Written By Perez Yeptho, Batch of 2019
None of the political ideas, concepts or systems that we speak of are inherently bad or ineffective. They are subjective to different people and are uniquely capable of being more effective than one another in different situations.
Talking about nationalism, individualism, and collectivism, it is not to say that we mustn’t be vigilant over the domination of a few of such political ideals in our world. Our history has been a witness to the rapid growth and decline of political ideologies and systems such as fascism, communism and pacifism which imploded on themselves in the past century itself, leaving in their wake a shadow of the immense ruination of states.
The world we live in today is undoubtedly going through a less-than-subtle yet steady change, away from the liberal and internationalist decades of the 20th century, where supranational organisations such as the WTO, EU, SAARC, NATO and of course, the UN, grew in power and importance as nations became part of an internationally connected market and world.
As such, it seems unthinkable for a person sitting in New York, in 1999, to vote for a President of the United States of America, who plans to ‘build a wall’ between USA and Mexico or ‘Grab them […]’. It seems equally unthinkable that the UK would leave the European Union or that Neo-Nazi parties would begin to win parliamentary seats all over Europe. It seems even less likely, to that person, that an only recently stabilized Russia would ever attempt to consolidate control over parts of its former Soviet allies causing them to be completely enveloped in Civil War. The aging population of Tokyo would never imagine their nation rebuilding and reconstructing a sleeping war machine that was kept silent since the end of the Second World War.
It seems just as unthinkable, prior to November 2016, that over 80% of all notes in circulation in India will overnight fail to be recognised as legal tender anymore, turning them into rather expensive (ironic?) pieces of paper.
Of course, the last example seems to pale in comparison to the ones mentioned before, but the magnitude of the impact they made was never the point I wished to make.
The one thing that these different policies and statements have in common is that any criticism from the public was met with immediate and sharp responses from supporters ranging from accusation of the critics being anti-nationals, anarchists (which is not a bad thing, but that’s a story for another day!) and traitors, while using arguments such as touching upon the sacrifices made by the armed forces of a nation, tacitly attempting to guilt all critics into submission.
This is the crux of the issue at hand, that the voices of cautious and critical individualists around the world are drowning in those of the loud and numerous collectivist masses who may not even represent the greater majority of a community.
One can argue that this sudden surge in ‘chest-thumping-symbolism-based nationalism’ is but a response to a protracted period of leftist ideas being the dominant political mindset of communities. However, with the rise of nationalism, we see the rise of populism, a blind faith in strong and radically different new leaders with the rise of collectivist values against individualistic ones.
The people of the world have different visions of their nations but if a person’s views clash with the tenets of the nationalistic ideologies put forth by the people in power, they are branded traitors and anti-nationals for not conforming to collectivist ideas.
This brings us to perhaps a unique yet important incident in the story of the resurgence of nationalism, the Supreme Court’s judgement on the playing of the national anthem being compulsory before every film screened. One doesn’t need to leave their Facebook feed to find a rigorous debate about the agenda with every argument imaginable being thrown into the mix. It is completely up to individuals to have their own opinions on this incident, and that is perhaps the beauty of free speech with no stance being correct or decisively superior to the other in the eyes of the citizenry.
[In my opinion, it is shameful that we’re dragging in the honour and sacrifice of the armed forces to win debates that could otherwise have much more meaningful arguments instead.]
In simple words, people like to showcase their patriotism differently and uphold the integrity of their nation in their own way. Some would like to raise a flag on every mountain they climb, others would fight for the right to play the national anthem in movie theatres, whereas some would do simpler actions which are, however, just as loud, such as paying their taxes on time, following the laws of the state and doing honest trade and business which is necessary for the growth of a country.
The practice of enforced patriotism is thinly veiled propaganda meant to create imagery of the existence of a collectivist and nationalist society.
If we ever live to see the rise of a dominating and irrational ultranationalist order in any part of the world, then it might be high time we rethink plenty of our notions about the safety and security of our collective future.