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The difference between Nationalism and Patriotism

January 29, 2008

Patriotism means different things to different people. Here’s a list I made of what people associate with patriotism:

mantralaya.jpg1. Never talking ill of the country. Always praising it.
2. Joining politics, the government services or some such thing. Getting into some direct work involved in improving the state of one’s country, like social work.
3. Having a proper knowledge about our country’s history, it’s milestones and the significance of important days. Poonam has written about it here.
4. A strong civic sense as a citizen and this includes observing one’s duties like not littering, participating in community drives and awareness programmes and voting.
5. A refusal to give or take bribes, paying one’s taxes, doing an honest job.
6. Love for one’s fellow countrymen, regardless of their creed or caste.
7. Feeling a pride in one’s country’s culture and achievements.
8. Never leaving India to settle in a foreign country.

I have been thinking of making such a list after the interesting comments I received on my post on Growth vs Development last week. I personally feel strongly about points, 4 (Civic Sense), 5 (Honesty), 6 (Love), and 7 (Pride). About point number 1 (Praise), I feel it’s not a question of being optimistic or pessimistic, it’s a question of seeing reality. About point 2 (government/social service), I feel that everyone has his/her own niche and they should go for it. About 3 (knowledge), well, I guess a lack of knowledge shows one up to be an idiot so one should avoid that trap. And about 8 (living in India), I feel there are ways that someone outside the country can contribute, if they wish to.

There are other definitions of patriotism. The wiki says

…patriotism is associated with pride in one’s country’s achievements and culture and identification with other members of the nation. defines patriotism as:

…not something that denotes morals or ethics, but is a sense of belonging for one’s country.

The best write-up on patriotism that I came across was this academic one by Amman Madan, a professor from IIT Kanpur. He says:

Patriotism is not based upon kinship or of shared descent like in families, castes and tribes. Patriotism is based upon the idea of a nation and its central institution, the state. Patriotism in modern India is thus qualitatively different from the love of one’s community that was to be seen in ancient and medieval India. Its relation to one’s country has changed with the change in the social structure of the state and the nation.

An important point that Madan makes is that we have a long way to go before we become a “melting pot of identities” (like in the USA for example) which makes it easier to identify with one another. Not that this is desirable! We can always develop a sense of identification without melting in this pot. As Madan says:

We are far too heterogeneous to ever become the kind of nation which fascist Germany once aspired to be.political-poster.jpg

Nationalism is not Patriotism
Which brings me to another point, that of Nationalism. Unfortunately, patriotism is often confused with nationalism. According to the wiki, Nationalism is a term referring to some sort of political movement which seeks to “unite people on the basis of ethnicity or culture.” The Hindutva movement in India is a good example.

Let me end with Madan’s words which struck a core within my heart:

girl.jpgIt must be a patriotism which seeks the happiness of the poorest of the poor as the index of our national development. It must be a patriotism which sees the freedom of the smallest of the minorities as the index of our social development. It must be a patriotism which comes into action every day, through a conscience that sees lying to customers, exploiting labourers, cheating on tax, paying (and taking) bribes, adding sand to cement, oppressing the poor, paying obeisance to the powerful, all these daily acts of betrayal of the people as treason.

(All pictures are by me)

Related Reading: Five Things I love about being Indian
Indians believe their judiciary to be tainted
Social Trust in different countries

59 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2008 2:40 am

    Interesting post Nita. I think patriotism in the U.S. has been subverted by nationalism. Far from being a ‘melting pot’, we are turning into an insular and fragmented country.

    Not sure about reason #1 though. I think a patriot looks to support their country without resorting to blind devotion.

  2. January 29, 2008 5:24 am

    wait… so it’s ok to be patriotic? Woehee Jai Hind!

    Knowledge? Idiot reporting for duty, it’s a large country and a large number of little facts. I keep mixing things up.

    Think number 5 is the hardest one. Buying/bargaining always feels a little like robbing. There is no way that I have to pay the same prices in Europe. In India the line between an honest customer and a good bargainer is very thin. Although… the product we mostly buy on this side of the globe are not that fair either..

    On the optimism part : too much can blind you to reality. My eyes. Are bad.

  3. January 29, 2008 5:26 am

    Glad you raised this issue, Nita. I have often met Indians living abroad who suffer — YES, SUFFER — from No.1.

    I call it an affliction rather than affection for one’s country. In my opinion, it is unpatriotic to be blind to what ails your country — Is a mother a good mother if she fails to recognize and then set right her child’s wrongs?
    We don’t have to be vicious about our country, but if something is wrong, we must fist admit it, then accept it and figure a way to set it right.

    Having said that, each one of us is a free citizen of the world and don’t have to be “patriotic” if we don’t want to 🙂

    I think too much emphasis is laid on what is patriotic and what is not. So, is a person of Indian origin living abroad and contributing in some way to India less or more patriotic than the Indian who lives in India and doesn’t do much besides just, you know, living there?

    Who’s to decide?

    And then again, should a person who leaves his/her country to settle abroad be loyal to the country of origin or country of choice?

    I think if we all endeavored to be good human beings, a lot of things would automatically fall into place.

    Thanks for the post Nita!


  4. January 29, 2008 5:54 am

    There are two types of patriotism:
    One, where you feel pride for your country, and expect people to accept your nation’s claim to greatness irrespective of its actions and policies. This is the almost absolute nature of Indian political patriotism. Here, anything you do out of mainstream propaganda recommendations is ‘anti-national’. Like cutting a cake with the tricolor, or wearing an underwear with the tricolor on it.
    Two, where you feel love for your country and its people for certain reasons, but you do not throw the weight of this emotion on other people. In other words, if you stand while the anthem is played, you don’t poke the buttock of the one who is sitting and listening to his iPod. You give the fellow his space, his freedom to be what he is. This is an endangered specimen of patriotism.
    Lastly, the last paragraph that you have admiringly quoted is full of straw men. Patriotism has little to do with corruption, except that you wouldn’t expect corruption from a patriot, but I am not very sure of that. The straw men here are the altruistic ‘poorest of poor’, ‘cheating on taxes’, ‘paying obeisance to the powerful’, ALL of which are the jargon and intrinsic component of socialism. Corruption is possible only in a socialistic set-up (this statement cannot have a scientific proof today because of lack of historic models of laissez-faire capitalism). Patriotism has very little to do about it.

