of the strong grounding I got in India. At the same time, I am aware of what I have to give back. In that sense, I’m patriotic and I don't mind the patriotic tag.

Hawkeye said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hawkeye said...

reposting the comment wil the zillion spelling mistakes corrected. Boy! the difference a morning coffee makes :-)

Thanks for your comments. I think your comments will make a wonderful summary to my post ( with a few minor modifications though :-) )

//* I think you are confusing between patriotism & fanaticism. *//

i just didnt say this in words. I am more inclined to believe that the current generation has lost touch with the differebnce between the two and consider as patriotism what the common-sense world would dismiss as fanatism. Patriotism is such a flexibile word that it can extend the spectrum from simple gratitude to extreme fanatism. And in some scenarios, if you do not subscribe to such fanatical acts (or) mock at people who do so ... then you would be considered *less patriotic*. ( There is awonderful article in This sundays Hindu paper which talks about "Indian Gen X rebels without a cause". I will post the link.)

//** The usual tactic that fanatics adopt to hold themselves together is by predicting a doomsday of their community, thus, sowing the seeds of insecurity. This drives folks crazy and they adopt mindless methods to prove their points. **//

actually a very good way of saying it! This is the extreme end of the patriotic spectrum. That such acts are now being defined as being patriotic proves that patriotism has a spectrum of meanings that just a binary definition. The hype and the chest beating is now identified with being patriotic.

Moreover, we have become hypersensitive people and are not capable of tolerating even the mildest critisism. The machinery is now in place whereby if somebody offers genuine critisism its is parsed and torn apart across races, nationalities and made a patriotic issue.
(See my comments on the blog abut Michael Porter and the rather large cut and paste blog itself. That is what I am talking about. )

Through genuine affection comes genuine critisism when they start kicking away the genuine critisism then there is less scope for change. That is what is happeneing now.

//* You are right. I was born in India so I’m attached. I simply love India. It is home. Whether it is great or not it doesn’t matter to me. More than that, I respect this country for all that it has given me. The fact that today I can even look westward for an education is because of the strong grounding I got in India. At the same time, I am aware of what I have to give back. In that sense, I’m patriotic and I don't mind the patriotic tag. *//

You have descibed the other end of patriotism spectrum. Gratitude and loyalty. While this is nice for a person to have it should come automatically. This is excatly what I was talking about regarding an apt summary of the blog :-).

Patriotism could be a middle ground. Patriotism should be more of simple "love and affection" -- unspoken and dignified ( which is one level above gratitude and loyalty in my books).

Think about this analogy. Everybody has parents. Everybody likes them. While I love them I dont (a) force others to agree that they are the best in the world (b) force others to sit down and listen to me signing praises about them (c) do elaborate ceremonies to make my parents sit down and thank them.

If I spend some 1000$ NRI dollars in making my house better and give them 100$ a month. I am doing the material things correctly! if i dont act in a way that causes them shame or dissapointment the emotional part is taken care of.

But these elaborate flag waving and "mera bharat mahaan" shouts to hapless forigners and confused natives really makes me tired. exasparates me. SOme of my collegues are so used to talking about india praises that they sometimes say it to me also ( out of sheer habit). When I point out mistakes in details of what they say ...they get upset when someone is not a blind join-the-crowd repeat-the-chorus and beat-your-chest sort of person.

Atta Girl said...

You n I also belong to Gen X. Trust me, we are not exceptions because I know hazaar people, who think like we do. So I’ll not call this phenomenon as a generation problem.

Intolerant behavior has been there in all generations (think 80’s rath yatra. babri issue, shiv sena’s antics). Irrespective of the generation, I would attribute this behavior to insecurity and lack of self-awareness. I have known a lot of people, who will never deviate from their traditions even if they are not comfortable with them. Some people can question and develop their own views, while there are many who for security or recognition sake (or for emotional reasons) would prefer to be a part of the herd. (Illiteracy and monetary imbalance is also a cause).

