By Esha Rao
Edited by Nandini Bhatia, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
“Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about.”- Mark Twain
With Republic Day just last week, I began to think extensively about patriotism and being a patriot. What is patriotism? Why are we often oblivious to what patriotism stands for? At what cost do we stand to be a patriot? Should patriotism be taught in schools?
Patriotism can be defined as cultural attachment or devotion to one’s country or homeland. However, it is not just love for our nation but love, loyalty and affection for those residing in our nation. It evokes a sense of cautiousness towards our responsibilities. Over time, patriotism has been reduced to merely waving the tricolour or voting for our leaders or chanting slogans. It has now become an excuse to wage a war, to validate injustices and to deceive people into committing heinous atrocities. The true essence of patriotism has eroded in India. We say we love our nation and beam with pride about being a responsible citizen-‘a patriot’ but we hardly realise that our actions seem to differ. We talk about how we care for Mother India with utmost sincerity but we pollute (public urination, discarding garbage haphazardly, spitting) and destroy her.
I believe people make a nation and therefore, true patriotism resides in the love and respect we show for our fellow Indians. However, it’s sad to see that hundreds of lives are lost to clashes amongst our people. Communal clashes in Gujarat, Karaya, Giridih and Mumbai are only a few of the many incidents that have already taken place this year. We kill mercilessly and illogically in the name of our nation, religion, caste, gender and honour. It is ironic how we call ourselves a patriot with a fellow citizen’s blood on our hands. When it is at the cost of another human’s life, how are we, in essence and spirit, a patriot?
The question that troubled me the most was – should patriotism be taught? Teaching it involves many dangers primarily teaching of inappropriate values and morals. The main source of absorption of patriotism is history. A patriotic presentation of history is often involves falsifying facts and excessive glorification of a country. History, when taught truthfully and factually, doesn’t pose harm. However, the problem lies in the fact that history is rather ambiguous. Due to this, it can be altered to fit a more misleading purpose. Therefore, I strongly oppose the teaching of this sentiment in schools and colleges.
The moral sentiment of patriotism has its benefits even though it encourages exclusivity and often clouds our judgement. However, patriotism is a wonderful and fulfilling feeling. Patriotism promotes participation in national politics, joining social movements, litigating in federal courts, joining the army and civil services. Moreover, patriotism plays a role in the theory of human development. There is no narrowness in the minds of patriots. I would like to leave you with a quote by Mahatma Gandhi,
“My patriotism includes the good of mankind in general”.
Esha Rao is a first year student pursuing Economics Honours at Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University. Being an avid reader she loves books by Paulo Coelho, Khaled Hosseini and Corban Addison. Esha has also represented her schools at various command level basketball matches and finds immense pleasure in playing the sport. She enjoys debating, turn quotes, symposiums, extempore, group discussions etc. Social service has been one of her utmost priorities. Being a part of Enactus LSR has helped widen her reach. She is also fortunate enough to work with the women of the National Association of the Blind.