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Patriotism is a dangerous emotion

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Many a student of English would have studied the famous poem ‘Patriotism’ by Sir Walter Scott which begins, ‘Breathes there the man with soul so dead’ and he concluded that such a person will not be honoured nor recognised in his country.

The feeling of patriotism, that this is my homeland, has done wonders. For the past two centuries we find one country after another struggling hard to assert its independence. Practically two centuries from now in 1776 the United States of America waged a war of independence against the British and became free.

That was the turning point in the history of the world. From then on we find countries struggling for freedom and wrestling it from an alien ruler.

The classical case is that of India. The Indians under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi put up a tough struggle for freedom. Then the British Raj, which was very powerful at that time would not yield. After a long struggle of nearly 25 years the Indians got their freedom.

A number of African countries have fought to get their independence from foreign rule. The unending fight between Israel and the Arab countries is yet another case of struggle for freedom. In South Africa there was a fight against white rule. Wherever there is foreign domination or some colonial power having control, there is an awakening and the people fret and fume for freedom.

In the name of freedom against the Spanish rule, Simon Bolivar did wonders. Once an English sailor, vice-admiral Horatio Nelson, made a signal “England expects every man will do his duty”. Winston Churchill during the Second World War had his V sign for victory with his two fingers raised. In that way he galvanised the people into action, forgetting all the sufferings and humiliation they faced during the Battles of Britain and Dunkirk.

Bala Gangathar Tilak of India with his battle cry of ‘Vande Matharam’ was able to rouse the spirits of the people who were till then like dumb driven cattle. Even Adolf Hitler appealed to the sense of patriotism in his people and within six or seven years prepared the people to be re3ady for a war for their fatherland. From all these we find patriotism not that bad, because it is an emotion in the right direction and is certainly a unifying force.

But patriotism becomes dangerous when it is stretched beyond a certain limit. Then it ceases to be patriotism but fanaticism leading to danger. We saw it during the throes of partition in India when that land was divided into India and Pakistan. Pakistan called it a jihad and there were deaths to the tune of millions on both sides. Now some Arab as well as Israeli terrorists play havoc sometimes even on innocents.

Patriotism just like any other good thing in life has its own limitations. When it passes the bounds of sensibility and turns out to be fanaticism then it is certainly dangerous, leaders use this not for national betterment and solidarity but for aggrandisement and out of hatred of their neighbors. In such instances patriotism stands condemned.

The world is passing through a crucial phase in her existence. The time has come when no country, however big and powerful it may be, can rule over another country. This may be found not true in certain areas of the world but time will set in motion, forces, quite unexpected, when even those countries under foreign sovereignty will shake off their shackles. For the good of the country, for solidarity, for national integration, patriotism is the best foundation stone.

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