  5. January 29, 2008 6:52 am

    //Nationalism is not Patriotism //
    a very good point. Till about last year, I also used to confuse between the 2.

  6. wishtobeanon permalink
    January 29, 2008 7:26 am

    Thanks for the nice post, Nita. Based on the points 4, 5, 6, and 7, I think I am patriotic. I always tend to compare India and the US. My dream is to see India excel in Education, waste management, services, town planning, environment and many other things. I want to be proud of my country and I hope India will give lots of reasons for us to be proud of it and I know its only us Indians who can make it happen.

  7. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    January 29, 2008 7:42 am


    Your list of what patriotism means to different people is based primarily on your own observations and interpretations. I am quite content to let it (and you) be as long as it does not become a basis of witch-hunting in society.

    What struck me with great force is your statement (with appropriate use of boldface and italics) that Nationalism is *not* patriotism. This argument, which I have been making for over 30 years, usually falls on deaf years except among academically inclined circles. It is easy to confuse between the two at the level at which their primary manifestations are in terms of chest-thumping, jingoistic, holier-than-thou attitudes.

    But while patriotism, as Samuel Johnson famously observed, is the last refuge of the scoundrel, nationalism is by far the more chillingly dangerous and evil of the two sentiments. It seeks to impose its own worldview on others, and arrogates to itself the dubious responsibility of calling society to heel. The Nazis, the Fascists, and some of our own fringe groups in India (who, if we don’t watch out, will rapidly move in from the fringe to occupy centrestage — it is already happening in Gujarat) are all examples of nationalists.

    Something that really frightens me is, while one doesn’t often hear people asserting their own credentials as patriots (it is an appellation reserved for others whom one sees as being somehow superior than oneself) there is any number of people who will proudly proclaim from the rooftops their claim to being nationalists.

    In my mind’s eye I see every such person goose-stepping in jackboots. And in my worst nightmares [s]he wears a saffron-coloured bandanna.

    @Doc: I agree with all but one statment in what you say: your last but one sentence — its tone more than its content — including the parenthesis. Do you wear jackboots?

  8. January 29, 2008 8:25 am

    Since much disagreement comes from the varying definitions people have in mind about terms, here’s the info on patriotism from wikipedia:

    Patriotism denotes positive and supportive attitudes to a ‘fatherland’ (Latin patria < Greek patris, πατρίς), by individuals and groups. The ‘fatherland’ (or ‘motherland’) can be a region or a city, but patriotism usually applies to a nation and/or a nation-state. Patriotism covers such attitudes as: pride in its achievements and culture, the desire to preserve its character and the basis of the culture, and identification with other members of the nation.

    Patriotism is closely associated with nationalism, and the terms are often used synonymously. Strictly speaking, nationalism is an ideology – but it often promotes patriotic attitudes as desirable and appropriate. (Both nationalist political movements, and patriotic expression, may, yet need not, be negative towards other people’s ‘fatherland’).

    Patriotism has ethical connotations: it implies that the ‘fatherland’ (however defined) is a moral standard or moral value in itself. The expression my country right or wrong – perhaps a misquotation of the American naval officer Stephen Decatur, but also attributed to Carl Schurz – is the extreme form of this belief.

    Patriotism also implies that the individual should place the interests of the nation above their personal and group interests. In wartime, the sacrifice may extend to their own life. Death in battle for the fatherland is the archetype of extreme patriotism.

  9. January 29, 2008 8:33 am

    Brian, thanks. I guess the US is better than many European cuontries! About point 1, I don’t agree with it either, just gave the point to show that some people think of it that way.

    Purnima, it’s lovely to have you on my blog. You bring a fresh and humorous perspective!

    Snigdha, yes NRI’s have this sensitive point! I agree though that there is no compulsion on anyone to be patriotic, He/She can be a citizen of the world. At the same time, I think completely rubbishing India shows a hatred for one’s roots and it was nicely explained in the book ‘The Namesake.’
    And when it comes to being unpatriotic, the ones who live in India and are unpatriotic do far more damage than a global citizen.

    Rdoc, when I first read that para I too felt it was remniscent of Socialism, something I don’t believe in, and therefore almost changed the ending! But I couldn’t deny that I agree with it, and therefore I put it in, and stopped thinking of Socialism or Capitalism. Does one have to? I don’t know whether there is more corruption in Socialist countries, I am not an expert but I do know that there is corruption and bribe giving and taking even in Captalist economies. I don’t see why we cannot be capitalist and also think of the rights of workers and education for the masses etc. Why do you think it will happen automatically once true capitalism sets in? Every country is different and in India, because of being burdemed with it’s caste system, exploitation of labour, and poverty, we cannot let these things happen automatically. And if we speed up the process, we will speed up capitalism too!.

    Ankur, you are welcome!

    wishtobeanon, thanks!

    Vivek, I agree that Nationalism is dangerous and exclusive. You are right about Nationalism wearing their ‘patriotism’ on their sleeve and I wonder if these people are truly patriotic.

  10. January 29, 2008 8:35 am

    Glad you raised this issue, Nita. I have often met Indians living abroad who suffer — YES, SUFFER — from No.1.

