My good friend Abhishek asked in Twitter (@Abhishek_Rai), “Who is patriot?” I really don’t know what elicited this question in him. I’m assuming that he must had been reading various exchanges taking place on Twitter and elsewhere regarding the anti-graft movement being currently spearheaded by Anna Hazare and his team. Ever since he launched his movement people have been coming up with such existential queries.
Personally, I don’t have an answer, at least not a definite answer, but I thought, it would be a good writing exercise to explore this question: really who is a patriot?
I don’t know what prompted him but Samuel Johnson’s statement, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” is quite a known one. Of course he meant people who pretend to be patriotic. But some people take this statement to heart and actually feel apologetic about showing some regard for the country or the community, especially in India.
Coming back to who is a patriot? Does dying for your country make you a patriot? Does loving your country and declaring that love on a routine basis make you a patriot? Does dedicating your life to the betterment of your country make you a patriot? Does protecting your country against internal and external enemies making you a patriot? Does speaking up for your country’s underprivileged citizens make you a patriot? Are freedom fighters patriotic?
I think it is understandable that by definition all the traits mentioned above make you a patriot. But there is another trait that makes you (this is simply my opinion and I might be mistaken) a patriot but its feasibility depends on collective patriotism and not selective. Living a righteous life and achieving your full potential without harming people. When we all achieve our full potential it is always beneficial to the country.
Why I call it a collective patriotism is because simply living a righteous life isn’t going to get you anywhere if everybody around you is resorting to unfair means. You can become a saint and live an eccentric life, but you cannot live like a citizen in such an environment. For instance, Gandhiji wouldn’t have been able to practice nonviolence had there been a firing squad facing him. Yes, he could have chosen to not to react but people would say he simply died without putting up a fight. Similarly, living a righteous life while living in a corrupt society isn’t practical, and isn’t practically possible (I am not saying it’s impossible).
This brings us to the current state of affairs: Anna Hazare’s anti-graft movement. I have observed these types of reactions ever since the movement started:
- People outrightly reject the entire thing as a farce
- People, although find it in the right spirit, term it impractical
- People have started their own smear campaigns because they strongly feel against the fundamental philosophy driving the moment
- People are staunchly supporting the movement having full belief in the effectiveness of the bill being promoted
- People are supporting the movement despite having some doubts about the bill
- People are in different and taking it just as an ineluctable transcendental inconvenience
Since Anna Hazare’s anti-graft movement has metamorphosed into a people’s movement, are people not supporting it unpatriotic?
Again, this is just my personal opinion and you are welcome to correct me, people who oppose the anti-graft movement fall under the following categories
- Highly opinionated people who believe that only parliamentary practices can redeem the country and rid it of corruption
- People who don’t generally like mass movements
- People who somehow cannot relate to the pathos of the common man
- People who want to project themselves as elitists and hence siding with people who they think are elitists
- People who think saying funny and smart-ass things against the movement makes them look cool
The last category seems a bit frivolous but spend some time on Twitter and you will get my point.
In the above list I haven’t included people (journalists, intellectuals and public figures) that publicly oppose the moment because they are affiliated to particular political parties and interest groups and hence are paid to run their own respective agendas or who are seeking one or another favor from the contemporary corrupt government officials and politicians.
Many among the people categorized in the above-mentioned list might be patriotic and they might also love their country to an extent of dying for their country, so simply opposing the movement doesn’t make them unpatriotic. For all you know, they might find people supporting the movement unpatriotic because they think that it’s the mob mentality that is driving the anti-graft movement.
Simply supporting popular movements doesn’t make you a patriot. What makes you a patriot is taking the right decisions when it comes the time to decide. And it doesn’t always have to be the right decisions because being “right” is quite circumstantial. So it is the feeling that lies in the crux of being patriotic.
A patriot also works towards the common good. He or she takes steps that are for the common good of the country. Referring to the anti-graft bill whether you support it for the common good of the country or oppose it for the common good of the country, you are a patriot.
And what about those who live a righteous life without showing active interest in the events taking place around them? Seeking your opinion.