Google fb32x32 twitter linkedin feed-icon-32x32

Patriotism Is Dysfunctional

Patriotism Is Dysfunctional

August 13, 2011

hat does patriotism actually mean? It really depends on whose dictionary you are using.

At a recent party I got into a debate with a schoolmate over the issue of India’s Brain Drain. We were discussing job prospects and I told her if I got a chance to pursue a high paying job in another Country, preferably one with better living standards I’d emigrate without a second thought. This elicited an almost violent reaction from her. She was shocked how I could even think such a thing. According to her, it was unpatriotic that I should abandon the same country that gave me shelter. A series of arguments followed which I will analyse. In the end, I beat her on every single point she had in favor of patriotism and against migration.

In the words of JFK, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”

I dare ask: the point is why should we? The more pressing questions for as much as 41.6% of the population in India are: “Will I get food tomorrow?” “Will my family survive the night?”. For people living under these circumstances, it is hard to comprehend the gravity of JFK’s question and understand the concept of patriotism.

Let us first define patriotism. In simple terms, patriotism is defined as love for one’s country. Now, the first question that springs to a philosophical mind is: what is a country? The second question is: how much love?

The answer to the first question is rather ambiguous. By country do you mean the governing body? Or do you mean the geographical region that is universally accepted to be the realm of the country? It could also mean love for one’s fellow citizens.

By the first definition, we brand our freedom fighter unpatriotic since they revolted against the governing body that was in place during their time: the British Crown. The definition of country is anything but definite. Patriotism is hence a rather abstract term that doesn’t have any solid guidelines. "

The love of one's country is a splendid thing.  But why should love stop at the border?" - Pablo Casals

I can always ask why should I be patriotic? Well, the truth is: there is absolutely no reason. JFK’s statement meant to subdue this fact. This is a world of consumerism, where we pay taxes for everything we do: live, earn, buy, and sell. So basically whatever the country offers you, you pay for, there is hardly any love involved.

One might argue that we should be patriotic because the country provides me a house to live in. Wrong, I pay rent.

It provides me land to build the house on. Wrong again it never belonged to the Government. Someone claimed it years ago by right of conquest, and then sold it to one person after the other. Even though the land lies within the democratic Republic of India, I pay taxes to use it. If the government ever has need, it can vacate me.

If I earn money, I pay taxes, if I buy something I pay taxes. Every transaction that takes place, the Government gets a share.

So where exactly does patriotism come in? Should I be glad India is letting me stay when truly, it is only because I am paying for it? Should I be glad I am earning a living while I pay a portion of my earnings just for that?

Maybe it is because no other country will accept me easily. Since I was born in India, I am an Indian Citizen and if I want to stay in the Country, I have to respect it. Even this respect can be laid down into two simple rules: Respect the national devices (The Tricolor, Seal of India) and not commit treasonous acts or criminal acts as a whole. I understand and respect these rules, beyond that I don’t see any guidelines. If everybody does their duty, i.e. does what they’re paid for, there is no need for being overtly patriotic. If a politician does his duty and doesn’t take bribes, India would be a much better place.

What exactly does being a patriot mean in today’s World? Fighting for one’s country? That would mean all civilians are unpatriotic. Does it mean fighting for social causes such as Women’s Rights, Child Rights, Environmental Protection? Well, you do that for humanity, not for the country.

By definition one can even be a patriot if he changes his citizenship to that of another country. He still loves his birth country, so what the hell? This raises another issue of course: if a person migrates to another country, which country should he love. By all of the definitions above, he should love the second one.?? Patriotism is an abstract concept which can be interpreted in its own ways. As soon as we try to define it we see that put onto paper and into doctrines, it hardly has any corporeal basis. If he a person speaks ill of his country, is he unpatriotic? He has the right to do so, at least in India. Plus isn’t that what social protests are all about? If a person leaves the country, does it mean he doesn’t love it? If he is getting better pay elsewhere, why shouldn’t he move there? Security in India is a myth. Why would she not shift to another country, where she wouldn’t definitely be raped if she stayed outside after 1 PM. Why?

Patriotism fuels Xenophobia. When you ask a person to love his countrymen, you unintentionally ask him to hate those who are not his countrymen. There you have it: Xenophobia in the making.

Patriotism is a lie. If you want to love: love the earth, love humans, love animals. Love the whole, not a part of it.

