What is Patriotism?
Patriotism refers to the feeling of devotion and support towards one’s own country. It is, indeed, difficult to imagine a man who does not love his own country or who is not patriotic. We love what we call our own – our life, home, our family and our friends. But most of these things belong to our country. It is in our country that we are born, it is there that we live, its aspirations are our aspirations and its sorrows are our sorrows. We love it before we are aware of this love. It is a deep, secret, often unconscious sympathy that every man feels for his country.
Let us imagine a man that does not love his country. It is very difficult to say what he will call his own. He may wander over other lands and call himself a citizen of the world. But he will feel that everywhere he is like a fish out of water. The people of the different countries are none of them his enemies but none will be his friend either. He will feel that he has acquaintances everywhere and friends nowhere. He cannot be expected to have deep attachment to anything. It is likely that he will love only his own self, and he will find that no one trusts him.
One’s own native land is like one’s mother; both are superior to heaven. It is only reasonable that the freedom of one’s native land should be regarded as one’s dearest possession, because if a man’s country is not free, his own freedom is restricted in a hundred ways. He is like a bird in a cage; the cage may be of iron or of gold, but it is a cage all the same. If he is in a free country, he may have many ills but he knows that he is in a way responsible for these ills and must work along with his fellows so that these might be removed. There is joy in this work, because there is freedom.
Patriotism does not mean simply using poetical expressions about the motherland or even dying for her. We must die for our country when the need arises but we must live for her too. We must work to make her strong, for the strength of a country is the strength of her people. Love for the country thus reduces itself to love for the people. Their sufferings we must try to remove and their happiness we must promote. We, all of us, look after our own good, and it is natural that we should do so. But we must see that we do not enrich ourselves at the cost of the country. If we evade paying taxes, if we travel without ticket, if we sell bad food, it is our country that we cheat; it is our people that we harm.
In India such patriotism and such patriots are badly wanted now. Mahatma Gandhi called forth the patriotic zeal of Indians, and hundreds of thousands of men flocked to his banner in the struggle for freedom. Many of them died in the struggle, courting death bravely, some directly under his guidance others in the ways of armed revolt. All of those who joined the struggle had to make sacrifices. It was a heroic record of which any country would be proud.
Conditions have changed now. It is not an alien power that we have to fight not but the evil in us and around us. The hungry millions have to be fed, clothed and educated. India must produce her own food and make herself great in trade and commerce and rich in industrial output. This requires determined and unselfish endeavor. In addition to satisfying our own needs we must have to look after the refugees who have been driven from their homeland. We shall have to share our land and our food with them. This is a difficult program, but patriotic India must be equal to it.
Patriotism is good but it is not enough. Although we should love our country, we must have no ill-feeling for others. There must be no desire to make them serve our ends, to exploit them for our good. Above all, we must have perfect openness of mind; we should love what is good in us but we should accept what is good in others. We should have love and goodwill for other countries. We should be citizens of our country by all means, but we must be citizens of the world, too.