History has always earmarked patriotism as an overzealous show of courage, pride and unflinching conviction in achieving what is perceived to be best for an individuals country of birth. Winston Churchill’s offer of blood, toil, tears and sweat was just the right mix to eclipse Bluntschli’s box of chocolates in the era of World Wars. People like George Bernard Shaw, Gustave Hervé and Leo Tolstoy made more enemies than friends because of their not-so-subtle views on the subject. Not surprisingly, a lot of these enemies were their own countrymen.
So what really is patriotism? Why does it bring forth a certain pride in your culture and heritage, of achievement by your countrymen, while the other man’s love for his country never seems so appealing to us and sometimes even a bit narrow-minded.
The answer might lie in a basic human need that we all tend to understate and yet is so obvious – a sense of belonging.
You belong to your home, your family, your neighbourhood, your friends, your relatives and vice versa; in whichever domains you feel the need to attach yourself to. However independent you are or you claim to be, you cease to exist without these threads of attachments, which binds you not only with a myriad responsibilities but also subjects you to take decisions and act for the benefit of maintaining these connections.
As humans evolved and circumstances changed, the priorities of such entities like your home, your neighbourhood, your state, your country with which you are eternally bound to, changed. Somewhere along the way when nations fought wars, when men destroyed borders and created even more, patriotism became the driving force for a group of men to remain united, to fight for their own survival and to secure their future. For a while, religion, which was instrumental in creating such groups a few centuries ago, took a back seat. When I say, ‘for a while’, it is hundreds of years in historical terms, and when we continue with our struggle for existence as individuals and as groups waving flags, singing anthems, applauding our countrymen, let us try and not step on ‘lesser mortals’. In all the frenzy, they might be too small for us to see.
The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border? – Pablo Casals