Though simply put patriotism means love for one’s country, the idea behind the meaning isn’t as simple. The word connotes dedication to a particular place as against all other places in the world. It is the belief that one’s nation is the best among all others. Though it promotes integration among people sharing common territory, culture, history, and sentiments, it is defensive in nature against those who do not share the same feelings.
However, patriotism can be very constructive during times of war and unjust subjugation of one nation by another. History is full of stories about brave patriots who devoted their lives to the cause and freedom of their country. Aristotle, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington stand out as brave patriots of their times in their countries.
Indian history is replete with stories of foreign attacks and plunder. Indians suffered a great deal particularly during the British Raj, when they were subjugated and discriminated against in every field of life. It was only love for the country that gave birth to several patriotic leaders who fought relentlessly and freed India from the British colonial rule. Great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru inspired the entire nation with their feelings of patriotism. Lala Lajpat Rai, Bhagat Singh and Chander Shekhar Azad laid down their lives for the country during the freedom struggle.
Another term similar in meaning to patriotism is nationalism. However the two are different in their connotations. While patriotism is strongly defined by a nation, nationalism is determined by the race, religion, language and culture of a group of people. For example Afghans, Arabs and Iranians all come from different nations but they all strongly share a common religion that is Islam. Nationalism is more driven by the need to gain power for that particular group or identity.
However, the concept of patriotism has undergone a great deal of change. Globalization and Internationalism are the new sentiments. The United Nations Organization was formed after the conclusion of the World War II to instill the feeling of internationalism serving the larger cause of humanity as a whole. Everybody now recognizes the need for loyalty towards mankind lather than limit it to men of only one nation.
Rabindarnath Tagore was a regular critic of patriotism. He was afraid that patriotism led to a feeling of hatred by one group towards another. He believed each country had something positive to offer in terms of ideas, culture, inspiration, or science and a strong sense of patriotism would only close India’s doors to the positive influence of the Western countries. Similarly, George Bernard Shaw too stood strongly against patriotism as he once said, “You’ll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race.”
Thus, there is a need to redefine the meaning of patriotism in today’s context. We need to be proud of our nation in terms of its history; culture, identity, and achievement while at the same time recognize that on a larger perspective we are all a part of the global world.