    Snighdasen, you are correct. I’ve also met the twin sister/brother of this patriot you mention, and s/he is always and overly critical of her/his country, always comparing it to the US/West and finding it lacking, and refuses to see any positives in the country. 😀
    I haven’t done a scientific survey, but a casual observance of the Indian blogsphere shows that this phenomenon is specially acute among the patriot who returns from the US and works/lives in India.

  11. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    January 29, 2008 9:21 am


    To me the word “inclusive” has positive connotations, and does not sit comfortably with “dangerous”. Do you, perhaps, mean “appropriative”?

  12. January 29, 2008 9:38 am

    rdoc: I am still unclear as to what you would define as “reasonable patriotism”, assuming of course that you are against nationalism.

    I have a few questions, which have arisen in view of the comments, which have forced me to question my own definitions of patriotism.

    As for socialism, I have a few questions. They might be naive but that is to be expected, since my knowledge of socialism is limited. By definition, socialism is concerned only with the redistribution of wealth (without delving into the various ideas that sub-divide socialism). My question; why does it have to be assumed that this cannot be a transparent process? Since the collective is to decide the manner and extent of redistribution, it would follow that the system would be more transparent (though history proves differently).

    My only concern about socialism arises from my pessimistic nature and experience of human nature (even if my perception is darker than reality), that socialism is a dormant system. Capitalism has vast gradients, and the impetus to bring it to “equilibrium” only ensures a balanced distribution of wealth (in theory), and by balanced I do not mean equal, but equivalent.

    My last question is about democracy. Isn’t democracy, by definition a socialist system, in the sense that it has a duty to the “masses” to meet its needs?

    As for the list in the post, I think they only ones worth adhering to, are 4 and 5, as citizens. In fact, those are, in my view, non-negotiable duties of a citizen. How can you expect an efficient machinery if you are chipping away at the gears that make it move forward?

    As for 6, 7 and 8, I think they follow from 4 and 5.

  13. January 29, 2008 9:40 am

    Pardon the typo in the last paragraph. That should be ” I think the only ones worth…”

  14. January 29, 2008 9:57 am

    very interesting post and comments
    especially the one from the doc
    interesting views
    i also would like to point out nationalists are generally patriotic
    that before reading amits wiki post

  15. January 29, 2008 11:38 am

    Nita 🙂
    Its really a good thought provoking post .. and diifernt from yr main subjects which u write on 🙂 I must say pts 6,7, 8 i dont agree with u. And bribing part i think can be added in today patriotism, esp for India, but its not waht patritosm reflects, but is relevant to India.

    Pt 8 doenst go well may be because i Live abroad. I dont think thats the right conslusion. I can give u many exmaples where poepl who lives far are more patriotic to those who are in India. Infact if we have some real anylsis the Percentage of people living in india and abraod u will be surprised. But people from 2 generation (abraod) might not feal the same way as the first generation.

    I always see being patriotic, doing good deeds, showing compasion for others, helping people when in need, reaching out to make peoples live better. If you are little bit patriotic than u might be a good citizen of yr nation or this globe which is now “a flat world”.
    Having said that u definitely raised a good point and the diifrence between these two aspects. Even though i ten to differ in the difference, but i Presume Patriotism is a Superset of Nationalism.
    I presume Mhatama Gandhi was patriotic and Bhagat Singh might be more of Nationlist. Is this a fair conclusion Nita.

    One thing u raised and try to reflect on Nationalism and Patriotism

  16. January 29, 2008 12:07 pm

    I think my love for India has only increased after I left the country. I’d never, even in my wildest dreams, imagined that I would miss the hustle bustle, the crowd, the food, the ambiance. For me, #7 is the strongest. I don’t believe that I need to join politics or some other Govt service to show off my patriotism (acc to #3). A person who doesn’t have solid background of the history of our country can also be patriotic- all those kids on streets, who don’t go to school or read book, might be uneducated as far as the milestones/history’s concerned and still be patriotic.

  17. January 29, 2008 12:08 pm

    P.S- Forgot to mention, I have a separate list of Patriotic Songs in my iPod and listen to it religiously 😉 In fact, I’m listening to it now. Maybe you should include that in your list of “Patriotic things to do”. Haha.

  18. January 29, 2008 12:13 pm

    Hey, Nita, good one..I do not know how you passionately churn out such wonderful, well-researched posts in a day’s time.

    I haven;t yet been to my reader. I got to know about this post by Vishal’ s comment on my blog.

    I agree that having civic sense is most important. It matters how we conduct ourselves in a crowd in all public domain such as in trains. We are overly populated, but we make matters worse because we do not conduct ourselves with civility. Countries like China and Japan are also densely populated per area, but know how to conduct themselves in public areas. They are never mobbed while boarding a train or bus.

    I disagree with rambodoc that patriotism has nothing to do with corruption. In a country like ours, where corruption is ghastly affliction, impedes development. It pays if each of us followed this rule of “no give or take of bribe” IT is in interest of patriotism, we can not choose to regard this as a social problem.

  19. January 29, 2008 12:19 pm

    Amit, thanks.
    Vivek, I used the word wrongly. I meant exclusive, just the oppsoite! Will be changing it.
    DD, you have certainly asked some complicated questions which I wish I could answer. I think the only one who can answer them is Vivek!
    Prax, thanks.
    Vishal, are you sure you don’t agree with what I said?

    And about 8 (living in India), I feel there are ways that someone outside the country can contribute, if they wish to

    About points 6, do you really feel that a person who loves only those Indians who belong to a certain religion is patriotic? I would indeed be interested in your answer! About 7, do you feel feeling pride about our country’s achievements is not an indication of patriotism?
    Also I don’t think that Patriotism is a superset of Nationalism. They are related, but not subsets of each other.
    About Bhagat Singh, I confess my knowledge is not deep. But if he is a nationalist as you say that means he wanted to unite India on the basis of a particular ethnicity or culture only.

