It’s an amazing thing – like most other systems of belief, it is powerful, inspiring and terrifying all at once.
Don’t think it’s a “belief”? But it is, it’s believing in a cause, in an ideal, in something greater than you and all the people in your life. It’s something to rally behind and to fight for (or peacefully resist for, whatever you like!), something that can unite – but like any belief, it can just as easily divide people when lines are drawn.
These are very real matter being debated all over the world and more so as awareness and the ability to interact with more people spreads, but I wanted to focus on something on the good side of the patriotic debate.
This past weekend was Independance Day here in India. It’s a big deal as you can imagine, lots and lots of coverage and brouhaha to be found all over the place. The thing is though, I’ve never really been a patriotic person per-se, but I’m not radically opposed to being a patriot and proud of where you come from and all. So when I was asked by a local website to contribute to an article where they asked local writers, etc, from the comics and animation field about their thoughts on and about the day itself and what it means, it got me thinking and the following is what I came up with:
What does Independence Day mean to me… that’s a hard question to answer. At its most basic it is a day to celebrate not simply “throwing off the foreign yolk” or “India for Indians” or something like that. Those things are important and critical to where the day came from – but what the day ideally should be and what I like to think off is that it’s the day an idea was born.
India had many freedom fighters and many varied movements, but it was that of Mahatma Gandhi that took deep roots and won in the end.
Not violence, but peace. Not anger, but forgiveness. Not exclusion, but inclusion. Not belief, but an open mind.
The ideas of the man we revere as Mahatma (which basically means “Enlightened soul“) were powerful but those who supported his ideals were like a mother struggling to give birth and when independence came, the starting point of so much of what we became from then was the ideas of the Mahatma being born into this world. It was the day an independent new kind of nation stepped blinking into the light and took its first steps, full of hope and idealism for a better future for all.
In today’s circumstances, the following quote is my favourite because I see us struggling with these ideals and coming dangerously close to failing in most of them because of our prejudices, fixations, irrational systems and backward thinking.
“The roots of violence: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, politics without principles.” – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Never stop learning and keeping an open mind.
The world we inhabit is a shockingly small place that at first seems so very big, and life seems so long but is painfully shorter than we realize until it’s often too late.
Embrace learning, openness, kindness, humanity and never stop trying to be happy and enjoy the things you have, while you have them. Be grateful for what you are while you strive to be better and never regret the roads untaken because what is past is past. All that truly matters is the road ahead and the past is nothing but the book to remember and learn from so that you do not repeat mistakes, yours or anyone else’s.
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Wonderful post. That quote is amazing, though that’s hardly surprising, given the source.
I give one caveat, though, to this: “But it is, it’s believing in a cause, in an ideal, in something greater than you and all the people in your life.”
This is true for a certain kind of patriotism, but there’s another kind as well. There’s the love of a place, not for any quality it possesses, or ideal it embodies, but simply because it is your home. This isn’t a belief, but a choice. Love, whether we are aware that we make it or not, is always a choice. And this kind of patriotism doesn’t have to say “my home is great because.” All it says is “I love my home.” And it more easily understand why others love their homes, too.
From your tone, by the end of this post, it seems to me that you are already this second kind of patriot, though perhaps you wouldn’t use that word.
Honestly? I don’t think of love of “home” as love of nation. To me they are distinct. My home is the place immediately within my reach, the people who have impact on my life and the place where I’m living within some reasonable proximity (like your hometown or at most your home-state) because beyond that it just gets pointless because everything on Earth is eventually connected in some larger way to everything else if you think it through deep enough (i.e, events half a world away do impact me somehow or other, be it oil prices, food prices, the tone of the news, general fear/hope levels worldwide, political unrest, etc, etc).
So for me, anything outside of your hometown is a more nation-based patriotism and so for me the above home-love is decidedly NOT patriotism (you called my choice here spot-on) because the culture, society and all of that one place is all it’s own and in a big urban space, oft more fluid and adaptable. It’s also comfortable, familiar and so (as you note), it is just simply “home”.
I get that.
But I have also seen and known enough and observed enough to know that a truly enlightened way (to my mind) is to know that no home is permanent – a few generations at best, maybe. Eventually something gives. And I do believe that home is where the heart is and that whatever life throws at us, if we are open enough psychologically then we can find a way to make a home in more place than one.