Photo credit: Ram Reddy 


  • Ratnadeep
    16.07.12 03:00 AM
    Nation is not a piece of land, it is the people, their ethos and what they stand for. A man is what he stands for. What do you stand for??
    If your personality and ethos are just consumerism and enjoyment of life, its better you leave the country. Because it is the rats who run out first when the ship starts sinking.... The nations who offer you a better life style were built by some patriotic men in that nation. Wanderers and pleasure seeker are never entitled for anything creative in their life because they cant stand for something , they cannot see pain for creating something new. I understand that your life is 60 years, but when you will be on the death bed and you will be summing up your life, you will cherish the moments of victory in your life and not the moments of luxury. Stand for something in life. Mother Teresa was not an Indian by birth but she stood for the humanity and the poor and something that was worth standing for hence she is known as great Indian and a great global citizen. Question is what do you stand for??
    You are failing to understand that patriotism or love for someone are feelings that help you break your limitations and do something larger than life. You yourself will achieve indeed something great in life if you will work for a country or its people. TO be a good global citizen you first need to be a good citizen of some country.
    Remember the freedom you get in India is far more than many countries in the world. You may not be good in material wealth as an Indian citizen but to the onus of making it good lies on our shoulders.
  • Verdeep Arora
    Verdeep Arora
    15.07.12 01:38 PM
    I somehow agree with Both point of view ... the one written by a "patriot", and the one Above ...!!
    I need a conclusion to this debate ... can you both help me outta this !!??
  • A patriot
    A patriot
    05.07.12 10:36 AM
    What is your country? Read discovery of India by J.Nehru. I can write a whole book on India myself. Diversity, democracy, tolerance, composite culture, ancient civilzation providing us with certain unseen attitude towards life.. How much love? As deep as ocean!

    Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country
    Exactly, The question is whether you are a lowly animal-like hedonist or do you seek larger purpose in life? You can never understand why mother Teresa and Gandhi were great! The JFK statement is not for a minion like you.

    World of consumerism?
    Consumerism has to be replaced to sustainable development. Because we owe to future generations that they can also satisfy their needs and we leave them with enough resources to achieve that.. Now i wonder if u will even feel for ur own child..

    Taxes??? Did you earn your property or did u inherit that? All property should have been confiscated and redistributed to poor .. than equal education and equal access to opportunity provided.. than in competition, going by your dumb intellect level u would have been in bottom 5 percentile.

    Love whole?
    Come on a supporter of consumerism with a lack of attachment to either birth country or the country in which he lives talking about humanism??
  • A patriot
    A patriot
    03.07.12 08:57 AM
    I can only laugh about your self-seeking definition and conception of patriotism. Patriotism is a noble sentiment as it is based on devotion and selfless sacrifice of the people. It is the foundation that holds the structure of the nation. It is a pious sentiment and has always been adored by the people of all the nations.

    A man who hasn't this noble sentiment lacks the sense of self-respect too. He is the weak end of the nation who can succumb to pressure and may not become slave himself alone but may assist the aggressor in making the whole nation slave.

    It is one thing to not have patriotic sentiment because you might not have any affection and love inside you. But you go on to criticise the sentiments of people who have sense of self worth and want to serve their nation and people.

    By your logic the people who actively colluded and supported Britishers are as good as Bhagat Singh, Gandhi, Nehru and all.

    I can only laugh on your assessment of a country in terms of tax-service pay off. If your father is handicapped just get a new father who cares? hun? I do not assess my country in those terms i am sorry!! and I read some of comments and am wondering how people try to justify their choices by ridiculing others. I hope you people get a purposeful life because their is nothing like the pride feeling of serving my own country. Though I respect your decisions. I am proud of india because everytime i go to a new place in india i cant help to notice the sheer diversity and still a sense of belongingness.. I left a career in silicon valley to join civil services to serve my mother INDIA.

    I recommend you people to get through indian independence struggle. I am sure it will give chills down your spine.
  • niharika garg
    niharika garg
    02.05.12 08:14 PM
    Though there is some weight in your content, it is not to be missed that our country is the one who made us.... If at all a person wants to migrate to another nation, then wont he be doing injustice to his country which fed him, educated him and provided the protection.... Doesnt the country expects something in return? If this brain drain should continue, the future of our country will definitely be in dark.
  • Viquar ali
    Viquar ali
    13.03.12 02:45 PM
    depends on every individual & his thoughts to carry his home to live in or sold others... vary yourself & think about mother land, don't bob the mother to find a new father of business
    and about pic is very nice... by birth we'r patriotic. patriotism in our blood.
    if others are not intrested please go side for descibed catagory... thank Q
  • Chanchal Rungta
    Chanchal Rungta
    11.03.12 12:19 AM
    Thought evoking write up. I support every part of it coz what you have written is a naked fact. Some flaunty "PATRIOTS" would say that lets stay back in India with sum job and fl proud to be doing something for your country rather than going to some really cool country which respects and pays off better fr your talent. I say WHY??? I choose to live where I get better lifestyle. Full stop. What is patriotism gonna offer me?? There millions of people living in slums who r forced to rot there. Lets say sum of em are really very patriotic. Now what do they get in return?? Absolutely nothing! So what do I get on being patriotic? My hard earned income + nothing extra.

