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RE: Freedom and Welfare or Bharat Maata?



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[Topics under debate]: GOOD GOVERNANCE
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Mr. Kulshreshta,

I'm sorry for the delayed response. Unfortunately, I have limited access
to the Net now.

Since your comments seem to be on consequentialist lines, I will make my
reply to them accordingly.

First, IMO, 'blind patriotism' can only mean nationalism. You seem to
agree. But you also believe that we need more of this nationalism. I
dont agree. It is quite possible that, through a natural process, the
nation-state will decline in importance and I would have no problem with
that.

Let me also clarify at the outset that I:

a) admire and praise the kind of zeal involved in being willing to
protect the security of the freedom and welfare of the citizens at the
risk of one's life, whether at the local level or the country level.
While the army-men who do it for the country are called patriotic, the
firemen and the policemen who do it at the local level are not. But
they, for me, perform the same admirable functions
b) obviously do support the present Kargil offensives, if only because
of a concern for the security of the lives of the country's citizens,
including, and especially, the Kashmiris
c) dont think we need more nationalism, but on the other hand, a little
more individualism (though not the crass individualism in which no
concern for others is shown).  People don't need more 'blind faith' in
the nation-state, but themselves

Coming to your arguments, you seem to be saying that nationalism or
blind patriotism, though irrational, is beneficial to the people because
it is a "faith glue" that keeps the nation together and allows the
government to take up any cause in "national interest" and get
acceptance for it.

Let me respond by giving you some reasons for believing that nationalism
is, when seen in the larger perspective, likely to have a dangerously
negative effect. Forgive me if the points below are a bit random and not
comprehensive. Perhaps more will come up as we go along. Perhaps, on the
other hand, these will be exposed. Well, here they are. (My responses to
some of your specific statements are embedded)

1. Any irrationalism (e.g. religion) mixed with politics can be
dangerous. As you say, "when it comes to a matter of faith there is no
negotiation. No logic and no maths. " You cannot reason with anyone who
has a strong irrational belief and politics HAS to be well-reasoned.
Going by your examples, you don't seem to agree:

"When the US decided to go into Kosovo most Americans supported the
action because it was told to them that it is for the greater good of
America, most I'm sure would not have even been able to find Serbia an a
map. The same was true many times over when the US went in to save
Kuwait. The support of the people is for this "US Matta" and not for the
principle involved which most US citizens would be hard pressed to
express."

Actually, I dont even think you are correct in your observations. The
Kosovo and Kuwait interventions, if they did enjoy support among
Americans, were surely not pursued because the people thought it was for
"this 'US Matta'"!

Why do you believe it may be desirable for any government, especially
one as powerful as the US one, to fool its people?

2. Blind patriotism is, after all, merely a way of looking at things,
esp. politics. IMO, this way of looking can have very negative
consequences.

You say it well:

"A nation is many things to many people but the existence of a
nation-state is a leap of faith before it is anything else. It is the
belief (often absolutely irrational) in the existence of something
bigger and higher than an individual, and a further belief (not
necessarily driven by evidence) that this something bigger is good and
benevolent. Just like the belief in GOD."

As Aldous Huxley says in "Nature and Causes of War":

"A principle cause of war is nationalism, and nationalism is immensely
popular because it is psychologically satisfying to individual
nationalists. Every nationalism is an idolatrous religion, in which the
god is the personified state.... Membership of the ex hypothesi divine
nation is thought of as imparting a kind of mystical pre-eminence. Any
man who believes strongly enough in the local nationalistic idolatory
can find in his faith an antidote against even the most acute
inferiority complex."

You say: "It is this "faith" glue that keeps the nation together." But
is that necessarily so? What stops me from saying: "Mumbai Maata ki Jai!
To hell with Bharat Maata!" or "Kashmir Pita (apologies!) ki Jai" or
"Jai Maharashtra!". Aren't some of the Pakistanis also inspired by
'national prestige' and nationalism in their subversive activities in
India?

When people put on their patriotic goggles, they dont all see India or
any even nation-state as God.