I’m of a pragmatic nature in some ways, not something most people get but such is the variance of life and people.
Mm, I can see that perspective, but I still don’t quite agree. National Identity can be divorced from a sense of home, but it doesn’t have to be. That identity, for many people, runs deep, and carries layers. Sure, there are layers of home-town, area, state and province, but there is also nation. Think of it, for a moment, in terms of a country that isn’t as large or diverse as India or the U.S.A. To say “I am Japanese” or “I am French” carries a whole host of meaning, of history, collective consciousness and identity, culture, and it has connotations to the world at large, whether those connotations are warranted or not. Within that, you have “I am from Gunma” or “I am from Auvergne,” but those identities carry with them a relationship to the larger nation.
From my perspective, my state, and my city and its surrounding area, are my home. But the U.S.A. is my country, and my home is part of that, it shares in that identity, it was shaped by that relationship. The bullet holes in the older buildings of my city are a reminder that that relationship was enforced with blood, and not so long ago, either. But I have a share in both the good things and the bad things that my nation has done because that history has shaped where I am and who I am. And I accept it as part of my identity. Patriotism is the only word I have for that. I identify as a citizen of the U.S. of A. It’s failures are, in part, my failures, and it’s successes and good deeds are, in part, mine as well. I desire to make it a better place, to make it a better neighbor, to improve it and to, if it comes to that, defend it. Not because it is great, but because it is mine.
By the same token, the North American continent is also mine, and the world. They are just larger circles in the framework, spinning out from the single acre that means the most to me.
Does that make sense? Of course it will not last forever. Not even the planet will do that. If my nation falls and I survive, it will be time to make something new. But if everyone, throughout history, had shrugged and said “well, this home isn’t going to last forever” and took that as a reason not to try and lift it up, not to get attached, then as much good would be erased from our global history as bad. Art, science, literature, all of these things grow from the existence of a settled home.
As for “home is where the heart is,” that is true, but when you’re like me… different sorts of personalities, different sorts of connections. I have many friends and family members who, like you, would make a home wherever they happened to be. I live in an increasingly mobile society, and in that society, I am a freak. I have traveled a fair bit, even more internationally than inside my own country. I love traveling. But someone trying to take me from my home permanently would have to kill me. I’m pragmatic in some ways, but not in this. To hell with logic. I would rather die in these limestone-studded woods than live away from them. I’ve lived away from them for years, sustained only by the knowledge that it was temporary. …so that’s where I’m coming from. 😉 If nothing else, it helps me understand other people who have a deep connection to their home ground. Neither love of home nor patriotism have to be divisive. Unfortunately, divisiveness seems to be one of the favorite pastimes of humanity.
I get what you mean – maybe I’m too much of a pragmatist but while I appreciate cultural nuances and heritage, etc, my instinct is to aim for the “humanity as a whole” concept which you yourself allude to and while I’m fond of my country and do feel some pride and such, would I take umbrage the way some people do? No.
Just so there’s no misunderstanding: I understand and appreciate patriotism as a way to love, honour and cherish ones home+homeland and it’s culture, but the rampant aggression that tends to come from it, that I don’t appreciate.
And again, it’s the pragmatist in me, but if you look over history and all the things we associate with culture and heritage and habits – very few of the things we do today are done exactly the same way or with the same mindset and most (like all things) evolved with the changing times and I believe will continue to do so. America as a nation of immigrants – all of them in the modern era and even the natives at some point in history – is a grand example of old cultures surviving and adapting and evolving. But it’s when people cling and become defensive and unwilling to adapt to a new world and new state of things, that’s when conflict arises. If it was being forced upon you like in a totalitarian state, I get it. In a free-country, it’s about respecting others who are not like you and finding a balance between the new life you have to adapt to and the old familiar that you want/need to hang on to AND you can’t predict what part/balance of the two your kids will choose and people should be open to that too.
Sadly I find many people are not.
If they were largely more as I’d hope for, the world would be a more peaceful place and you’d be able to live the “home is where the heart is” life and carry your reasons for being patriotic with you wherever you went, others would respect them and you’d do the same for theirs. AND with the way technology is now and the ease of things like air-travel, etc, it is harder to be disconnected than ever in human history from where you “come from”.
