We, in Asia, with our new nationalism are likely to make a fetish or a fad of patriotism. Whereas all the forces of science are designed to make the idea of One World a living reality, some rabid reactionaries in every country are out to exploit popular sentiments and stress isolationist and exclusive policies. Patriotism is a noble sentiment, which has transformed sinners and dacoits into freedom fighters in many lands. But the sentiment tends to be static, outmoded and reactionary.
In Europe, nationalist sentiment developed at the time of Renaissance, till then Feudalism prevailed everywhere. The Spanish Armada made every Englishman a soldier-patriot. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Italy and Germany became nation-States; and their nationalism was consolidated in the 1.9th century.
They developed aggressive, militarist, expansionist, imperialist designs against the rest of Europe under Mussolini and Hitler. The Nazis in Germany and the Fascist in Italy with their super complexes and theories of race superiority and with their exploitation of smaller powers tarnished the fair name of patriotism to such an extent that patriotism today, of whatever country or complexion, has become suspect in the eyes of the world.
Today, the interests of the world are more or less interlinked; there is hardly any room for separatist tendencies. The days of Napoleon, Hitler, Drake and Joan of Arc are over. We need patriots who have a humanitarian internationalist outlook like Mahatma Gandhi, Tagore and Bertrand Russell. Pt. Nehru’s ardent patriotism for India was sweetly tempered with his anxiety for the future of the world.
Since mere nationalism could not satisfy the deepest urges of man, a need for international organizations like the League of Nations and the United Nations was felt by humanity after the termination of the two World Wars respectively. Nationalism was so militant and aggressive that it broke down the League, which had all the good and pious intentions but no military sanctions.
But the United Nations has been a little luckier. It has made itself felt in the social, economic and educational sectors of man’s life. It has carried relief wherever there have been death, disease, hunger and poverty. It has tried to regulate and control the uses of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. The smaller nations now don’t live in constant fear of the bigger nations.
Truly speaking, in the presence of this new world consciousness the old world patriotism sounds obsolete, self- condemned and outdated.
Doctrines like Panch Shil are the direct negation of local, tribal or national patriotism. There are other fields of activity, art, social service, science etc which are equally if not more important than mere patriotism. Dante, Virgil, Raphael and Michelangelo (artists) have raised the name of Italy higher than Mazzini and Garibaldi; Pasteur and Madame Curie by their scientific researchers have lifted the name of France higher than Napoleon ever did; Shakespeare ad Milton in England are remembered more than Gladstone and Disraeli, Tagore, Raman and Ghalib will outshine any contemporary patriots in India.
In this age of atomic diplomacy, to bank on a zealous and burning patriotism on the part of people as the only panacea for all our ills is to shut our eyes to reality. Mere patriotism exercises a sort of brutalizing effect on the sensibility of the masses. Very often the arts and crafts of peace are smashed under the iron heels of the misguided patriots.
Muses have to be smoke-screened; international conscience has to be destroyed; even the fair name of education is blitzed. It is rather strange that the so called patriots always give the artists, literary men, teachers etc a raw deal. The cause is not far to seek. The artists know that the patriotic zeal a momentary passion not meant to last a life-time. Soon, it reveals it dark aggressive and terrorist side.
What was in the initial stage meant to be a noble sentiment turns into ignoble channels and exhausts itself if self-seeking and self-advertising futilities?
Patriotism in its narrow sense curbs and confines the spirit of man; restricts his loyalties; it delimits his vision. The patriot today only hears one music—music composed of the booming of the atomic guns, the hum of the spitfires, torpedoes from submarines, depth-charges and explosion from land and sea-mines.
If we are to improve things, we shall have to discourage that aggressive and militant type of patriotism, which grew in German} the Hitler regime. We will have to root out the Nietzschian Doctrine of superman and the super nation from the body-politic of our educate and evoke instead, social sympathy and an international conscience.
The days of Hitler girls and Rule Britannia tom-boys will perhaps never return. The slogan: “My country right or wrong”; is a challenge to be met by the international conscience of the world which finds its expression through the forum of the United Nations.
Mahatma Gandhi made the love of India a part of his quest for Truth which again is a part of God, the Eternal. Gandhi would have loved to see India die so that the world could live. Only the land of the Buddha, Kabir and Nanak could give such a fine orientation and definition to the word; Patriotism. The cult of patriotism as preached by him is something new after Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler and Mussolini.
It does not glorify the gallows or the guillotine; it only stresses tolerance and understanding. All the finer and the nobler things of life; art, architecture, literature ethics and morality transcend the barriers of race and nationality. Mankind is one; the difference and the divisions are man-made. Our basic needs of food, housing, cloth, society etc are the same.
Only the poets and artists of one country can break through the artificial barrier of a narrow-minded patriotism to establish such spiritual communion with the poets and artists of another country.
Today the many agencies of the United Nations like the UNESCO, ESCAP, WHO, ILO etc are working for the unification of the entire world. Institutions like the Olympics and the Asiad unite all the sportsmen of the world. Mere patriotism cannot create such links between one nation and another.
The days of Pericles of the Greek city States, where local patriotism ruled everything have gone perhaps never to return. In the modern conditions, a small State cut off from the rest of the world has no meaning whatever. The smaller States can survive only in socioeconomic and political collaboration with the other States.
When the final One World patriotism emerges would depend on when the bigger States of the world come to think of forming themselves into a World Federation and start thinking in terms of Ahimsa rather than the Atom bomb!