Sunday, August 22, 2010

Nationalism – Boon or Bane? Part 1

A pretty heavy topic for a 22 year old, isn’t it? Never thought I would ever dwell into these dreaded waters. I always thought of politics and such issues were the topics discussed by heavy smoking retired gentlemen playing bridge in the club who believe that they could change the world if only they had the chance. But thanks to one 26 year old genius from New York called Mark Zukerberg, co-founder of this funny sounding networking site whose name I keep forgetting, got some of my mates and me brain storming on the issue of nationalism. This discussion is probably responsible for me foraying into blogging to give my voice a larger audience.

I never expected that a status message put up ingenuously would turn into a serious discussion board where even the basic principles of nationalism would be questioned. It got me thinking about issues which we are expected to take for granted. A few of you have gone through the discussion and have liked certain comments but for those of you who haven’t, I would like to put up the discussion here. The main reason behind this is to encourage further debate and different views on this topic.

Before you start reading, let me add that this is an informal discussion which took place between friends on a social networking site so please excuse the syntax and semantics of language.

The following status message was put up on August 15th

“Why have I been feeling jingoistic the last couple of weeks? Is it coz of the Independence Day? I haven't felt so strongly about anything for a long long time. Is this is a sign??”

The person responsible to get me thinking on this issue was Bharath Dantuluri who responded to my status message stating his doubts and suspicion on the whole concept on nationalism.

Bharath wrote,

“Its definitely a sign! :D extreme nationalism has always been responsible for most of the genocides or catastrophes...nationalism or patriotism appears as a really shallow concept to me bro. think abt it...
"The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?" ~Pablo Casals
let us imagine dat Indian union couldn't have merged the north-eastern states Kashmir or Hyderabad? would we thn just limit our notion to the other-parts? or let us imagine dat India occupies a new land tomorrow, so would we expand our notion of patriotism? so Wat is the basis for these things? political boundaries!!? 
coming back to it.
its a sign dat we aren't ready to question our system, our rulers.
coz the moment u do it, u r an anti-nationalist or a traitor. 
being loyal to the government is being a good patriot?!!

Bharat made some very critical observations and I considered the points he made. These were some serious allegations and I didn’t want to dally in this subject in a simplistic manner. I thought long and thought hard about these issues. My response to Bharat was

“I respect your point of view. But I absolutely disagree that nationalism equates to just love that ends at the border. It is lot more than just the geography. It is love for what a country stands for, its culture and ideology. And it would be wrong to point out a few cases of violence and make an imbecile generalization. What about Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi? They were hardcore patriots with a strong sense of nationalism. For me nationalism is a feeling of compassion and a desire of general wellness of people whom I see as my own. But that does not mean that I dislike people of other races, communities or countries. Extreme fervour and passion is represented in various ways. And you are right that in many a times it results in genocides and violence. Nationalism is a very personal thing and everyone has their own way of expressing it. But violence and genocides in the name of nationalism is not justified.

Why is a revolt against the government the ultimate panacea? How many have succeeded? There might be a million things wrong with the way a government is running your country but there are also a million things that are right. There are always other ways to show your difference of opinion. You don’t always need a paradigm shift to make an impact. Small changes at the grass root levels are equally effective. You can learn to work with the government but that does not necessarily mean you have to bow down to its whims and fancies.

The second paragraph of mine seemed to have some support with people liking it, which was an encouraging sign. Anantha Krishna, another vital member of this discussion, joined us at this point. 

Anantha seemed to agree with my view on nationalism and added

“And i think it is very important for everyone to understand the importance of balance in emotions, in thought and emotions. Extremist thoughts of any kind are bound to spill over someday and be dangerous. Everything has its own place and has a method in which it is to be handled. Although i don't understand the obsession with borders and boundaries, i agree with Ashish. i don't think patriotism and nationalistic feelings are anything to do with borders.

to be continued... 

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