    Why do I care if India is excelling or not?? Its a country..a dead stretch of land. Em not at all interested in fucking my carrier up just in order to earn fame fr a country that's gonna get me nothing. India is gonna stay there fr quite a long time.. but what about me?? Em there fr another 60 yrs, at the max. So, why should I waste my life and live in misery to spread the name of a dead land. That's so lame..

    I would b an Indian irrespective of where I work.. Staying here ain't gonna prove shit.. In fact I find more sense in migrating and showing d world that I've come from India and I AM A "MADE IN INDIA" PRODUCT.
  • alvin
    20.01.12 09:44 PM
    dude what a cool thing

    though teaches a lloooooooooot!!!!!!
    people i am not a nerd and have no intrest i am just here because its our homework but this write up still rox!!!!!!!!!!
  • PD
    10.11.11 06:20 AM
    Instead of blaming to my country. I would do something for it to make a much better place to live than it was before. And last patriotism exist in people of every nation its not a lie its just that some dumb-ass can't understand and if someone need an answer for that then ask any soldier who is willing to fight and die for people of his nation.
  • Pav Singh
    Pav Singh
    03.09.11 12:48 AM
    I wonder where I come in this arguement. When Norman Tebbit(British MP in Margaret Thatcher's govt)devised his cricket test to identify NRI loyalty, there were at least another 5 million people who would have supported India before England. They were the people of the country of my birth, Scotland. If I am asked what I am I usually reply Scottish asian. I am Scottish, I know on other culture apart from what my parents taught me. Very rarely do I say I am British.
    Am I disloyal to my country?
    I think not. I am loyal to the country of my birth,(which some people will argue is not a country)and I am loyal to the circumstances of my birth
  • True
    16.08.11 12:07 PM
    True, looked at from a completely enlightened perspective, patriotism is dysfunctional. The sooner everyone does away with this nonsense and we all become one human race of humanity, the better.

    However, do we live in such a world currently? It would seem not, at least not yet. It would also seem that the most successful countries in the world have an extremely strong element of patriotism (US,UK,Germany, Japan etc).

    There must be some sort of a link there. If people such as yourself continue to leave India as they have been for many years now, how will the country progress to a true world power? The best and brightest go abroad to the US, for example, and help those countries quite considerably. Indian immigrants are generally among the most well educated, least criminal, most well-paid in the countries that they emigrate to.

    I have always thought that an interesting thought-experiment would be to imagine what India would be like if all the NRIs or second gen NRIs went back to India. In my mind, the wealth of talent that would flow back would take India to superpower status quicker than it is getting there now.

    I think it is also getting less attractive to emigrate now because India has so much going for it now. It seems that alot of Indians may be coming round to that view as well.
  • Sunil Deepak
    Sunil Deepak
    16.08.11 09:55 AM
    I agree that patriotism in the way it is promoted is always against some others who are not part of your country and the John Lennon song, "Imagine there is no country" is a fine ideal to strive for. However, your analysis does not touch on emotional aspects of the issue ...
  • Hariharan Valady
    Hariharan Valady
    15.08.11 08:48 PM
    Though I do not agree with your conclusion, I must say that your argument is impressive, thought provoking.
  • sush
    14.08.11 11:57 PM
    loved the write up, and more since I opt to have similar opinion on the subject
  • Vikram
    13.08.11 08:37 PM
    Here are some misconceptions,

    1. India is much more unsafe than other developed countries - Check world data. This myth is to be laughed at.

    2. patriotism is equivalent to love - Its duty not love that you have for your country.

    Why duty you ask ? because your education and the freedom you enjoy is because people before you sacrificed to provide you with it. Its your duty to continue their effort not for yourself but for the future.

    3. But I pay for all the services ! - Nope you by yourself could not have even earned a penny if your country was not to provide the conditions for it.

    4. The government gets a share of my effort ! - The government is not some person making money off you. You pay taxes as contribution to provide the same services that you enjoyed for people who don't have the same.

    5. Why should I think twice about migrating ? - Because it is not YOU that the other country respects. It is the credentials that your country provided. Try migrating without a penny or an education, lets see which country accepts you.

    Plenty more flaws in your argument. But nonetheless its a sentiment shared by many more. Time is the perfect answer to your reasoning.

Leave a comment