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Nationalism and Patriotism - The Grey In Between

By Ankita Patil Rajendrakumar

Second Runner Up - Article submitted for the Essay Writing competition on the occasion of "Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav"

‘ Patriotism is when love of your people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first ’ -Charles de Gaulle

While India accomplishes 75 years as an independent and sovereign nation, it progressed from possessing an almost empty treasury to becoming one of the fastest growing economies in the world. In this journey there were a set of inevitable speed breakers’ in form of political, social, and economic instabilities. In such uncertain times, a feeling of togetherness and oneness bounds the people of India together. These feelings are associated closely with nationalism and patriotism. They are often used interchangeably; however, there is a ‘Gray Area’ in the difference between the two.

Nationalism is a proposition that promotes the interests of the nation above all. The central idea is that a nation shall govern itself, free from any outside interference. Further, it aims to build and maintain a single national identity based on shared social characteristics of culture, ethnicity, geographic location, language, politics, religion, traditions. It also seeks to establish belief in a shared and singular history to promote national unity or solidarity to preserve and foster a nation's traditional culture. Patriotism on the other hand is a feeling of love, devotion, and a sense of affection to one's country. Like nationalism, this attachment could be due to one or more factors like national interest, culture, ethnicity commonly shared by people of the country. The key difference between them is that nationalism promotes ‘unconditional’ love for the nation while the idea of patriotism is to accept that every nation has its own flaws and to rectify them as much as possible to carve the pathway towards the country’s progress harmoniously. Patriotism, therefore, promotes constructive criticism while in a nationalistic view any form of criticism of the nation amounts to sedition.

The interpretation whether a criticism is ’Constructive’ or ‘Anti-National’ is a subjective debate making the difference between nationalism and patriotism enigmatic. In present times, love and respect for the nation is often confused with unconditional support to the current acting government. There is also a visible trend of suppressing criticism towards issues and challenges in the name of nationalism. Additionally, there also exists a fine line between nationalism and jingoism. Excessive nationalism could lead to a sense of jingoism. This line is becoming increasingly blurry such that it gets perplexing to conclude if one is patriotic or jingoistic.

It is undebatable that the values of both nationalism and patriotism were pivotal in the Indian freedom movement. However, while governing a democracy towards long term peace and prosperity, the difference between them must be evaluated carefully. Alongside the government, it is also the responsibility of citizens to carefully understand the merits and demerits of any government policy to ensure harmony not only on national but also on global scale in future.

‘ Excessive patriotism leads to ‘blindfolded’ nationalism which compromises the nation’s stability and peace in the long term ‘

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