Farasha Pharis, III Year B.A. Economics
You often hear people saying that our generation is not patriotic. Is it true? Well, patriotism in its definition as changed over the years and means different things to different people. Hitler considered himself to be the epitome of patriotism, does that mean subjecting a sect of citizens to inhumane conditions is acceptable? Many say that soldiers are the most patriotic citizens, they put their lives on the line for strangers just because they share the same passport. Does that mean war crimes are acceptable provided they don’t happen to our citizens?
What is patriotism in the era of global citizens? Where do the scales of patriotism and global thinking find their balance? This isn’t a cynical view of patriotism, rather a realistic one.
We know that democracy was born in Greece, but where was patriotism born? Let’s start at the very beginning, with the early men (and women). A time when there were no countries or territories to be patriotic towards. The population began to grow and along with it we became divisive; tribes were born. As the world progressed, we invented the wheel and created fear within the people that no one was ever safe; tribes united and the territories that were once divided now merged their lands and weaponry. The tribes grew and so civilisation as we know was born.
You must be wondering what any of this has to do with patriotism. These merged tribes and new civilisations began to form kingdoms or countries as we call them. The king was supreme and patriotism was showing your devotion to the king. Militaries grew stronger and overthrew some of these kings. If you spoke against the military’s action you were a traitor or unpatriotic. People decided they had enough, colonial rulers were revolted against. Independent nations were born and their leaders were chosen by the people. They sang their national anthems and hoisted their flags, rejoiced at the thought of their nations. This didn’t stay too long, countries wanted to expand, and the colonies that still existed were used as army reserves. Some countries became larger, some lost even the little they had. Patriotism was now the new name of militant nationalism; we talk about that era even today, marked them an important part of world history. You may have heard of it, the First World War? Somehow peace was unsettling and the economic conditions worsened. It was time to reignite patriotism so that the citizens wouldn’t hate the ruling party and hated other countries instead. They needed a new cause for this though, they couldn’t feed people the same story again, they weren’t stupid. They demanded uniformity and fear arose amongst the uniform and non-uniform alike.
Of late, patriotism is reverting to its old form. Creating war, in the name of politics, religion and economic conflict. We have had many a war in our country. War itself became more civilised with chosen battlegrounds and the patriotism became easier. Fighting the war was optional; you were not drafted, you enlisted. Somewhere along the line we understood patriotism better, we separated it from politics.
So then what is this ‘modern-day’ patriotism? It is love for your nation; not your nations trade policy, war crimes or international relationships. It is realizing that we can be proud of who we are without hating those around us.