  20. January 29, 2008 12:37 pm

    If statement no.1 qualifies as of one of the traits of patriotism, I would like to add that its converse applies too. Always condemning a country’s enemies and never praising it (especially during cricket matches). I also feel that to reach a meaningful understanding of patriotism, we should question what we are being patriotic about-people? land? culture? history? science? all this and more? I also feel patriotism becomes more meaningful during times of oppression rather than in peaceful times. In the end, I think patriotism, like love, has a mirage-like quality to it that resists investigation. Many are patriotic because it is the right thing to be. You are either with us or against us.

  21. January 29, 2008 12:52 pm

    Nita – I dont think 6 can be defined to be patriotic may be its me, I see thisng more at breaoder level.
    7. Again – I dont agree because i like things about australia and India, and dont defened wrong practices of India. I presume this perspective comes only when u live in a different country and see thing more rationally.

    On the difference on N vs P. I think bradly i undertood teh diifrence may be not waht it really means, thats why i asked It I think may be u can reflcet upon with some exapmple for my dumb brain 🙂

  22. January 29, 2008 1:07 pm

    Nita further on Pt 7 – I think if i anlayse it further I’m patriotic To Australia and India, as this scenario is new, because in the history of mankind people hasnt spend that many years in difefrent parts of world. But now people do spend their life in different parts of the world. For Me my 23 yeasr were in India and so i do feel strongly about India… but I started earning here and supported others from here in Australia and India. For me i feel passionate about some values which are really good here and same for India. And if the opportunity arises I will have to defend both countries. Let me put it this way – “My Janama bhumi is India and My Karma Bhumi is Australia” and owe to both of them, even though Shastra says – JANAM BHUMI’s owes more than any other (Even chankya mentions this apect) , even more than yr mother, but i still owe to KARMA BHUMI and thats why i feel for both the countries. I hope this clarifies and thats why i used the word “Flat world” coined by Thomas Fredmans from NYT.

  23. January 29, 2008 1:10 pm

    My aologies for so many mistakse in spelling .. 3 reasons – i’m bit careless ..:-( second try to to do too many things at once, third i dont know touch typing..

  24. guqin permalink
    January 29, 2008 1:10 pm

    To me, the distinction between patrioticism and nationalism is deceptive. The patriotic quotes above can be simply replaced with kindness and responsibility. There is no need to introduce these two intellectual-political terms. Yes, one could insist: boldness is not the same as rudeness, beauty is not the same as prettiness, individualism is not the same as self-centeredness etc. etc. All true, but when they come from inpure hearts, they automatically become the same. Then the distinction between these two paralells becomes mostly theoretical. Hence there is a good reason that patrioticism and nationalism are ALWAYS confussed in reality. Germany and Japan in WW2, USA of today are the most convincing examples. None of the citizens of these three countries are not sufficently cultured (US citizens are at least well educated).

    The real issue lies in why such concepts and disticntions are even brough up in the first place. Hindi spiritual teachings (Buddhist and Daoist as well) demonstrates the great danger of inventing un-neccesary concepts, and the greater danger of obssesive furthering of their distinctions (whether or not the distinctions are truthful or justifiable are un-important).

    Further, “state” or “nation” or even “country” are hardly universally defined. Neither is “citizenship”. Much of their meanings are imported from the west. Didn’t Radindranath Tagore say “Patrioticism (nationalism?) is still a forgein import”? Were the freedom fighters in the British India, the defenders of the Gupta dynasty or Tang China patriots, nationalists or they were just defending a Truth? If it is a Truth, then it has nothing to do with state or nation.

    However, regarding existing patrioticism-nationalism, I think there are only two kinds of them: the blind and the bitter. Today’s USA is the first type. Today’s China and India are of the second type. WW2’s Germany was of both. Of course, one could point out all those good qualities in Nita’s list and in the highbrow quotes of the professors which seem harmless and never blind or bitter, but like I said, those good qualities can be replaced with simpler terms like Kindness and Responsibility for people that we reach.

  25. January 29, 2008 4:20 pm

    Ruhi, a lot of people when they first leave India get the sort of feeling that you have and then after about 5 years the feeling starts to wane. Well, this is only from my own experience as one by one a lot of people I know well have left India. After 5-10 years, if the feeling still remains, then it’s something. But such people either come back or keep their dual citizenship.
    And about a list of patriotic things to do, what a good idea! 🙂 I would have have had to dodge some tomatoes…!
    Poonam, thanks. I am with you on that corruption thing. and about the posts, blogging is taking up so much time! Sigh…! I hope I continue to have the energy to carry on…
    Vishal, thanks for your clarifications. I think I understand what you mean now…but it’s good to hear that you are loyal to the country that you live in. That’s very important I think.
    Emperor Guillotine, thank you for that insight.
    Gugin, yes ofcourse, kindness and responsibility are the main thing. As someone had mentioned above, if all of us simply strove to be good human beings, then all these definitions would become meaningless.

  26. Raj permalink
    January 29, 2008 4:22 pm

    I think it is human nature to be “patriotic”.Though sometimes we behave worse than any animal,humans are “pack animals” like lions and dogs,as opposed to being “solitary creatures” like tigers and cats 🙂

    But “patriotism” like many other human traits can turn out to be deadly dangerous if it is allowed to morph into any form of ‘nationalism’ or ‘nazionalism’ or ‘nazi’onalism.

    I do not want to travel in the same boat as ‘nationalists’,’nazionalists’ and ‘nazi’onalists.So my identity is becoming more and more “Earthling”(after realising that we will have to share the cosmos with other “planetizens”-I am sure that they exist in the universe and would love to meet the friendly types among them 🙂 ) and then “Human”(after realising that we will have to share our beautiful planet with other creatures on Earth)

    The Depressed Doormat,

    I am delighted that you have mentioned that socialism and democracy are linked.THEY ARE! I think socialism is an advanced form of democracy as they both rely on egalitarianism while capitalism is an advanced form of feudalism as they both rely on exploitation.

