It is important to understand what Patriotism means to a common man. The Oxford dictionary defines Patriot as “Person devoted to and ready to defend his country.” A section of the citizenry, by their profession, is engaged in defending the country, therefore for the common man it could mean respecting the laws of the land, adherence to the common goals and recognising nation’s advantage over individual advantage.
The fervour accentuates with the Republic Day and the Independence Day. The frenzy of patriotism skyrockets when Pakistan is the centre of the issue, be it cricket match or a terrorist act. In such eventualities, the social media, lead by “Whatsapp” chokes up your phone memory. A recent message accurately and aptly describes the common attitude: Achaa chalti hun sone, ab 15 August ko uthungi - Tumahri Pyari Desh Bhakti. (Ok I am going to sleep now and will wake up on the 15th August.Your dear Patriotism.)
Over the decades the intensity of patriotism has been thinning out. From the times of newly won freedom, the times of Monday fasting to demonstrate solidarity, etc, we moved to messages and armchair philosophy, a lot of rhetoric and empty patriotism.
Why and how this change has happened?
One of the fundamental reasons that trigger people to lose the patriotism orientation is the perceived and factual self-aggrandisement at the top level within the political and bureaucratic layers. The demeanour of the leadership where “walk the talk” is absent, the individual mind gets instilled with the feeling “everyone for himself and God for us all.” Given this, the common man is perhaps seeking some revenge in his own way and rebels against what the establishment states. Another contributing factor is the social environment where the economic disparity affects the value system. The nation’s values are akin to those in a family. The family values owe their emergence to the environment created by the head of the family. The nation’s leaders, irrespective of which side they sit in the parliament, are the builders of the culture and the values. Unfortunately, this seems to have horribly gone wrong as “self before anything else” has metabolised into our bodily system.
About 40 years ago, as a young man full of zeal and discipline, having been in a defence school, I would take up cudgels for things I noticed were not right. One such day, the streetlights were on when sun was blazing and I decided that was enough to correct the problem. The electricity office was not amused by the purpose of my visit and elicited a frown and a question, “who are you”(meaning who the hell are you to ask?). Firmly, I responded, “ a citizen of this country.” That dumbed him and he yelled at some one and ordered immediate switching off.
It seems that our patriotism is fairly empty and widespread. It gets activated and abates as quickly as it peaks. We are completely convinced that solution to all our problems must come from the establishment even if it is as a result of our own decisions. Our view is that all the government’s and institutions responsible for social actions are not doing their job well. True and false. True because there is inadequate application of mind on the establishment and there is not enough commitment in doing our job qualitatively. False, as there is not enough commitment in adhering to the system and caring for its maintenance.
What then can be construed to be patriotism for a common individual? The following would qualify as contribution: giving our job our best, not evade taxes, not waste water and follow the traffic rules. The list could be enlarged as much as one wants but these alone will make us a much better nation. The greatest contribution of course would be to not give or take gratification for doing or accelerating the job and also encourage others not to do so. I am reminded of a situation where a friend invited me to join in and sit in dharna initiated during Anna Hazare’s agitation. I agreed promptly but with one proviso – that you will not henceforth gratify any one. How can that be – you don’t want me to survive! The syndrome “It’s for others – not me.”
Building a great family, company, city or nation is possible only with the involvement of all and cannot be the responsibility only of the leadership or the establishment. Would you like to join in?
(The writer is a Panchkula-based freelance contributor)