Friday, August 15, 2008

On Independence Day

We all know that WWE is staged. The wrestlers don't really wrestle, that they are just well built actors. Knowing this, and watching the live audience going mad on TV, you are either disgusted or plain amused. Right? I mean, how can they fall for such a hoax?

Now, lets talk about patriotism. Do you think you are proud of Abhinav Bindra who won the gold at the Olympics because you are patriotic? Or is that happy feeling just something you get by knowing that you belong to a country that has been placed at a slightly higher rank in a medal tally than it was 4 years ago and hence a symbol of higher power?

Lets go back a little. Countries were formed by rulers and people in power because they got a kick from being in control. Sure, obviously they had to be "nice" to their subjects else they would be overthrown by rebels. Hence, good governance was a way of avoiding losing power. The Indian border that we are so "patriotic" about is largely the extent to which the British and Moghuls could control a piece of land as a single entity and the rest by efforts of rajas, maharajas and other arbit empires to hold their ends together.

All these rulers all over the world at all times had one task at hand - To retain and grow in power. Hence they started building armies to conquer more. Now it takes more than just monetary benefits for a man to risk his life, hence they introduced the concept of patriotism. "Die for your motherland!", they said and people did die. Compare this to the WWE stage where they yell "Fight to the finish!", and the live audience goes mad in throes of fanatic orgasms. What's the difference?

What I'm coming at, is that patriotism is overrated. Symbols like flags, Independence days and National Anthems in movie theaters are just tools used to make us feel emotionally attached to the country and hence cloud our judgement about keeping the corrupt as our leaders and actually giving our lives for such an idea. The government is supposed to be a set of people we choose to take care of our roads, electricity, food, law and order and we pay them for their services in the form of taxes. Now these same people you hired, are asking you to stand up at home or stop on the road every time a song called the national anthem plays on the road when most of us don't even know meaning of this song.

Task for this year: sit back and carefully think from scratch and without any biases as to what is patriotism and to what extent is it a fraud emotion. What exactly do you mean by "Love your country"?

Note: I'm not asking you to hate your country. You will inevitably feel patriotic about things. That's the way it has always been and that's the way it will always be. I'm asking you to realise why you feel that way.

And oh, Happy Independace Day!

9 comments:

Sheep said...

I think the order is wrong here.

It is not because you see a flag or hear the national anthem at a theater that you feel emotionally attached to the country. The causation is actually exactly the opposite.

You love the idea of India and what it means to you and your identity within that idea and therefore you feel emotionally attached to the flag and the anthem as symbols of that national identity.

Jai Hind!

pradyot said...

Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious. - Oscar Wilde.

Dont fret, young Al. No country's boundaries have remained static for over 200 years. India, as such, is only 61 years old. A fraction of time in the big scheme of things. I've always maintained that the boundaries as they stand now are not permanent. So no need to get our pants in a knot, as the old saying goes.

Jello said...

"Patriotism is supporting your country at all times and supporting your government when they deserve it." - Mark Twain

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Anonymous said...

I am a bit confused. According to you, being patriotic is nothing but a ‘conditioned’ state cunningly indoctrinated in the ‘subjects’/ ‘citizens’ of a nation/state by self-perpetuating and fraudulent national leaders who goad us into being patriotic. You conclude, however, “….You will inevitably feel patriotic about things. That's the way it has always been and that's the way it will always be. I'm asking you to realise why you feel that way.”
One might argue that this universally popular view of patriotism might be rather simplistic and that a person’s psychological need for identity - to belong to a larger entity - tribe, community, nation, etc., was be the more compelling reason for patriotism. It is a whole separate debate that tribal leaders / shamans / potentates / politicians over the ages have recognized this basic human need and mastered the art of exploiting it.
This distinction, I submit, would be a more useful one and worthy of recognition if, indeed, we are to neutralize the more harmful aspects of the exploitation a citizen of a modern state is subject to.
EU