    But since most (if not all) of us have been brought up on a steady diet of capitalist propaganda (that can even put any communist propaganda to shame!),we believe that socialism is linked to communism.IT IS NOT! We believe this becauase we are blissfully unaware of the fact that we are being bombarded with capitalist propaganda’s ‘shock and awe’ tactics!

  27. January 29, 2008 4:46 pm

    For me #4 , #5 would define a person as patriotic.
    As for #6 I guess the love should spread across the boundaries too.

  28. Guqin permalink
    January 29, 2008 6:03 pm

    Raj and Doormat,

    In standard Communist doctrines, Socialism is an early form of Communism.

    In my observation (must be in many other people’s observations too) Socialism-Communism is descended from Christainity with God removed. One can see this by looking into the ideal Communist world, which just looks like the Christain heaven realized on secular earth without God. Historically, this is clear: Carl Marx could not have (no one could) just invented something from nothing. His criticism of Capitalism was a moral one. In the west, this was naturally refered to Christainy (what else did they have?). Yet the age of reason (which was of course, a concequence of the revival of Greek tradition) “rationalized” it by removing its religious elements. One can hence safely say Communism is in the Christain tradition but in form of Greek culture. A sort of like the intellectualization and politicalization of spirituality. Socialism as a step stone to Communism is therefore not linked to democracy. Democracy is in the Greek-Roman blood line.

    I don’t understand why you think Capitalism is an advanced form of feudalism. It seems to me, Capitalism is still in the Greek-Roman blood line. Industrialization was the turning point, which was the vulgarizing of the achievements since the Renaissance. I think the British are responsible (USA is its louder echo). They have dragged the whole world down with them.

    I entirely agree with Raj on that Capitalist propaganda is worse than that of Communism. In fact I was so sick of it that after removing all TV channels from my TV, I threw the remore control away so that I could only watch chosen DVDs from then on.

  29. January 29, 2008 6:50 pm

    well in a way most people have more of nationalistic approach…..its almost like,oh!so you are from the same place….rather than…omg!wow…we are from the same place…
    i think our forefathers who began moving to cities were more patriotic…

  30. axinia permalink
    January 29, 2008 7:08 pm

    Nita, exellent post!
    I agree to every word of yours and I am acutally surpriced why the discussion is being so hot 🙂

    I also like very much your point that . “And about 8 (living in India), I feel there are ways that someone outside the country can contribute, if they wish to. “, because it is exactly my case 🙂

    I love Russia and I consider myself a patriot, however I do not live there. At the same time I do my best to tell people here in the West about the TRUE Russia (history and modern times), for the image of my country is far from its reality (as probably the case with any other coutnry).
    Why I feel good about it, is because people thank me for showing them the Russian mindset, telling them about things differently from what they get from the media-brainwash…
    So basically even if I am not living in the country I do my best to serve it from abroad!
    But my greatest respect goes to people who do live in their native countires and serve it in other ways (like bringing up childred, developing economy, etc.). Somebody like you, Nita. I believe you are doing a great work on showing the true face of India, with all your knowledge and love.

  31. January 29, 2008 7:11 pm

    @Raj and @Guqin
    Just quoting it

    “I am delighted that you have mentioned that socialism and democracy are linked.THEY ARE! I think socialism is an advanced form of democracy as they both rely on egalitarianism while capitalism is an advanced form of feudalism as they both rely on exploitation.

    But since most (if not all) of us have been brought up on a steady diet of capitalist propaganda (that can even put any communist propaganda to shame!),we believe that socialism is linked to communism.IT IS NOT! We believe this because we are blissfully unaware of the fact that we are being bombarded with capitalist propaganda’s ’shock and awe’ tactics!”

    Guys you have summarized it brilliantly. What i would like to know from you guys is what is the solution and how to approach it, rather then just being critical

  32. January 29, 2008 7:21 pm

    Raj, although I don’t have authoritative knowledge on this, I do think that Socialism and Communism are more connected than Socialism and Democracy. One needs to find out what is is happening in successful democracies (Capitalism or Socialism) and I think that will answer the question to some extent.
    But in a true democracy, a person is allowed freedom to do what he wants, which automatically leads to entrepreneurship and fewer controls on how people spend their money, fewer restrictions on business. This does eventually lead to a vibrant economy and the benefits do trickle down finally. In Socialism they may never trickle down as it’s the govt. officials who pocket what is meant for the people. Also there is less money in the economy so eventually the country goes bankrupt. China for example has learnt the lesson from Russia. And now they are a communist country which is going full steam ahead with capitalism! But there is corruption there too. However as they are communist, and there are restrictions on the press, one doesn’t know the extent of the corruption. It’s all hidden.

    Gugin, thanks. Yours are indeed strong words!

    Vishesh, thanks for your response.

  33. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    January 29, 2008 8:11 pm


    Thanks for a very thought-provoking post. Many years ago, a Roman Catholic priest told me more or less the same thing as you say, about Socialism-Communism being descended from Christianity. I was quite taken aback when I first heard this, but over the years I have often thought about it, and now believe there is more than a grain of truth in it.

    What does surprise me is your argument about the genesis of Capitalism. Whether it is an “advanced” form of Feudalism or not can, be debated, but certainly it has logically evolved from Feudalism.

