This post is a response to the sentiment of nationalism, and the means through which it is expressed these days. I will first discuss the immediate issues which I am opposing, and then proceed to discuss my own views on the subject.
India’s Supreme Court has made it compulsory to have the national anthem in movie halls before the beginning of any movie. My problem with this is not the fifty or so seconds I am required to remain standing, but the consequences of what happens if I refuse to do so. As has been seen in many instances, people who refuse to stand are assaulted by those who rigidly support nationalism.
Whether or not you choose to be a nationalist must be up to your discretion. By forcing people to stand during national anthem is denying people this right to choice. I am not obligated to agree with your views on nationalism, and must be entitled to my own, so long as they do not harm anyone.
Should I be obligated to respect the nation? That depends on what we mean by respect. If respect is, in this context, limited to politeness and tolerance, then I shall agree. I will not mind tolerating the nationalism of others. They can go to their own homes and sing the national anthem a dozen times a day. They can even sing it on public places, but I must not be forced to acknowledge it. If I personally consider it a dogmatic ideology, I must have the right to not bestow upon it any allegiance. You can display your nationalist sentiments, which are entirely within your right to freedom of expression. And I too, must be entitled to ignore those nationalist sentiments, not respond to them, and even challenge them in the court of reason.
However, in contemporary India, this right is blatantly denied. Under the Constitution, people can be booked for whatever anti national sentiments they display, under the vaguely worded, ambiguous sedition law. There are numerous reports of how people protesting and using anti national slogans were arrested. Here is my admittedly simple solution.
If nationalism is indeed an ideal that one should hold dear, then certainly it must be capable of defending itself in the court of reason. And if that is so, then why must it avoid the court and instead strike at the persecutors? Why not face the charges against it, and present the necessary evidence to convince people that nationalism is entirely, indisputable, the only correct ideology? If it can genuinely convince the opposition of its necessity, then violence is not required. Suppression of freedom of speech is not required.
Recently, there was a march by a student association, in which anti nationals slogans had allegedly been used. Another group of students, belonging to a different student body, disagreed with them and vehemently supported nationalism. Groups of students with different ideologies. The logical solution would be a debate, but apparently I’m wrong. These students, who are supposed to be gaining knowledge, resort to such means to suppress the voice of others.
“I may disapprove of what you say, but I shall fight to death your right to say it.” Voltaire
An idea cannot be killed. Not by weapons. An idea is immune to all but logic. If anti nationalism is really a negative thing, then abandon your violence and reveal the logic behind it. Give nationalism a leg to stand on, rather than basing it on blind faith.
The most ironic thing in the entire situation is that this is all happening in the India. It is happening in the country which has Gandhi on the currency notes. It is happening in the country which attained independence through peaceful methods of satyagraha or the ‘force of truth’. Indians were colonized and rather than fighting, most of them chose to rally behind the man who supported peaceful protests. So the difference between you and I is merely that I admit not being a nationalist. You are no nationalist either, for in the Indian culture that you claim to promote, this is no necessity of violence to spread ideas.
Why am I not a nationalist? It is because I despise restrictions. The world is large. It’s wondrous. And it’s mine.
Not mine to rule over, or some evil clichéd thing like that. It is mine in the sense that I wish to belong to it. The nationalists claim to belong to a country. They look beyond the house they live in, their district, and their state. But they pause at country. That’s where they say, “Okay, this is as far as my imagination goes. I just belong to the country.”
I say, “Go one step further. Belong to the world.”
Nationalism had, in the past, been a cause to unite people. And now, as had been predicted in Batman, that which was once a hero has lived long enough to see itself become the villain. Now it is nationalism that separates the countries. It is nationalism which demands that nations remain separate. Of course, a true global unification is a far dream, for ideologies of all nations must be compatible to make it happen, yet nationalism prohibits any step in that direction.
A common rebuttal I hear when I express my views against nationalism is “What about the soldiers? They died for the country.”
If we manage to work our way to a unified planet, there will be no need for military, at least not in the numbers we use right now. Therefore, there will be a significant reduction in casualties. And personally, I believe that soldiers don’t make so many sacrifices for the country, but for something greater. They do it for peace, for freedom, and those are concepts that I would fight to defend, rather than nationalism.
We occupy a teeny portion of the Solar System, which occupies less than a teeny portion of Milky Way, and so on. In this little insignificant area that I have the privilege to live in, I will NOT cage my sense of belonging to conform to the political borders that one draws on the map. I have the audacity to transcend the borders, and swear my allegiance to the world rather than a country.