An Illusion for the Masses
“Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”
So said 18th Century British writer Samuel Johnson. One can start to think about patriotism in its many forms but still arrive at the same juncture, it is simply people’s need to align themselves with a larger identity. This larger identity could range from a neighbourhood to a sports team to a nation. Finding security, seeking pleasure, are, in my humble opinion, the most basic of human motives, which patriotism helps indulge. It evokes a sense of belonging, instilling the illusion of safety among a mass. Patriotism in its present form, surely, is a human construct. True, it could be argued that it is derived from the primeval habit of being territorial, but territorialism has never really reached the giddying heights or (depending on how you look at it) the appalling depths of patriotism. What does it mean to be patriotic? Amman Madan, writes in the wake of the immensely violent Godhra riots, “Today when the burnt heaps in Gujarat are still smouldering, when Ayodhya promises to catch fire any day, it is necessary to examine a central question: what is patriotism? Where do its roots lie?” (Madan, Para 1) The dictionary definition of the term covers all manners of sins -- devoted love, support, and defence of one's country; national loyalty. With the gross amount of connotations both political and emotional attached to that word, one is bound to be confused whether it is sheer naïvety on the general public’s part or a sizeable chunk of cynicism on mine. After more than 60 years of independence one feels the need to rethink and redefine patriotism, is it a sign of loyalty to the nation or a misused sentiment? In a very direct yet in a seemingly deceptive way, nationalism is by all regards, an illusion. I use the word illusion in relation to patriotism in the literal sense that it is a tool
wielded by many a manipulators to influence and corrupt an impressionable mind into...