The Cult of Nationalism

“War can be delayed but can never be avoided”

Since the result of 2014 general election, most corners of the country, particularly Delhi, are overwhelmed with the vociferous voices, of certain narrow dimension and parochial personality, vehemently trying to subvert the government. It has become a daily soap for people and perfect political “masala” for the news channels. But from the perception of common man or woman it hardly matters until it affects their sensibilities. It is, without doubt, brings concern of most citizens when the question of “Nationalism” comes. The recent protests by some central universities students, adhering to certain ill perceived ideology, brings legitimate concern of the society as to who and what had have been feeding them? For a layman, it is an ambiguous milieu where the intellectually awakened citizens of a developing country, who are probably second posterity of independent India, are questioning the government over the over-discussed topic of “Freedom of Speech”, while under the same authority.

Students have been toiling hard to spread words against the much emphatically used term of “Nationalism”. It saddens a common man, especially who gets goosebumps whenever hears the most celebrated work of noble prize winner Shri Rabindranath Tagore, as he/she sees intellectually awakened masquerade class mimicking their Nation and mocking over the sentence accorded to a criminal, who attacked the sovereignty of Nation, given by constitutional authority. Isn’t it a disgrace for a country where the future of it questions its formation? Is that for what our forefathers fought against imperialistic rule so that today people mark their fructuous efforts with angst? Certainly not, but that is what the reality is today. We live in a nation which have continuously defied the western scholar’s prognostications of “Doomed Failure”. But again the dissenters still come up bringing around the deficiencies prevailing in the nation and end up condoning the basic component which is a must for maintaining integrity and sovereignty of the nation, i.e. Nationalism. What makes this more peculiar is that one can easily question other’s patriotism but how can we question nationalism? There is a basic flaw in understanding the meanings of Nationalism and Patriotism.

“That nation is great which rests its head upon death as its pillow”- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Patriotism is the spirit of love for one’s state. In other words, it is one’s affection towards the National Anthem, National Flag, symbols, emblems, historical events, or people who are associated with nation and politics. For example: The animosity of most people of India towards Pakistan or the goosebumps at the time of Republic Day parade and others alike points towards level of patriotism. We are patriotic as we are citizens of a country. We are born and engrained with the basic tenets which makes us affectionate. Patriotism is an essential characteristic in the people which decides how eager people are to protect it against adversaries. It is this value which can easily be found in a defence personnel but is ubiquitous. Whereas on the other hand, Nationalism is what one acquires out of national identity. It is pride in one’s people and belief that they have their own sovereign political destiny. Hence, that is why it was difficult for the national leaders, at the freedom struggle, to arouse the feeling of nationalism as people were fragmented in different ethnicity, religions, castes, or races. If one does not have the cognisance of the meaning of what it feels to be in a nation governed by one of their own, it would not have been possible to achieve independence and that is why it took so long! Also, being a national of a country does not makes you patriotic for the same as you lack the essential ingredients. To best understand it one can think of himself/herself or friend or anyone who left India and has now acquired citizenship of another country but is still concerned about the status quo of his/her native state.

Furthermore, coming to the present case of Gurmehar Kaur who although in 2016 uploaded a picture which has now become a much hyped talk is definitely a sign of intolerance and subjection of her freedom of speech. Followed up by the ignominious comments over social media clearly signifies the misunderstanding and disinclination towards the basic concepts. Gurmehar, as many others, simply blamed the scourge of war which separated her from her father. Although, there is nothing wrong with her perception, because of her loss, but is war really a satan? As per my perception, there could be many interpretation, albeit following traditional approaches we can have a better base to understand contemporary relations. War, for obvious reasons, is a doom for sure but on the other hand is a boon too. To understand it we can dip in the history of European nations in general and Britain in particular. All historian and political science scholars credit war to be the utmost force that drove Europe to what it is today. History is full of excerpts which talks of the rivalries between Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy (specifically Venice) and others. Since the economic competition had primacy, as today, which consequently translated into wars to signify their might and respectively in multiplicity of currency. Some of the overshoot led to the extension of war to their colonies also. Anglo-French wars are a classic examples which took place off the west coast of India during seventeenth century. Coming onto the most recent World Wars which with no exception to earlier ones were out of only controlling the economic sources. Even the Indian history revolves around the same aspect of which signals “wars as way to economic prosperity”. On the other hand, the atrocities are even not obscure. The legacy of war has led us to the ominous Weapons of Mass Destructions which makes many Cassandras point to the end of the world.

