What exactly is nationalism??
The slogan of republic factions in the ongoing American presidential elections ‘Make America great again’, last year’s referendum in the UK for Scotland’s independence, the scheduled referendum in coming months again in the UK to bid farewell to the European Union and in India, the intolerant activities and protests rising from the self-proclaimed nationalists made me to ponder over the term Nationalism in a broader way.
All these days I knew Nationalism as a strong belief in citizen’s mind that his/her country is great and they love their country more than anything. But today, after gaining some common sense from experiencing the heat of above mentioned phenomena, my definition for this largely misunderstood term has changed.
Nationalism, a modern feeling and in fact a shared feeling among citizens, is born out of feudal oppressions in Europe in the late 18th century. French revolution had a significant impact in imbibing nationalism among the citizens and it triggered similar revolutions across the world which changed major monarchies into republics and democracies. In modern world, there are no major kingdoms but only various kinds of republics and democracies
There was no nation and not even the love for nation few centuries ago. There were empires and kingdoms. People loved kings but not their kingdoms. Gradually when kingdoms became extinct and people were given the right to vote for their leader, there was a sense of accountability and responsibility towards their nation bestowed upon them. They worked hard for the nation’s progress and Nazi Germany was an epitome of a heavy-duty nationalism even today.
However, there exists a thin line between Freedom and Autonomy, War and Revolution, Nationalism and Patriotism. Nationalism is little aggressive in nature and it instills militant mindset in citizens whereas patriotism is a kind of love for the country similar to nationalism but with more emphasis on human values and beliefs.
We could see a strong sense of nationalism in America today where people are shouting to make it great again. Again??? I don’t know what they mean about greatness but in modern context, a great country is where its citizens have equal social treatment, basic affordable health and education, employment opportunities, security and impeccable smiles on their faces. So, when you measure these parameters neither India nor America is great.
If there was no nationalism, India would have never got Independence and if there was no patriotism, India would have never become a secular democracy. These kind of complex feelings can be misunderstood in several ways. Complaining and protesting against the government in the name of nationalism is not virtuous for the nation. Nowadays, nationalism is strongly combined with politics and economy and therefore gave out differences in ideology of the leaders. So, when there are differences in core ideology of nationalism, it would result in protests like what we have seen in Jawaharlal Nehru University few months ago and still continuing intolerant environment all over the nation.
I don’t know where differences in nationalism would take us in future, but I am sure there are more intolerable days ahead and leaders are born out of those difficult times.