    //Democracy is in the Greek-Roman blood line.//

    //Capitalism is still in the Greek-Roman blood line.//

    I am confused to find these two statements in the same write-up. Taken together, they lead to the conclusion that there is a nexus between Capitalism and Democracy. Whether you take the word “nexus” in a positive or a negative sense, the logic does not stand. In the emerging postindustrial world, with its accompanying reinvention of the State and cynical redefinition of Democracy, the connection between the two is very tenuous, if it exists at all. We don’t have to look much farther than India and China to see the truth of it.

  34. guqin permalink
    January 29, 2008 8:21 pm


    There is no solution. Capitalism needs to preach too. Even a poisonous tree still has its natural life.

    Love to hear what you think.

  35. January 29, 2008 9:28 pm

    Xylene, thanks.
    Axinia, you are very kind and generous in your praise! 🙂

  36. January 29, 2008 10:35 pm

    I liked guqin’s first post as it sort of reflects my thinking.

    Nita – I am tempted to say we can clarify patriotism to whatever you want – but it is only strains of nationalism that you will get from most people. The characteristics of patriotism you define has more to do with being humane than to do with your country. So, IMHO, the term patriotism may be completely useless in reality as:
    (i) it frequently gets confused with nationalism – i.e. you see mostly nationalistic strains in people who claim to be and who are deemed as patriotic
    (ii) the real qualities you assign to patriotic, dont need that term as an umbrella. I think they are covered elsewhere.

    So at best it is spurious, at worst it paves way for nationalism and facism.

  37. guqin permalink
    January 30, 2008 12:01 am


    It is more a vision than a logical argument. I don’t know enough of western history to do the logic either. I probably entirely missed the link between capitalism and feudalism in that part of the world. However:

    Capitalism and democracy are not two independent entities as for a “nexus” to exist between them. They are products of the same world view originated with the Greek-Roman tradition (Physical-materialistic, intellectual, non-spiritual, secular, reason, rigid, logical, etc) . The pairing of Christainity-Communism is parallel to the pairing of Democracy-Capitalism. Christainity and Democracy are mostly the same as their originals. Communism and Capitialism are their modern oddities. (In my view, both are mediocre and malnutritious spiritually). Capitalism is however more accidentally and funtionally evolved when the British (a very secular nation with no inclination for beautiful arts and its literature is unhealthy) are involved. Saying no “nexus” between Democracy and Capitalism is simlilar to saying no “nexus” between Christainity and Communism. Quite true, but irrelevant.

    Your view is more and less the “internal” view of the westerners (In which, Capitalism and Democracy are “very different”, the world is “post-industrial”. And the best instance is of course that they feel comfortable of saying that China is evil because China is Communist, totally “forgetting” Communism is western. etc. etc.). Yet, say, for example, with the traditional-classical Chinese view, China’s mission is to digest western modern achievements, then the dynasty continues so that the reality is still the same old Chinese reality. As an anology, a man ate a fish a few days ago, and ate a chicken today, he then becomes stronger, but he doesn’t turn into a fish or a chicken. It is meaningless to describe his life as his “fish period” or “post-chicken period” etc.

    Of course, all these depend on the ultimate quality of China’s culture (of which I am confident after experiencing the west).

    Same principle applies to India.

    One key phenonmenon in today’s world is the over-estimation of western surface culture to the degree that people can’t see the reality underneath. It is a kind of like being overwhelmed by the celebration of the Olympic games and thus forgetting the humble Shao-Lin temple though what truly matters, that is the sports, Shao-Lin martial art is way superior to runing 100 meter or weight lifting. But how long can that blindness last if people are sane?

    One last side note: in the above I was refering to Capitalism as we know it today only, but it isn’t the only or the best version. China practiced a different version the latest since Song dynasty, and China was the wealthiest country (by far?) for many hundreds of years. And Chinese people were not bussy! (Symbolic difference in approach and consequences).

  38. Raj permalink
    January 30, 2008 2:33 am


    Thanks for your insider’s perspective on China.It comes as a breath of fresh air after reading all the Western (and I must admit,Indian) reports on China,as these cannot explain the reality from a cultural point of view.

    I am neither a political scientist nor an economist,so my views are essentially limited to what I observe and understand from the world around me.In that sense,my views are dimensionally limited,but I often cannot describe the dimension(s) in which I view them.This is because as far as I am concerned,finding a hypothesis that is able to explain the complete behaviour of something in the most efficient manner is more important than trying to describe that thing’s behaviour along known models.To put it simply,I am quite happy to think on my own terms.I know that such thinking is not always desirable,but personally,I am usually satisfied with the results.

    I am aware that different forms of feudalism existed in different parts of the world at different times.But I refer to feudalism as it existed in the South-Asian subcontinent since that is where I live.The abolished ‘zamindari’ system in India and the still existing feudal system in Pakistan are examples of South Asian feudalism.

    The feudal landlords,known by different names,own large tracts of land.They pay very little taxes to the government,but make enormous amounts of money as they are free to exploit the landless labourers.Those poor labourers often toil away for a pittance,and cannot rebel,as their feudal landlords maintain private armies,prisons and torture chambers to keep their labourers under control.

    This chillingly reminds me of free market capitalism.The capitalists own all the means of production.They pay very little taxes to the government,but make enormous profits as they are free to exploit the hapless labourers.These poor labourers often toil away for a pittance and cannot rebel,as they are employed on the capitalists’ terms and the labour laws are laughable and can be easily bypassed.In any case,the capitalists get away even if they use brute force to crush the slightest dissent.Often the notoriously corrupt state officials are at the call of the capitalists and are ready to do the capitalists’ dirty work.I shall use two events that took place in India as examples,and since you may not be aware of them,I shall post the relevant links below:

    You must note that in both cases,corrupt policemen must have obviously been ‘paid’ handsomely ‘behind the scenes’ by the capitalists to do the nasty things for them.

