Every year, we Indians celebrate 15th of August as our Independence Day. People show their love for India in various ways on this day. Government offices, schools proudly unfurl the tricolour on their buildings. Individuals stick the flag on their vehicles. People wear ‘Patriotism’ on their hearts and sleeves. The national flag becomes so valuable a commodity this day that it sells like hot cakes. The day gets over and by evening all the excitement gets petered out. By the next day, you can find flags wallowing in dirt like waifs and on manholes, being overrun by the same vehicles that still proudly bear the flag on their embodiment. The previous day’s pride becomes the very next day’s burden. Three cheers to our “One Day Patriotism.”
Our whole idea of Patriotism needs some revamping. Is it actually enough to stick the tricolour on our peripheries and sing the national anthem with gusto while standing in attention? Even here, there are so many prejudices playing their hidden roles. Those who stand in attention while singing the anthem deride those who don’t. But the former are blissfully unaware of the fact that by doing so they’re actually approving the very act that they choose to disapprove. Independence Day, then, stood for freedom. Freedom, not just from the British rule, but also from our pique of being ruled by ‘others’; freedom from everything that was ‘phoren’, be it product or system, to things that were more Indian. Standing up in attention, as a mark of respect, is a British relic we’re unable to throw out of our psyche even today. Eastern culture, be it Hindu or Muslim, doesn’t decree the same. Unlike the western culture, it allows us to stay seated while praying. Reciting an anthem being an act of professing your allegiance could hence be done staying seated. Ironically, the British left India long back, but they still rule our psyche. This knowledge does nothing other than further deepen our prejudice against the British. While that is one aspect of patriotism, elucidating that is not the purpose of this write-up.
Why have patriotism at all when all it does is divide humanity into superior, loveable, smarter ‘us’ and inferior, hate-worthy, uncivilized ‘others’? Why should one man’s fight-for-freedom be another man’s terrorism? Technology, especially Internet, is erasing the borders. Politics needs to open-up to embrace this development. The world is at a crossroad now. Terrorism has never been more powerful and is threatening to engulf most of the world. It knows no boundaries of nations and is bent on destroying the same. Technology is also doing the same but is the obverse side of the same coin. The solution doesn’t lie in guarding our borders even more zealously. The solution lies in melting our borders and making ourselves more inclusive of the ‘others’ than we’re now. We need to wisely use technology to send across the message that we care to the nations that feel relegated. Foreign policies of nations need to be more ‘foreign’ sensitive from now on. The Independence Day should now symbolize freedom from ‘Patriotism’. Pablo Casals put in succinctly, “The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?” Let us aspire for a world order where patriotism is not haute. I won’t be very comfortable when my kids would ask, “Who draws lines around the countries?”