Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Nationalism is Treason

Professor Jie-Hyun Lim, Director of Research Institute of Comparative History and Culture (RICH) at Hanyang University in South Korea thinks that nationalism is “an act of treason.”  He also says it limits the capacity of imagination which is really why it is treason.

The only real purpose of nationalism is to gain power, argues the Professor. Mussolini, Hitler, Fransisco Franco of Spain and all other dictators used nationalism in order to consolidate their political power.  All of them divided the country into an in-group and an out-group.  Mussolini used culture to divide people while Hitler relied on race.  For Franco, the out-group consisted of those who did not speak Spanish language, the non-Catholics and the communists.  The in-group was characterised by the members’ loyalty to the nation coupled with a marked hostility towards other nations as well as the out-group irrespective of their nationality. The in-group was used by the leader to consolidate his own power.  Isn’t this happening in India now?

Nationalism is treason because it cannot solve any real problem.  It puts the nation on the back foot by diverting attention from practical solutions to abstract loyalty to the nation and its symbols.  For example, when the people of India struggle to extract their own money from the ATMs or their banks, they are told to suffer the agony comparing themselves with the soldiers fighting on the borders.  Nationalism becomes an excuse, a lame one, instead of finding solutions to the problem at hand.  This is a betrayal of the country if you look at it from the progress or development angle.  You want your countrymen to have better services.  Instead of addressing the problems related to the lack of services, the government machinery sells you nationalism.  Is it pro-nation?  Not at all.  On the contrary, it is anti-national in the sense that it is against the interests of the nation.  Yet, ironically, the one who is demanding what is in the interests of the nation gets portrayed and punished as anti-national!

Nationalism breeds narrow-mindedness.  It makes us think that our country, its culture or religion or language or whatever, is the best and others are detestable.  It makes us hate others without valid reasons.  It shrinks our vision and imagination.  It narrows down truths and the avenues to truths. 

We live in a world where cooperation has become more necessary than ever.  If the hole in the ozone layer above India is a result of what America is doing with its craze for the most sophisticated technology, it becomes the duty of America to cooperate with India to solve the problem.  Neither country can afford to rest conceitedly on its spirit of nationalism.

Our love for our country need not limit our love for others.  More importantly, it is silly to imagine that our culture or language or whatever is the best.  It is even more stupid to hate others on account of their culture and other contingent features.

Nationalism is on the rise in India these days.  A lot of people get branded as anti-national.  The simple truth is that these people who are branded as anti-national are far better human beings than the nationalists.  The simple truth is that nationalism does not serve any useful purpose in a country which is not dominated by any external force.  The simple truth is that India today does not need nationalism; it needs solutions to the manifold problems it faces.

Sadhvi Deva Thakur, one of our ideal Nationalists


  1. It is a good post. But I have the following problems:
    It could have been good had a difference between the below thing mentioned:
    1.There is a marked difference between Nationalism of the west and the Indian Nationalism which earned us independence which earned us independence. Former was driven by Aggrandizement but latter was inclusive....Now driven by right wing the former is making a comeback into India destroying the latter.
    2.There is a marked difference between Nationalism for our independence and Nationalism or MORE CORRECTLY FACISM of today....
    3.Because if we donot toe the line of todays fascists, they will brand us Anti national... But look at the conversations between GANDHI and TAGORE over SWADESHI movement..The latter was against it...but had the freedom to air his opinion...Tagore is such a class act and a cosmopolitan citizen.Or our nationalism had many strands..the Congress,Congress Socialist Party Revolutionary Terrorism, Hindustan Socialist Republican Party etc etc....

    And the so called nationalist of today were not even present back then...the right wing.....they are trying to appropriate it...

    It would have been better had u clearly mentioned that HITLER , MUSSOULINI followed fascism than nationalism....And today's neo liberal agenda driven by right wing in india is nothing but FACISM clothed in the form of nationalism....
    Thank You....
    But good post...

    1. I don't think we actually disagree on anything. I didn't intend to write a scholarly treatise on nationalism and hence didn't go into finer nuances and nomenclature. Fascism is not much different from the kind of nationalism we witness today and that's why I brought in the examples of Mussolini and Hitler.

      In the last para, I do speak about nationalism when confronted with an external force. That's what we had during the Independence Struggle and that was valid. Today nationalism has no relevance.

      Actually Professor Jie-Hyun Lim speaks about transnationalism which is what Tagore's cosmopolitanism in other words. Love your country and love others as well. Gandhi was of the same opinion as he mentions it clearly in his biography written by Louis Fischer.

      Anyway, my blog posts are meant to be very reader-friendly, not at all pedantic.

      Thanks for your views.

    2. gangsofedathua @ sir i agree with ur view that what we are seeing today is fascism clothed up like nationalism.. but sir , can we really differentiate between what is nationalism and what is fascism ??? does the word called nationalism really exist ? in this era, i mean when we dont have any external aggressor on us what is the need of using the word nationalism .. and that too using it to create a divide between our own country men !!none of our freedom or national leaders talked about nationalism , they talked about collective force against an aggressor ( british ) i believe that fascism is nothing but an extended version of nationalism sir...

    3. If you can differentiate between the present day nationalism and that during the freedom struggle, you will get the difference between fascism and necessary nationalism.

      Today in an independent country like ours nationalism has no relevance. It is used as a political tool for justifying certain evils perpetrated against certain people.

  2. Intellectual anarchy is as bad as religious fundamentalism worse than political bigotary. Intellectual anarchy is a prejudiced and biased position against the fundamental principle of freedom of a society which stems from and rooted in individual freedom - the cornerstone of civilization.Intellectual anarchy is a negation of civilization and the negation of one's freedom and right to live.

  3. My thoughts are absolutely in sync with those of yours Sir. The present government is propagating and selling (psuedo) nationalism to the people so that they remain intoxicated as they have been living under the intoxication of religion for ages and endure all kinds of suffering imposed on them under for the same of this so-called nationalism the same way they have been enduring in the name of religion since times immemorial.


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