Looking at the above approach, war, although no doubt, leads to murdering of human beings on unprecedented scale. But do we have any another option other than fighting? Not all fights lead to war but when it becomes war then it is “Do or Die”. There is no parlance of “Mercy” in realist’s dictionary.  Taking a long standing example of India’s neighbourhood nation Pakistan, which follows policy of “bleeding India through a thousand cuts”. India, till recently, resisted to act aggressively, never had been a time when took initiative and did pre-emptive strike. On one hand, we have an example of India’s exemplary providence and on the other we have United States of America which always takes staunch imperatives, even if it leads to butchering of millions. It is quite clear National Interest always take the toll, no matter what the outcome and consequences are. All theories of humanity, human rights, or universal peace falls apart. Furthermore, the predicament here lies that the US went for first nuclear attack itself and today shrill out loud for denuclearisation to other countries. One cannot think of avoiding a war until have superiority over another, hence the deterrence plays quite light handedly. Arms race is completely a sham in the face of war, as it does not obliterates war and in fact only deters a smaller nation till the point it thinks it is not ready to wage a war. To understand we can think of Indo-Pak relations, which lies solely on the deterrence till Pakistan decides to act sickly. The wars of 1947,1965,1971 and many other through non-state actors clearly reflects the pledge of Pakistan.  Albeit, India continuously tries to isolate and have made Pakistan face worldwide opprobrium but it primordially remained obdurate. Having a mendicant as well as nefarious nation as Pakistan made India to ratchet up its approach time by time. It is definitely crystal clear that it is impossible for a country like India to eschew war. Gurmehar, though pointed out a long standing question, have herself remained quixotic. AsWar can be delayed but can never be avoided” .

Also read Can India- Trump in isolating Pakistan?

Furthermore, as already said, it has become song of the day for all political parties as well their ruse shenanigans to amok over the crucial national interest and act sordidly. Who to be blamed? Politics or Political Parties or Institutions? The question does not lies at blaming the lame ducks, it lies with the people of the country. The forefathers very intelligibly as well as with of their reminiscence under the British rulers placed the crucial power in the hands of the “Janta Janardan”. The power of canaille have not been used delicately since the freedom struggle. The ills which are at zenith today have to be geared back as happened with the Britishers. Time by time each and every civilisation face challenges which could either destroy the whole civilisation, as happened with the great Roman Empire, or could be fought and achieve what the west have today. In toto, striving hedonistically and for few pelf will only make people allured off gilded political agenda. Freedom lies not in played off by the political propagandists and subverting the government but by taking cognisance of broader agenda and using that freedom to make a change. A change for good of all, not for just self. Freedom of expression is one of the earliest conception of our great leaders like Lokmanya Tilak, who severed his life to achieve it. The time has changed, so is the conception of freedom. But none of the dogmas teaches to raise Anti-Nation slogans. Ideologies helps in understanding the world and make it salubrious. The illogical misconception denigrates and negates all the celebrates progresses and achievements. Countries like Russia, China and others who came out of the womb of historic revolutions, today, give primacy to nationalism and rather an ideology. The history should not be forgotten, even, should not be allowed to act under its thraldom. Future, which lies ahead, should be fostered for the progeny.

Nationalism is a must coupling it with utmost patriotism, not fanaticism or jingoism. A country needs both in order to cherish higher goals and aspirations. Sacrifices were made in the past and are needed in the future. Ín the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “That nation is great which rests its head upon death as its pillow”. We, the people of India, were example of democratic spirit, are the example of peaceful co-existence in diversity and in the near future will remain an example of what the western world will be inclined to learn forever, The Spirituality. What lay ahead is a future, which was, is and will always remain in the hands of common people.

