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