Patriotism is antithetical to the idea of democracy for it does not allow exposure of the rot within. Double standards make it mandatory, however, for Indians to applaud Pakistanis who rip their own country apart; Pakistanis do the same for Indian media warriors. Societies whose unique selling proposition (USP) is poverty and go to the West with a begging bowl get self-righteous if, along with some coins, the mastahs throw in a few homilies because we quake at the country’s reputation being at stake. Nationalism becomes an obsessive compulsive disorder as we start on Operation Scrub-scrub from sanitised pedestals.
Democratic delusions must appear real. We are being had. A bunch of leaders decides how we should pay obeisance to the nation. Political groups assume extra-constitutional powers by being ‘servants of the people’ empowering themselves with a remote control to make the state cower before their diktats. A big fat line demarcates their freedom and ours.
Freedom of expression: Have you encountered any aspect of freedom that has not stepped on someone’s toes? The national anthem, national heroes, national holy cows, national sports all become prime property, but only when they are in eyeball-grabbing mode. Otherwise, they lie unclaimed in moratoria. Ridiculous painted faces in country colours provide a seal of approval even as t-shirts bellow, “I love New York”.
Some years ago, an industrialist member of parliament, Navin Jindal, fought and won a case for a licence to fly the national flag at his house. What do such gestures achieve? Do we see the irony of a pampered person flaunting national fealty while he sits in his feudal seat and audaciously takes up the cause of the khap panchayats that pronounce no marriage within the same sub-sect that resulted in honour killings?
Freedom of human dignity: Self-rule was built on the bodies of those who remain nameless. Gandhi did not die in a stampede. He was killed not because he fought the British, but because he aligned himself with the Khilafat Movement. This idea has been sanctified as ‘tolerance’ in India today, which is by far the worst aspect of democracy. It reeks of patronage of one ‘common man’ by another, brainwashed into a destructive thought process that grants an entry permit into the mainstream.
The ethnic Swadeshi Movement was essentially a phony idea trumped up to look labour class. It is a slap on our precious democratic faces that khadi is now designer clothing and even Indian government outlets have raised taxes on it, making it unaffordable.
Nehruvian socialism was yapping away at the Soviet model and merely gave more teeth to the government. This was organisation of power, not social idealism. The poor did not benefit from nationalisation of industry. The Licence Raj merely gave the rich incentives to grease the pockets of political parties.
Today, how does national self-esteem fit into the global initiative when we are dumped with Western waste? Why are we still on outdated British laws and religious edicts?
Freedom to be or not to be a nationalist: Terrorism, too, has a decided-upon colour based on a dictatorial concept. We conveniently want to be a cohesive whole when we are fighting amongst ourselves and overriding the rights of others. Our regionalism is no different from the principalities of the pre-Partition era. Democracy is scrawled on the flaky parchment of the past. The goal of history, Tagore believed, is not “the fierce self-idolatry of nation worship”. Nationalism is about conformity. It cannot survive if it provides choices, for in doing so it will threaten its own credibility.
A patriot is, therefore, the enemy of a truly free state of being.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st , 2010.