Essay on Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel
Though the relationship between a patriot and a scoundrel appears provocative yet in modern times it appears convincing. It is true that many wicked people try to conceal their wickedness under the cloak of patriotism. Love and service are usually regarded as very noble sentiments and those, who enter public life, are normally looked upon with respect and admiration. The first reaction of the people for a politician today is not that he is inspired by any spirit of sacrifice and service.
It is taken for granted that man is fired by selfish motives and is an undesirable person. He is a careerist and an opportunist; ever intent on grinding his own axe and feathering his own nest. The plea of public help only a hoax is amply proved by our floor crossing politicians today.
To hold that scoundrel can successfully pose as a patriot and continue to deceive his countrymen is to presume a very low opinion of the intelligence of the common people. One should not forget the rule that nobody can be fool all persons for A times. The common man in India today may not be conversant with the complex problems of government but he has developed political consciousness, a sort of sixth sense to know the crook from the person who has his heart in the right place. It does not take them now more time to discover the wolf behind the tiger’s skin. The people today know what is on the whole conducive to their own welfare and what is not. They may be deceived by the election promises, but the hypocrisy of an imposter does not work on indefinitely.
The fact is that democracy cannot work unless the people are able to see for themselves what is good or bad for them; otherwise democracy degenerates into dictatorship and the people are reduced to the status of dumb-driven cattle. In democracy, the electorate has to be enlightened individuals, critical of the activities of the government; otherwise it does not function effectively.
Though the enlightenment and political awareness among the masses has come yet the condition has not greatly improved. Public and political life has changed, not improved. It is no longer the monopoly of a party or a few individuals. It is now a broad based affair in which the lowest and the poorest can play their part. Nevertheless the notion that a certain measure of cunning is inseparable from the life of a public man still remains deep-seated in the mind of the people.
Such a view is not altogether without some foundation of truth. A candidate seeking election has to woe his constituency and in doing so he has use all his resources of intelligence and tact. Thus he has to be a man of intelligence above the average, and to possess the art of handling and winning people. Thus, what we call tact ma; appear cunning in an uncharitable context.
It is also true that there is both scope and temptation in public life. Elections are not always a clean affair. Contesting candidates are prone to take recourse to unfair and objectionable means to secure votes. Misrepresentation of facts undignified criticism of opponents, false promises monetary temptations, intimidation and ever actual violence are not uncommon features. Such malpractices make a patriot appear a scoundrel.
However, it is wrong on the part of man to lose faith in the innate goodness of man and human institution. History tells us of innumerable people who genuinely loved their country and cheerful made the highest sacrifice for its sake. The list o patriots and martyrs in every country are long and memorable.
We cannot doubt the patriotic fervor of men like RanaPratap, LokmanyaTilak, Subhash Chandra Bose, Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri. These people we certainly not scoundrels who took refuge, und the cloak of patriotism. Such men may be point out as illustrious exceptions yet it does not pro the thesis that public men are always bad. Fai and trust alone make public life possible, otherwise the entire existence of man would come to a standstill.