A new idea of patriotism

Disclaimer : This idea isn't formed. I am not preaching and I am not hoping that anyone changes any existing opinion of their country or the people who fought for it's independence. Consider this as a troubled mind, thinking out aloud. Also do forgive my digressions and runaway thinking at times. It after all is patriotism that we are talking of here.

Rishi Kapoor, the acclaimed Indian actor in a recent interview promoting his movie ‘D-Day’ spoke about the changing idea of patriotism in this country and as depicted by Indian cinema. He spoke about many movies talking of the freedom struggle in the years around 1947 and the decade that followed. Gradually with the economy and development taking centre stage, the Green Revolution and its proponents (the farmers) became the hero and as Hindi cinema discovered color and more verve we also began to unite behind the one constant enemy, Pakistan, and saw many movies made about the wars fought against them. Some have adhered to the principles of exaggeration to the point of indigestion of the real facts but in totality managed to create the required patriotism in the hearts and minds of today's India. By summing up these eras he very succinctly ends it with how today’s India needs to stir up its patriotic concoction with ingredients like cross border terrorism, the likes of Dawood Ibrahim and Hafeez Saeed who finance and incite hate against India and the idea of fundamentalism in Pakistan that doesn’t allow peace and safety in India.

I must say I was sold. There really isn’t much we can say in the opposite. Yes, there is a proxy war being waged by Pakistan and well, there really isn’t a different way for them to play it. With the US and its allies pulling out of Afghanistan, the emphasis of the Pakistan Army has shifted considerably to their northern border, with an incensed and fast regenerating Taliban looking to avenge what they see as treason by Pakistan who joined US in their pointless war in Afghanistan. Their government is also grappling with a sticky situation in the border towns in the Xinjiang province in China with the firmly rooted Uighurs (Muslims) now being overcrowded and out thought by the Hans (of Chinese origin) for the sake of development of China (More here). And finally the battle with India for Kashmir which sometimes doesn’t even seem to be in the hands of the Pakistan government, with the ISI and groups like the LeT and the fast growing Tehreek-i-Taliban calling the shots. To top it off we have men like Dawood Ibrahim who conduct business in the name of chaos in India, all this with clear knowledge on both sides of the border of the exact address and whereabouts of Dawood in the city of Karachi. If you need to Google it, just type ‘CafĂ© Flo’.

We live in this world. We live with these apparent solutions to our problems and a trigger ready to be squeezed a moment away from each other. A lot of it is in the name of economic development, what with pipelines becoming political and elections becoming the motivation for peace. We actually have surrendered our ambitions and opinions to very little fact. Why do I say that? What is the connection between ambition and opinion with our geo-political situation, you ask? I wish I could say it is simple but it isn’t, but I shall anyhow endeavour to have you see it through my eyes.

Our ambition as a nation is limitless, but it isn’t necessarily congruent with our reality. Yes we boast of some of the largest businesses, entrepreneurs by the hordes, a supremely fast growing middle class and a tedious tendency to boast about our youth (more on that later). We have the ingredients, we just have to many recipes and more importantly we have no clue of the conditions required to attain the perfect broth. It’s a great concern when many of us wake up every morning, read the news about skirmishes on the border and resort to dialogue on peace and war and then go about our daily work with these opinions intact. That is where opinion meets our ambition. Our ambition is not independent of our opinion. We have been taught by free thinking Bengali poets and JNU mavericks that thinking and opinions are our birth right. Yes, they are but ignorance has no place here. We are in too precarious a place to be caught unawares, to not know the real picture. When we rejoice at the idea of economic reform in this country, do we ever question if this growth is inclusive? When poverty declined due to a redefinition of daily incomes of the people below the poverty line recently, did we for once look at the other factors that contributed to this remarkable decline? (Read more here). We balked at what seemed like a conspiracy and continued with our vacant opinions. We are cynical, yes we are cynical. We have every reason to be cynical. Cynicism can just be the solution for a country drowning in hate politics and relentless violence against the mind. But our cynicism seems to be stemming from ignorance. We seem to believe that nothing can happen in this country like there is a tested case study for it. Like the formula has been prescribed and that we have already got the variables wrong and it is opposed to any reversal. We are far from complete anarchy, we are also far from a solution. And the solution for geo-political, economic, social and political harmony of a nation with the most diverse population in the world, cannot possibly be easy right?

But what surely can be a step in that direction is matching that ambition, of a harmony between entities, with opinion that is steeped in fact. It needs to be enriched with facts, it needs to reek of knowledge of this country. It needs to become a bloody obsession! Not all of us are going to become ‘doers’ or ‘changers’, but we sure can all be ‘influencers’. We all wake up in different beds, some are just sheets on the floor, some are just mattresses on the floor and some are large comfortable beds. Yes, we then have different breakfasts, go to different jobs or institutions of education and have varied interactions in a day. These interactions range from the lack of money to survive a month to your next electronic purchase. We are the youth (I did say I will get back to this) and we have a duty to this nation. That duty may not be to join the Army or IAS or the Police Service all the time, many of us will continue to do that and continue to excel and disrupt this system of ours we often curse yet hold dear, but we have a larger duty than that. We owe this country a resolute idea of patriotism that doesn’t limit itself to hating Pakistan or waxing lyrical about how ‘guss ke un Chinese chinki ko udha dena chahiye’, we owe this country sense and a definite idea of what is its reality. We are living in an age when real opinions are available because the facts that will equip those opinions are available and I am not talking about that deranged Arnab Goswami losing the plot on TV every night. I am talking about independent blogs like that of a Pakistani journalist exposing the truth about his own country, about reading newspapers that don’t align with anyone but the truth and of opinions amongst our friends that are rooted in reality and fact.

We owe our nation a chance for change and that will only come when we decide that there is no place for empty opinions and that patriotism will only find a form and wield power if it is defined - and most importantly, informed!