This post is second part of the two part series on Nationalism. You can read the first part here
The romantic attachment to a particular identity or an ‘imagined community’ entails perils that have gone on to cause massive destruction to life and property. Atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are testimony of this fact. This destructive romantic nationalism is strengthened by tacitly consented traditions. Eric Hobsbawm’s concept of ‘invented traditions’ is relevant to the concepts of nation, nationalism and nation-worship. As per Hobsbawm, ‘inventing traditions’ is a process of formalization and ritualization. Nation-worship is contracted among the citizens due to the parasitic nature of formalization and ritualization of traditions. ‘Invented Traditions’ like nation-worship are emotional; they inculcate emotional loyalty that causes people to sub-ordinate all human loyalties to national loyalty. This is when nation becomes a veritable religion.
The romanticisation and glorification of the nation, symbolization of its glory in the form of national flag, national anthem, national symbol; celebration of violent death of ‘martyrs’ and ‘war heroes’, deaths of whom rather adds to its fame and glory; creation of a cult in the realm of politics – all of which makes nation a ‘civic religion’ to which its ‘devotees’ pledge their devotion. The ‘cult of nation’ as Rabindranath Tagore calls, it passes on its tradition through education, music, folk-lore, sports and national ceremonies to name a few. For example, Gun salute and construction of war memorials for the death of soldiers in course of their ‘national duty’ glorifies the cause of their death by turning it into a sacrifice. Most often people get reminded of their citizenry of the cult through symbols and semi-ritual practices (such as elections) most of which are invented. One other convincing perspective is of Benedict Anderson who attributes the introduction of press, print and other media capitalism to the viral spread of nationalism and nation-worship.
The nuances of this virality were well described by Hans Magnus Enzensberger in his essay ‘Industrialization of Mind’ in which he talks about the occupation of our mind by print and other forms of media. The fact that media is today driven by advertisements and TRP, makes it inevitable for it to be unbiased. Constant flashing of news and advertisements condition us to a certain concept of nation and eventually giving in the extreme romantic nationalism, also called Jingoism. A combination of all these traditions turns nationalism into nation-worship. A very relatable and recent example of this ‘industrialization’ can be found in the Bollywood movie Uri. The movie contains dialogues like “Khoon ka badla khoon se lenge” (“Revenge for blood will be achieved through blood”) and similar dialogues that strengthen the emotional attachment of a person to the nation which in this case promotes extreme violence and revenge in the name of “Patriotism”.
The dire consequences of nation-worship include capitalistic and political feeding of nation upon nation says Rabindranath Tagore. He states, “It betrays trust, it weaves its meshes of lies without shame, it enshrines gigantic idols of greed in its temples, taking pride in costly ceremonials of its worship calling it patriotism”. Tagore often expressed his concerns about the ‘western’ idea of nationalism. According to him the prevailing western nationalism taught from early stages of life, fosters hatred through schooling, instills un-ending desires, enables manufacture of half-truths and un-truths which as per him are to be forgotten for the sake of humanity.
Nation-worship (and not nationalism) instills a sense of hatred towards other nations. It cripples the unity of human kind. It initiates inter-state wars, the consequence of which, history provides ample evidence. Attempts towards national unification by Manzini of Italy, Bismarck of Germany, Japanese State Shinto, Nazi Germany etc. succeeded in their goals but later led to violent consequences of war and death. Thus, Tagore rejects nation-worship and calls for a world more human and spiritual.
The perils of Nationalism and nation-worship are blatantly visible in contemporary India under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). BJP’s political agenda is based on the idea of what it calls ‘Hindutva’. The foundations of BJP’s ‘Hindutva’ were laid by its ideological parent the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The ideologues of RSS namely M. S. Golwalkar and Savarkar promoted the idea of “Hindu Rashtra” (Hindu Nation) which is a form of romantic nationalism confined to religious identity specific to Hinduism. The utter bigotry of this kind of romantic nationalism has resulted in hate politics and extreme violence against what they call “Others” that is other religions. Several instances of mob lynchings and violent killing of people of other communities have been reported during the BJP rule. Apart from the internal conflicts that such a bigoted form of nationalism creates, it also propagates hate against other nation states. Today it is popular perception that Pakistan is our enemy. The ‘surgical strikes’ have only strengthened such a notion, leaving no room for any kind of peace.
Nation-worship perpetuates violence, war, jealousy, hate, greed and vainglory. It strips of the humanity from human-kind. The disadvantage of nation-worship shadows its advantages. Having come so far to a point in time where national identity is an important factor in development, it is important to negate romantic and ideological fragment of the national identity for reinstating peace among the human kind. A world replete with peace, humanity and social-cooperation is the need of hour. While the time has come to choose India’s government, it would only be wise to choose it based on reason and not on emotions. That would alone ensure a peaceful, safe, democractic, sovereign, secular and united republic for all, as envisaged in our constitution.