Having said that, I’m not comfortable with criticism that doesn’t provide a way forward. It’s ok to criticize if you do something to improve the situation but it’s sick to criticize if you do nothing to improve the situation. Some of the top-rated reasons I hear from chaps headed to American bschools – 1) I need money, a 100K job 2) I want a 9-5 job 3) I need security and comfy life. I’m not saying it’s wrong to have these aspirations but most of the time it has come coupled with a deep criticism for India. These people are basically escaping. What can you expect from them in future? In that sense, Gen X is also a mix, as was any other Gen.

(Something off-track – How do you delete comments? I still haven’t learnt this.)

Anonymous said...

Interesting observations!!

Well I have my thoughts too...

Bharath, I would like to point out that "patriotism" is having "zealous" and "unselfish" feelings towards one's country. It definitely does not assume religious, political, communal, regional or social overtones though you may want to clothe them in N different ways depending on the "bias" coloured glasses that you wear.

That said, I am an Indian and a proud one at that. I am from Rajasthan; Was born in Maharashtra and have lived and worked in Karnataka, WestBengal, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Maharashtra. I have also spent substantial time in Assam as my grandparents reside there. So I guess I pretty much qualify as an Indian Indian.

I too am very much like you and I admire your honesty and candour for saying what you did. Not too many people have the courage to openly say that Independence Day means nothing to them. I despise people who make a pretence of patriotism in the name of religion and ignorance. But please do not brand these as patriotism. It runs much deeper than that. It stems from true feeling for the country. Today I am what I am because of India. I do not chant slogans like "Bharat Mata ki jai", but I do realize the wealth of information and opportunity that this country has laid open for me.

Communal tension in no way is an indicator of high or low patriotism. It simply is an indicator of misconstrued understanding - that is religious fervour fanned by those with self-oriented gains and motives. As a responsible, educated citizen , it is expected that you be able to distinguish between what is being said and what is meant. Those, weak of flesh will succumb while others will thrive. However, if on any particular day we are confronted with a calamity, you will see each Indian working side-by-side. If you have seen the Tsunami relief operations being carried out on the ground, you will see what patriotism means. Ask the Indian soldier - not the Kannadiga/ Tamilian/ Bengali or the Hindu/ Muslim - serving in Siachen. He will tell you what patriotism is.

I am proud of the fact that Vishwanathan Anand is an Indian and equally proud that a distiguished scholar like Dr. Kalam is the soveriegn head of the country. This is my definition of patriotism. I am ashamed of the fact that I don't vote and criticize the government. And today I ask you that question? Are you patriotic enough to criticize?

Look into your heart my friend. What you have questioned is deeper than a few posts on a blog. I mean no offence to your thoughts or beliefs. As an Indian, I am simply exercising my right of free thought and speech (which we may never have had, had we not got reasons to celebrate Independence Day or Republic Day).

Hawkeye said...

Thanks so much for visiting my site and leaving comments.

I understand the Indian Indian part. My dad had a transferrable job. Lets just say there isnt a corner in india where my name is not in a school attendance rolls :-)

I wasn't trying to belittle India or say its inferior etc. I am usualy concerned more about the people who make the country because they are in fact the essense of a country.

I was probably lamenting the way the word 'patriotism' has morphed into this nasty thing of establishing common denominators. The feeling that you have of india being a holistic unit is a good feeling. But since we as a whole rarely get to fight a common cause ( like independence struggle or tsunami or kargil).. patriotism has morphed into the cricket stadium. FOr other violent activities patriotism has broken down into smaler parts like patriotism for a caste/reliogion/state.

My main worry was why didnt a person attacking another person in Gujarat, Bangalore or TN or Delhi feel that he was killing another countryman. In a way these incidents are indicators of the direction in which we are moving as people. We dont have the common country feeling anymore because there are less and less common causes that unites indians (except games and sports).

Anyway my vent was more directed towards the 'weak' people who allowed themseves to be succumbed by these racist feelings.