3. Which brings us to the fact that this kind of blind patriotism is
most characteristic of the tribal system of social organisation. It
reinforces not only intra-group solidarity, but also inter-group
antagonism. It divides. It makes one loyal group want to put the rival
group down -- whatever the means. (We aren't talking about individual
'true patriots' -- whatever they might be -- but blind patriotism at
large -- be it 'false'.) It can, as Huxley points out, lead to war.
Huxley also says:

[in "Nature and Causes of War"]

"...Vanity and pride beget comtempt and hatred.... In the normal course
of events most men and women behave tolerably well.... [But] the
personified nation, as I have pointed out, is divine in size, strength
and mystical superiority, but subhuman in moral character. The ethics of
international politics are precisely those of the gangster, the pirate,
the swindler, the bad bold baron. The exemplary citizen can indulge in
vicarious criminality, not only on the films, but also in the field of
international relations."

"The aim of modern nationalistic propaganda is to transform men's normal
affection for their home into a fiercely exclusive worship of the
deified nation. Disputes between nations are beginning to take on that
uncompromising, fanatical quality which, in the past, characterised the
dealings between groups of religious or political sectaries."

I am not endorsing everything Huxley says, for he seems to take a
narrowly psychological view, but it certainly is perverse to see people
swell up in (perverse) 'national pride' every time they hear something
bad happening to 'Pakistan' or Pakistanis. While that is not what a
sensible patriot would do, we aren't talking of them. We are talking of
the negative variety of things different people can see, and most often
do, through patriotic goggles.

4. If a nationalistic environment is created, as you desire, the nation
will be held sacred and anything said against will be considered
"treacherous",  "unacceptable", "subversive". etc. by the zealots. There
wouldn't really be free speech because you would be afraid to say things
against the nation-state, even though legally it would be allowed.
5. As Kenichi Ohmae (he had to come up) points out in The End of the
Nation State, nation-states are becoming increasingly less important.
There is nothing that makes the nation-state absolutely necessary or
necessarily good. It might even be coming in the way of the good of the
citizens of the world. Governments and bureaucracies are, of course, the
slowest to realise this.

Culture, economics and society in general is rapidly being globalised
and moving beyond nation-states. Indian culture need not be confined to
Bharat Maata. In fact, I think, every individual should be a unit of
cultural integration and need not be party to the glorification of any
one culture, except if s/he has reasons other than national devotion.
Remember, Pakistan has a similar culture to India's but what separates
them is nationalism on both sides.

In these times, we should encourage a global outlook in which the
individual looks at everything that is globally available to him/her
without prejudice.

6. Also, if we come to "national interest", blind patriotism or
nationalism is not synonymous with it. It might not, for example, be in
national interest to incite nationalism. National interest can only mean
either the perceived majority's interest, or everybody's long-term
interest, or special interest in the guise of national interest.

As Ohmae claims in the chapter, "'National Interest' as a Declining
Industry":

"More and more, however, 'national interest' gets used as a knee-jerk
defense of special interests, not of the people's interests."

He also points to the "resource illusion":

"When the well-being of these societies [global complex and dynamic
societies] depended on their safe and sure abilities to exploit scarce
natural resources, national interest was clear: protect those resources,
with military force of necessary, and control their use. But as I have
argued in The Borderless World and elsewhere, in today's
knowledge-driven economy, the nations that still define their interests
primarily in these terms -- such as Brazil, Indonesia,  or Australia.
And the oil-producing countries of the Middle East -- suffer from what I
call the 'resource illusion'. In the name of protecting their national
interest, they wall themselves off from the most powerful engines of
growth."

Perhaps the same can be said about culture.

It is no longer necessary to keep something within your national
boundaries to profit from it. Nor is necessary to confine yourself to
whatever is within the nation. If not, then what is the need for this
nationalism?

Responses to some of your other comments:

1. You say:

"Just as in religion no amount of logical reasoning would convince a
"bhakt" that his GOD is not worthy of prayer and he should find a new
one it is impossible to convince Indians that Kashmir is not worth
fighting for or that the Kashmiris should be given a chance too decide
freely where they wish to go."

I fail to see why this attitude is desirable. If we can have 'national
sovereignty', why can't we have self-determination?