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Moral and Ethics in Everyday life

Today, while crossing the foot over bridge, I came across an incident that brought my vehement concern over the minute cognizance of mine which regards the basic human values. I saw an old lady, may be around 80’s, crossing the road. It was peak hour time and the traffic was all over the road. She was trying to cross the road, probably because she didn’t have the will to step up and down off the giant bridge. With all her ability, she tried to keel across the road but wasn’t able to take the steps ahead. As whenever she took one, some vehicle came and she kept on vacillating to and fro. She kept on struggling the best she could. But soon, I saw three boys who parked their car and went to the lady, halted the spurting traffic and helped her to cross road patiently. An instant twitching smile came on my face, as the boys really did a great job.
Many a times, we find ourselves in such a situation where one has to go out of the way to help others. Those who can and does, reflect their moral and ethical values. By helping the old lady, the boys clearly demonstrated the concrete base of morality and the way they stopped the traffic to let her cross, defines the ethical ground.

 

‘Morality’ simply means the principle which tells us the distinction between right or wrong and good or bad. It is something which depends upon one’s knowledge of understanding and ability to interpret. As Mahatma Gandhiji says, “Morality is the basis of things and truth is the substance of all morality”. The one’s basis of moral values may differ from culture to culture or society to society or community to community, but at the end essence of it remains the same. I date back when I was a toddler, my family continuously taught me to regard others by “Namaste”, saying “Thank you”, and so on. This is the very beginning construction of one’s moral base. As we enter into the age when we start adapting the intellectual teaching of our family, we get bind to the moral thinking of the society which we have been taught for long, since born. One’s moral values are deeply linked with the cultural and religious background. It is not necessary or essential that the moral values will be ethical in the view of different cultures, religion or society. This is where the distinction comes within the society. Ethics on the other part are set of common realized values of the entire society. It may or may not be based on moral values. Ethics is an outcome of one’s self-reasoning ability to the practice, behavior, intention, action, even in one’s thought also. These are the codified or normative version of do’s and dont’s. According to the great philosopher of times Immanuel Kant writes,” In law a man is guilty when he violates the rights of others. In ethics he is guilty if he only thinks of doing so”. In short, having adhered to certain moral values does not make you ethical, but being ethical does make you moral.

 

Often certain questions keeps on embarking me like why being moral and ethical is necessary for us? How does it matter and affect, if one doesn’t adhere to it? Moral values starts building as said above from the family, society or community and school. We learn as we grow. It construe that moral values are intrinsic, they are bounded within a specific culture. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t have extrinsic value. To understand it, consider a 5 year old boy Rahul. He has never been taught anything by parents or relatives. The very first day he goes school, he learns to greet teacher or in fact taught to do so. So every time the teacher comes, he makes his habit to greet teacher. Similarly, now think that if the parent teaches Rahul to wish relatives, worship in temple, eating vegetarian food, and so on. He will too make it his habit and soon it becomes a moral code for him. While in school, Rahul learns to share his belongings with his friends and helping schoolmates in their work. While playing with them, he learns how the combined effort of his team wins and so on. The whole idea and approach towards the community builds up. Now to understand how moral values and teaching differ between societies, consider Rahul’s classmate Imran. Imran on the other hand has been told to greet with “Assalamu alaikum” to his relatives, being non-vegetarian, worshipping in Mosque and so on. The difference in moral conduct clearly reflects, but while we get into the essence it will be the same. While in school or away, both of them will help each other and playing together. So, it clearly tells us that the moral values differ among different cultures, society etc. Despite of this difference, they still are coherent with each other in one or another way.

 

On the other hand, ethics goes parallel with the moral values. But if in conflict, the ethical values will always overcome as these are higher version of the former. Coming back to Rahul and Imran, albeit of their different cultures, they have to follow the norms specified by the school. They have to adhere with the dress code, prayers, teachings and everything that is codified by the school. In the much broader prospect of one, if working in a company has to follow the company norms, if doing business has to follow the management norms, and as a whole living in a country has to strictly adhere to the Constitution. So, in a place where the people of variant cultures meet, work, and or come together for specific cause. We seldom have choice to consider the validation of one’s decision or choice on moral principles. That is why in formal world, we use the word ethical. It is always taken that the person with the ethical values will always have high moral values.

 

Everywhere we may go, we’ll find the importance of culture, religion, society or community and where these all co-exist, we find moral values and ethics. It’s hard to separate one from these values, as they make up the basis of our everyday chores, and makes us suitable to live in society with so diversified and enormous rich culture, especially in country like India.