I was in no way propgating hatred for a country or ask people to like the country less. I was probably asking people not to put certain specific ideas into action assuming its their patriotic duty to do so.

Hey! one man's patriotism is another man's terrorism. We learned that from Nathuram Godse to Twin Towers. Which is why I am so concerned about 'strong feelings' that defy common sense.

Anonymous said...

I think the word patriotism has taken a rather narrow meaning nowadays. Flag waving supporters at sporting events are usually harmless. What I find disturbing in India is a total lack of understanding about personal rights and constitutional protections of individuals. Witness the Shiva Sena jokers and their opposition to Valentine's day or the PMK jokers in Tamil Nadu insisting on Tamil movie names. The silence from the main stream media inexplicable. Such idiotic things should never be allowed to happen in a costitutional republic. The judicial branch needs more guts and muscle.


Suresh Ramani said...

Whatever you say about "Patriots", they kicked "Eagles" a*ss to win the super bowl for the 3rd time in 4yrs .. GO PATRIOTS!!!

[on a more serios note]
I do understand your request to get rid of the emotion called 'Patriotism' in general due to the fact that it has been misused several times in the past to disastrous effect. You forgot to mention the greatest misuse of patriotism, when hitler urged the aryans to team up against non-aryans (read jews) under the banner of patriotism.

BUT, I do believe that patriotism is necessary in different quantities in different sets of people. for ex:- if the soldiers are not patriotic towards the nation they are protecting, what is their driving force? likewise, extreme patriotism in the general public in a wasted emotion and hence is a vulnerability ready to be exploited by evil minds.

Well, just as in any quality, moderation is called for in Patriotism as well.

Anonymous said...

Emotional drama about patriotism i assume exists in every country. Tons of houses hoisted flag in support of the purely imperialstic war on Iraq by bush. Every other meeting in america has to ends with GOd bless america.

Infact i see levels of patriotism lowest in india. It is probably the only country you would see this where people would consider any thing from 'foreign' as noble. it simply could just be a talcum powder made in india but imported from usa.

If at all people do think about patriotism in India, it is somehow always associated with just three things.
A soldier in siachen. For Godsake, the fact also remains that most of the soldiers join army coz frankly i know this view would not be accepted by many but... simply coz he needs the money and the job was one of the few well-paid ( in their terms) jobs they could easily get their hands on.

Cricket:.... understandable since i totally agree with bharath's view of patriotism ( u like ur country coz u r born in it.. my view nuthing wrong about this ' patriotic feeling either)

interest in politics:.... i have grown up among a neighbourhood where people including servant maids ( nothing derogatory - jsut to represent tha strata) discuss politics everyday in trains, busss all public places. It just seems to be another mega serial entertainment for junta. If interest in politics should help improve india, india would have been superpower 20 years ago...

Culture: Ashuthosh gowariker gave a good answer to this in India.
We have a goody culture so is every other country in the world!
Culture is just a way of life.

I have just started reading your blog. but nalla ezuthara.


Anonymous said...

Hi mate,
i stumbled upon your posts just by accident n boy didn't i love them. I am sure to be here regularly.

Though i don't want to add anything to the topic, just can't help putting up a quote from the war classic 'cache 22'

"What is a country? A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural. Englishmen are dying for England, Americans are dying for America, Germans are dying for Germany, Russians are dying for Russia. There are now fifty or sixty countries fighting in this war. Surely so many counties can't all be worth dying for."


Hawkeye said...


bang on! that was the quote that got my laughing for a long time. it is so true! I am surprised how I missed your and renus comments. thanks for stopping by and do visit!

Palaniappan said...

Quote on Quote "Since most Indians are fools ( they really are.. i say "most" because I want to exclude myself, my family and friends out)" - now you are being patriotic/patriarchal here & trying to protect your clan. Dude this is what everybody does be it clan/country/caste/state/religion. You are a patriot may be in a diff sense.