But hey, like I said, that’s just me.
I think we mostly agree, but perhaps we are coming at the question from different directions? I see the same destructive sort of patriotism you do, and it makes me feel the same way. Put off and frustrated. My argument isn’t that that sort of patriotism doesn’t exist, but that there are non-aggressive forms that I would, nevertheless, call patriotism. My ideal would be humanity as a peaceful whole, though still wildly diverse, as these differences are what cause us to grow, learn, think, and change as much as they can cause conflict. And even certain levels of conflict seem to do us good, provided that the conflict doesn’t devolve into hatred, bloodshed, or domination. …but that isn’t the world we live in. At least not yet.
Just a note on U.S.A. patriotism. From inside “eagleland,” the patriotism seen by most of the outside world is more or less a hollow shell. Many people under the age of forty (and a fair number who are older than that) even hate their own country (the recent immigrant populations seem to be more strongly pro-U.S. than many who have been here for generations). There’s lip-service, and some very loud people clinging desperately to the flag and acting aggressive, but they do so because they feel the ground crumbling from beneath their feet. They’re dangerous because they feel threatened.
You call yourself a pragmatist, but you are also a dreamer. 🙂 You see the fluidity of history and culture pretty clearly, but you dream about change. At least, that is how your recent comments strike me. I admit, I do not really know you. I’m a recovering cynic, and still pretty cynical about humanity, though I dream, too.
People do not, for the most part, do what you wish they would because it is damn hard… Asking questions, trying to see different perspectives, trying to accept change, these things are challenging, at best, and terribly painful at worst. In fact, I think that if it doesn’t hurt, then one is still shying away from the assumptions that really should be questioned. This belief makes me a little less angry (though no less frustrated) by people’s unwillingness to do this very hard thing. It also reminds me that I haven’t faced all of my assumptions yet, either.
True, cultures evolve, but each generation has its own ignorance, preconceptions, and assumptions that must be faced. No generation seems to do a good job of facing those things, either. They face the ignorance and assumptions of previous generations, but for the most part, they are unwilling to face their own.
Isn’t that a cheery note to end my comment on. 😛
“You call yourself a pragmatist, but you are also a dreamer. 🙂 You see the fluidity of history and culture pretty clearly, but you dream about change.”
…mmm… I think you pretty much got the gist of it right with that statement. I’ve been referred to by many as a “hopeful cynic” and I embrace that world view, seems to work for me quite well, at least so far.
And believe me I know the pains of people not learning from history – it’s truly stunning sometimes! I have this running debate with a couple of people regarding why humans are as blindered as they are, oft willingly, but we can leave that for another time because these comments are getting amazingly huge 😀
Also, my first full novel (unpublished for now) is actually about that very concept thematically, of history’s mistakes being repeated in the relatively near future, despite cataclysmic results in the past from certain behaviours/choices/systems.
And thank you so much for all the conversation, been a while since I had a reader who was so engaging and interactive online.
Lol! “Hopeful cynic,” I like that.
I’m good at the huge comments, as I am sure you’ve noticed.
Learning is something seemingly done by individuals, not by our species as a whole. But I have reasons why I can’t judge.
*chuckles and salutes* Glad to oblige! And even more glad that I don’t seem to have irritated you to death. I’ve enjoyed it, too, and I look forward to more Doc Patient!
Yeah, I liked it too, it’s why I now refuse to let it go – one of the nicest things anyone ever said to me! 🙂
And yup, got that and you’re in good company I’d say as far as huge comments go here.
Will hopefully have more Doc Patient up here with new shenanigans before you know it!
And yes, learning is something that depends on the person and the timing, some just never can, some need the right time, place, etc and so on and so forth. There’s an element of luck to that!
As far as not judging goes well I say there’s nothing gained by judging people in general but to say no one can even hold a vaguely judge-y opinion, well we’re not perfect, not yet anyway! No one is so evolved that they don’t judge just a weeeeee bit. So don’t feel to bad, so long as you learned from your mistakes/poor judgement/whatever, it’s all good. It’s when you learn nothing, that’s when you have a problem to ponder.