    It is because of innumerable instances like these,that people who think like I do,feel that capitalism is just another form of feudalism.There is nothing egalitarian or civilised about these two concepts.They thrive on exploitation,and believe in things like ‘might is right’ and ‘survival of the fittest’ which are nothing but ‘laws of the jungle’ according to me! 🙂

  39. Raj permalink
    January 30, 2008 3:20 am


    I agree that socialism and communism tend to be closely linked if we look at them from a politico-economic point of view.But I would like to separate the politics and the economics and view them as individual concepts.

    When looked at in such a manner,communism becomes another form of government like democracy or absolute monarchy or theocracy.And socialism becomes another economic system like capitalism or feudalism.

    And I agree that China has abandoned socialism for capitalism.If they are able to keep capitalism successfully married to communism in the long run,then my theory about political and economic concepts being exclusive of each other would be proved correct.

    I agree that corruption is widely prevlent in China.According to neutral sources,China and India are on par when it comes to the level of corruption.


    I agree with Guqin that a single solution would not be practical enough to be applied to every country in the world or even to the world as a whole if taken as a single economic entity.And everyone needs to come up with solutions for specific cases.Also,we can just be critical of something without attempting to create that thing ourselves.For instance,that is what film critics do,don’t they? 🙂

  40. January 30, 2008 7:27 am

    I still remain confused about certain concepts.

    “Communism is a socioeconomic structure that promotes the establishment of a classless, stateless society based on common ownership of the means of production” – Wiki

    Socialism however deals with redistribution of wealth.

    From a purely theoretical point of view, it appears to me, that socialism and communism aren’t really linked. It might be easier to have them go side by side, but I don’t see any reason why they MUST.

    Lastly, I don’t understand how communism is relevant anymore. A “classless, stateless” society seems improbable to me. These are not tribes of 20 families we are talking about. So the power of rule will always be with a select few, irrespective of the form of government.

    @Nita: I don’t understand why it is assumed a socialist state has to be corrupt. In theory, I would expect a socialist state to be far more transparent.

  41. January 30, 2008 7:37 am

    Raj, if you say that the concept of communism, socialism, democracy can be exclusive of each other, that is not my argument at all. But if you do try to find parallels between these things, then in that case there is a closer relationship between socialism and communism.

    DD, Ideally a socialist state should not be corrupt. but socialism often doesn’t work in practice. as shefaly had said in my other post, you need a certain value system in place before it can work.

  42. January 30, 2008 10:14 am

    But isn’t that true of anything? The government, whichever doctrine it follows, will be limited by the value system of its people.

  43. January 30, 2008 10:19 am

    Exactly! In a capitalist system everyone works to his/her own interest and this benefits the society as a whole as wealth is generated. That is the greatest thing about capitalism. It understands that basic human nature is selfish.

    • Pragya Bakshi permalink
      October 30, 2016 2:48 pm

      It sounds pretty good. But capitalism proves itself wrong when this generated wealth goes back to capitalists who justify that they aspire to generate more wealth through new business interests. It’s a manipulative chain reaction in today’s time circulating among a fixed class of the society.

  44. guqin permalink
    January 30, 2008 12:38 pm


    Thanks for your full feedback.

    If one reminds himself that China is first Chinese then Communist or Capitalist; Communism and Capitalism come and go, China remains Chinese… I mean, if one trusts in this simple truth, then China is no mystery to him. He will see China’s past and her future. Forget the west’s media. The west is half-hearted and two-faced, I am not even interested in puzzling about their hypocrisy any more.

    Forgive me, I must disagree with your way of study (hypothesis, theoretical model, dimensionality, explaination, modification, etc.). I think the only truthful way to study an object is the same way one listens to music or looks at a piece of artwork: relaxed, purposeless, meditative until the comprehansion of the work reveals itself as a whole. This is the Eastern way, not just Chinese, I believe. Your way must have been learnt from western education. The western way is deceptive. Take the so-called “Economics” as an example: if one thinks over it, one will see that “Economics” doesn’t really exist. What exists is an Economy IN WHICH PEOPLE LIVE. So you see, it is still about people but an imposing economy. Western “Economics” isolates a part of reality (ie. that part can be discribed by inhumane reason and mathematics) and builds a theoretical model with which to replace the actual reality. Well, one gets what one wishes: The west has succeded in creating an overwhelming economy, but its consequences are enormous, namely putting nature at the edge of full destruction, and turning people insane (if you live in US long enough, you will see I am not making this up.). My training is in physics and mathematics, I see this delusion of the western intellect: linear logic and model building, that is it! It is inevitably always one step behind the object of pursuit. This intellect has no charm outside fundamental physics and mathematics (though still useful in some other areas, but only useful, no charm). I wish every eastern student sees that! So don’t feel limmitted since you are not an “expert” as you stated in your post, because you have better not to! Be an artist of life, observe with pure sincerity and great patience, then you will see what (western) experts can never see!

    Nita, sorry, I know that I am far off topic by now. This is my last post.

  45. guqin permalink
    January 30, 2008 11:59 pm


    Upon re-reading the second paragraph in your post (addressed to me on January 30th, 2:33am), I realized that I half-misunderstood what you said. You were right, we should think for ourselves other than using existing models.

  46. January 31, 2008 11:40 am

    Another well put post, Nita. I think my kind of patriotism is something what said:

    …not something that denotes morals or ethics, but is a sense of belonging for one’s country.

    There are a lot of Nationalists around me (to be specific Hindutva nationalists) who keep saying that Muslims and Christians have to prove their patriotism in every single minute and that ALL Indians who belong semitic religions are not patriots and look forward to ‘other countries’ than their mother land. Interestingly many of those who have accused are now working in foreign countries while I never gone outside south of India.

    I think a true patriot is someone who keeps track of the negative points of his country and keep reminding himself and other countrymen to get rid of those while keeping a deep love to his country close inside his heart. Plus what Madan has beautifully put at the end of your post.

