Much discussion has been on these two contentious notions of Nationalism and Patriotism, ever since the nation states came into being as a political arrangement. End of Cold War which dissolved the old ‘political allegiances and alliances’ exacerbated by the impacting trends of globalization, created new security scars especially for smaller states. The infamous 9/11atrocities paved the way for a new world (dis) order as Huntingtonian axiom of a clash of civilizations, even though the author disagrees with him on some aspects.Wikipedia defines Nationalism as “a belief, creed or political ideology that involves an individual identifying with, or becoming attached to, one’s nation. Nationalism involves national identity, by contrast with the related construct of patriotism, which involves the social conditioning and personal behaviors that support a state’s decisions and actions”(see. under nationalism). Interestingly, patriotism is noted as a ‘construct of Nationalism’ which I dispute, though linked but remains beyond it.
I want to argue differently from the Wikipedian explanation on Nationalism. All nationalists may be patriots, but not necessarily all patriots are nationalists, because to be patriotic is to be deeply care for all within one’s own terrain of existence and seeking welfare of one’s own and beyond the demarcated boarders. It was Westphilian sovereignty in 1648 that led to the creation of the current notion of nation states and perhaps was then a model towards peace and stability. The natural sense of territoriality that humans share with animals was further legitimized as a civilized form of living within civic norms and ethical prudence for Europe.
This created in some sense PAX EUROPA (peaceful time) until the Third Reich’s triumphalistic rise of Nationalism and patriotism sandwiched by Hitler and his Fascist regime that bulldozed the Westphilian treaty by making notion of nation state as sublimely super state, and its ethnic superiority over the rest. To be patriotic was a battle of pride, as depicted in the mega Hollywood movie, The Patriot (Colombia Pictures, 2000) where Benjamin Martin’s (Mel Gibson) patriotism has hardly any nationalism even though the plot is created within the American Revolution in 1776.
Grippingly, it was the 17th century European nationalism (post Westphalia) that led the American civil war (18th cc.) on the basis of what it means to be a nation/state that arguably filtered into the independence movements.
Most countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America had been under imperialist rule. By the end of the Second World War, within about 25 years of all under the foreign rule had become sovereign nations and the rest that remained, became free during the next few years. Nationalism was a tool against the oppressor- the occupier. The Japanese fought and ousted the British, the French and the Dutch in the region. ‘Think like an Indian, eat like an Indian and dress like an Indian’ was India’s slogan for its own Nationalism and de facto led the British to ‘quit India’.
Can one be a patriot without being nationalist? According to the 18th century English poet Samuel Johnson,“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”. However, we are not sure what he meant by a patriot in his context. We read that he was an Anglican and a Tory supporter among his many life-time achievement in the field of English literature.
Patriotism is a kind of love devotion to one’s country and for all what it has been to one’s well-being, a cultural attachment.
Especially now portrayed by those who have migrated from their place of origin do display a sense of patriotism as part of their identity formation in the adopted land. Patriotism cannot be levelled against the ‘other’ because its very subtext creates a sense about the ‘self’ in relation to the ‘other’. This ‘other’ is not a problem to be patriotic or about one’s love and devotion to one’s country. Whereas, nationalism contains in modern community praxis that the ‘other’ that does not subscribe to the self’s agenda could be a potential threat or in fact an intrusive subject. Hence, when Nationalism is politicized then it could take an ugly social modus operandi hitherto unknown within a specific community setting.
Nationalism and Patriotism could be made true bed fellows as they could mutually share certain aspirations politically lucrative and achievable. Sri Lanka’s political landscape has vivid moments where patriotism (deshapremaya) and unpatriotism (deshadroohi) have been in various political scenarios. Bhikkhu Labuduwe Siridhamma called J R Jayewerdena a deshadroohiya, his temple was barb wired, he was made house bound. The JVP was once called Deshadroohin. Most recently, some members of the current regime called that those who would not vote for the 19th amendment would be Deshadroohin. It’s a very strong word in Sinhala than in English (unpatriotic). However, a distinction must be made that love of and devotion to a country – patriotism is commendable if such embraces that which is even unfamiliar. Nationalism can be an ugly product if it excludes ‘the other’ because one cannot bear the difference out there. Sri Lanka can socially progress, the challenges are obvious but not too many to face upto.