2. You also say:

"This blind faith can be very counterproductive as indeed sometimes
Religious faith can be. But properly controlled and channelised it can
be the greatest asset for improving the life of all participants. Men
can move mountains if driven by faith. Many nations, including the US,
Japan, Britain during its colonial days were able to grow and become
powerful because they created a strong sense of nationalism within its
people, sometimes due to common suffering (as in the case of WW2) or due
to great leadership. This
faith would not stand scrutiny on examination by objective logic and
often even of History but it moved ordinary men to perform deeds of
unordinary heroism, for the benefit of the community at large."

a) You should not look to politics or governments to 'channelise'
anything effectively, especially not something as potentially dangerous
and irrational as nationalism.
b) I really dont think it was nationalism that did all those things in
those countries. Besides, the "benefit if the community at large" has
nothing directly to do with the existence of a nation-state and a
flowering nationalism. Nationalism is different from 'national
interest'.

---
Chirag Kasbekar
TYBA (Econ, Socio)
St. Xavier's College,
Mumbai (Bombay), India.
photismo@my-deja.com
chirag_k@hotmail.com


On Sat, 12 Jun 1999 15:16:56   Kulshreshta, Bhuwan wrote:

>Chirag,
>
>You have raised here,perhaps inadvertently, a very fundamental issue.
>What
>is a nation? Why does it exists and what keeps it together? The answer
>to
>this question will also answer many of your posers as well as define,
>perhaps as to why we have problems in Kashmir and why Ritu has "blind
>faith"
>in " blind patriotism".
>
>A nation is many things to many people but the existence of a
>nationstate is
>a leap of faith before it is anything else. It is the belief (often
>absolutely irrational) in the existence of something bigger and higher
>than
>an individual, and a further belief (not necessarily driven by
evidence)
>
>that this something bigger is good and benevolent. Just like the belief

>in
>GOD. It is this "faith" glue that keeps the nation together. Everytime
>this
>is missing you see turmoil, a vacuum that people try to fill by
fighting
>for
>independence or separation. The Kashmiris never feel that they belong
to
>
>India, just as the Kosovars never believed that they belong with
Serbia,
>and
>this is not due to underdevelopment, religion etc. although these are
>the
>most quoted reasons, they have just not been able to take that leap of
>faith
>that the people in far poorer parts of India have been able to take on
>the
>idea of India. India wouldn't let Kashmir go for the same reason. Just
>as in
>religion no amount of logical reasoning would convince a "bhakt" that
>his
>GOD is not worthy of prayer and he should find a new one it is
>impossible to
>convince Indians that Kashmir is not worth fighting for or that the
>Kashmiris should be given a chance too decide freely where they wish to

>go.
>
>You see when it comes to a matter of faith there is no negotiation. No
>logic
>and no maths. When the US decided to go into Kosovo most Americans
>supported
>the action because it was told to them that it is for the greater good
>of
>America, most I'm sure would not have even been able to find Serbia an
a
>
>map. The same was true many times over when the US went in to save
>Kuwait.
>The support of the people is for this "US Matta" and not for the
>principle
>involved which most US citizens would be hard pressed to express.
>
>This blind faith can be very counterproductive as indeed sometimes
>religious
>faith can be . But properly controlled and channalised it can be the
>greatest asset for improving the life of all participants. Men can move

>mountains if driven by faith. Many nations, including the US, Japan,
>Britain
>during its colonial days were able to grow and become powerful because
>they
>created a strong sense of nationalism within its people, sometimes due
>to
>common suffering (as in the case of WW2) or due to great
leadership.This
>
>faith would not stand scrutiny on examination by objective logic and
>often
>even of History but it moved ordinary men to perform deeds of
unordinary
>
>heroism, for the benefit of the community at large.
>
>What India lacks is this sense of nationalism (Maybe as a result of our

>colonial past) and contrary to your position it desperately needs more
>of
>this 'blind faith in the country type' people. I would think that
having
>
>this strong sense of "blind faith" in our country would actually be the

>best
>catalyst for growth and possibly the only way to remove the problems of

>public corruption and other social ills. No amount of reform will
>achieve
>any results if people did not have an underlying, unwavering (and often

>blind) love for their country. If they were not willing to sacrifice
>WITHOUT
>QUESTION their personal gain for the nations benefit.
>
>Unfortunately the only time we end up seeing a strong feeling of
>nationalism
>is when we go to war or when India plays Pakistan in cricket. Sad
>
>Regards,
>
>Bhuwan





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