  47. January 31, 2008 1:37 pm

    Thanks Jo. I am with you there, I can’t stand it when people doubt the patriotism of those who are not Hindu and yes I have heard these things too. Frankly I suspect their patriotism. I think corrupt people are anti-national and unpatriootic and corruption has no religion or caste.

  48. Raj permalink
    January 31, 2008 4:12 pm


    Thanks for the clarification.Yes,I too believe I am half-way between the western and eastern modes of thinking.I may think in such a way because the training that I have received is related to science,so my head is tuned for western science,but my heart will always be eastern.

    And I was surprised (even mildly horrified),but only for a moment, to read that you think my education was “western” 🙂 .The “education” I have received formally has been in my own province in India (state is the word we use,though India is quasi-federal in nature).And I am happy that it has made me “narrow-minded” in an egalitarian,inclusivist kind of way rather than “broad-minded” in an imperialist,exclusivist kind of way 😉 .Of course,I realise you believe that modern science is primarily western science.

    And steering towards the central topic of this discussion,”patriotism”,I am quite happy to see that Chinese who live outside the “Middle Kingdom” have a different kind of patriotism when compared to Non-Resident Indians.I am not saying that one is better than the other,I just feel that they are different.

    P.S.: To all,these views are my personal opinion and I have absolutely NO intention whatsoever to criticise or find fault with the education or patriotism of ANYONE!

  49. February 1, 2008 6:57 am

    I might be totally wrong here, but I feel patriotism is something very individual, I feel like supporting India when I watch a cricket match even though we are playing horribly, now is that patriotism?.. When I see that there is a bad decision taken countrywide, I feel obligated to talk about it make people aware, so that awareness will result in a result somehow, isn’t that patriotism?.

    I totally agree with you nationalism, secularism, or even regionalism may not be patriotism

  50. February 1, 2008 8:54 am

    If you feel like supporting India even if they are playing badly, you are patriotic my friend! It means you love India! And yes wanting to spread awareness of India’s problem is also patriotism…but it’s how one puts it across. You know what I mean.

  51. guqin permalink
    February 1, 2008 11:34 am


    I am very sorry. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t respectful when I was writing that post addressed to you. I see it now. I hope you would accept my apology. I really appreciate your honest response since without seeing it I would likely to make the same mistake.

    A Jewish classmate of mine always says “China’s culture will be washed out by western modern culture” every time he sees me. I didn’t understand why he said things like that, only later I realized that he was pessimistic of Jewish culture’s future. When he said China, he had Jewish culture in mind without being aware that his saying would sound offensive to me. Unfortunately I made the same mistake with you. I got myself hooked up to the idea of the negative effects of western way of thinking (more specificly upon China, but I still think it is true in general), so I just said it without seeing that what I was saying could have other meanings to someone else. I was saying it rather in a impersonal way. A kind like grasping a stranger as a litsener but starting talking to myself. I did intend to criticise you the person. Of course, If I were wiser, I wouldn’t have made this mistake. Please forgive me for my clumsiness.

    By the way, I didn’t mean the geographical west but its tradition.

    Best regards

  52. guqin permalink
    February 1, 2008 11:38 am


    I am indeed clumsy, in my last post, I intended to write ” I did NOT intend to criticise you the person”. I missed out the word “NOT”.

  53. Raj permalink
    February 1, 2008 1:58 pm


    Please do not apologise (or feel sorry) for what you have said.It is 100% true and I love to hear such honest comments.Your comments were never disrespectful towards me or anyone else.I never see them in such a way.And I never meant to tell you that you were disrespectful towards anybody with your comments.My reply too should not be seen in that manner.The disclaimer at the end of my previous reply,as well as some of my comments that were spiced up with emoticons, were not directed at you but towards some of my fellow citizens who would have otherwise believed that I was criticising them.

    All these misunderstandings have come up because of the cultural differences between us and also because we are communicating with each other through the written word.I,infact,admire the fact that Non-Resident Chinese (if the term is okay) refuse to be brain-washed by western propaganda and continue to think in their own terms.The Middle Kingdom (again if it is okay to say that) is lucky to have such citizens.It makes me feel a bit jealous about China 🙂

    And I feel the same way about what you think about your Jewish friend’s observations.And I realised that you did not mean the geographical west even before your clarification.Of course,I too realise that modern science is primarily based on Greco-Roman science.

    And there is no need for me to forgive you because you have never said anything that offended me in the first place!

  54. guqin permalink
    February 1, 2008 3:13 pm



    Rabindranath Tagore said: “Observe yourself in other people”. I see China in India, and myself in you. Indeed, this is the truest learning proccess. Thanks again.

  55. February 8, 2009 12:15 am

    Nita, it seems that you have painted nationalism in a poor light here. I dont know if that was your intention.

    Nationalism is how an individual identifies with his/her nation. For me, personally I identify most with my nation, on two counts, democracy and diversity. If either of the two were to be subverted, I would no longer be a nationalistic Indian. Others may of course have their own points of identification. Some may not identify with the nation at all.

    Of course, to a certain extent all national boundaries are phony, and at the end of the day, family and culture (which is mostly independent of the nation) probably matters most to individuals. But this cannot take away from the historical importance of the Indian nation, which is the emancipator of India’s masses. The Indian nation is mostly a force for good in this world.

  56. birappa vhanamane permalink
    October 6, 2010 11:06 am

    Rabindranath Tagore said:”observe yourself in other people”. i want to say, be the best and win the world.

  57. Pragya Bakshi permalink
    October 30, 2016 2:38 pm

    Wow, I am reading this post almost 8 years after it was written. Thanks a lot for sharing this Nita. It explains the concepts which such ease and precision.


  1. Patriotism, India, Amman Madan, IIT KAnpur, USA, melting pot

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