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Nationalism is a drug

Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children describes nationalism as “a dream we all agreed to dream.” Without that collective dream, it would be quite impossible to keep a nation like India united in spite of the million mutinies that have always simmered beneath the veneer of its unity. We need the dream. As much a dream as religious paradises are dreams.

Political scientist Benedict Anderson argues that nationalism is more like  religion and kinship. There is no logic in religion and kinship. There are only emotions. It’s about bonding people together in a strange stupor of intoxication. Have you ever experienced that the feeling deep within you when you hear a moving patriotic song is similar to the feeling given by a religious exercise?

Anderson goes on to say that nationalism has never produced its own philosophers. It has hooligans and killers. It has sloganeers and rhetoricians. But no philosophers. Nationalism, like religions, does not require thinking. Like drugs, it is about feeling.

There are various types of nationalism: linguistic, cultural, religious, ethnic, territorial, and what not. Our own India is intoxicated with religio-cultural nationalism. That’s as deadly a concoction as fentanyl. It gives you charming hallucinations which you mistake for potential realities. Those hallucinations project certain people as your enemies. And then you become a warrior, a crusader, a jihadist.

A warrior for what? For a nation with one religion, one language, one culture! Why do they want only one religion, one language, and one culture? Sociologist Max Weber suggests inferiority-superiority complex as the answer to that question. Weber said that in the eyes of nationalists their own nation (with its singular culture, religion, etc) is superior to others. Hence it is irreplaceable. Like every form of superiority complex, this has its roots in certain insecurity feelings (inferiority complex?). Otherwise why would a whopping 80% of a population be scared of 20%? Why would such a scare lead to violent a form of nationalism?

Intoxications have no logic.

Assume that the present warriors achieve their objective of creating an India with only Hindus in it. Is it going to be a utopia, a Ram Rajya?

Pakistan should serve as a proximate example. They had one religion. And it didn’t unify the people. They tried to impose Urdu on the entire people unified by that one religion. That led to the division of the country into East and West Pakistans.

Since religion is an integral part of India’s current version of nationalism, let me present a very poignant and relevant episode from Arundhati Roy’s novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness:

We can create a Ram Rajya with Hinduism as the only religion in it, Hindi as the only language, and Ram as the only God. But no sooner we do it than will we create new divisions like Brahmins versus Shudras, original believers versus neo-converts, and so on.

Nationalism is no way to achieve anything great. As Weber implied, it is a good drug for hooligans and criminals, or at best sloganeers and rhetoricians.

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Coming up on Monday: Oceans are restless



  1. Wow! I have nothing much to say after reading this. The pain I feel when I see intoxicating nationalism worn by many as ornament - U described it better. I wrote something on similar lines I may post it on O or V day. THat arundhati ROy's book seems impressive. I will try to read

    Dropping by from a to z

    1. I look forward to your post on the topic.

      Arundhati Roy's novel is very contemporary. You'll find current India in it with the conversion of a graveyard in Delhi into Jannat and the conversion of the Jannat that Kashmir was into a graveyard!

  2. Hari OM
    Knockout! A strident post, but only as the subject deserved. YAM xx

  3. Once the Hindu nation is established, it will be time for Khalistan, Buddhaistan, Jainistan et al! That is why I dream what John Lennon sings in his 'Imagine'
    Imagine there's no heaven
    It's easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
    Imagine all the people
    Living for today... Aha-ah...

    Imagine there's no countries
    It isn't hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion, too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace...

    1. I love that song. Once I featured it in one of my posts here.

  4. Many years back, around 25, Ram Vilas Paswan had an interview with Rajeev Shukla on El TV. Rajeev Shukla mentioned Gandhi’s imagination of Rama Rajya. Ram Vilas Paswan said “I don’t want Rama Rajya. If there is Rama Rajya there will be execution of Shambuka. I don’t want execution of Shambuka.” Shambuka was a Dalit on meditation. A Brahmin child’s death was blamed on his meditation. Rama killed Shambuka.

    1. That's a very eloquent instance. I shall not add anything more. 🙏

  5. Any *ism-s expect vishvasi-s. it makes the believers as a man of virtue. Those who oppose or question it, are portrayed as villains. Even relationship over social media is no lesser than marital-match-making - because they screen if we are one of the vishwasi-s of their own *isms, before they accept us. They will support as long as we do not question/oppose them. I understood you try to point out hindutvait-s. To me, everybody does it. There is a saying in Tamil 'inam inathodu serum' (Race joins with matching race). This *ism-s harvest good (like Indian freedom) it makes a +ve history, when it provokes riots, it harvests the worst.

    1. Nowadays isms are only creating riots. The situation is going to become worse if the inflation that has hit the country is any indication. Look at what has happened to Sri Lanka, Pak, and Nepal. India is not far from an internal collapse.

  6. Nationalism is a drug, no doubt. Let me slightly differ from Max Weber - nationalism is not a drug for hooligans and criminals, it's a tool for them to achieve their vicious ends (at least now-a-days though this sentiment among the masses had won India freedom from the colonial rule). The nationalism propagated now-a-days by our thug rulers is in fact, not the real nationalism; it's fake nationalism or pseudo-nationalism because it does not contain even ounce of love for own nation. Putting it straight, this so-called nationalism is a fooling tactic, a trick for conning more than a billion people, an equipment for using others to own benefit (and not the nation's benefit).


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