In the morning I was discussing with my wife the the rebuttal that I’ve written to CJ Shah’s memorial lecture, and how people like him are always confused about nationalism and are ready to use the word “hyper-nationalism” at the drop of a hat.
She gave a very apt response. “How would you feel if someone comes to your home and starts taking your stuff, or starts calling you by a strange name, or even starts calling your wife his wife? Would you say you’re fine with his views and let him have his way? Or would you resist?”
The problem with intellectuals and liberals is that they feel very entitled. They think the society, the country owes them the safety they get, the facilities they get, the (misplaced) respect they get. This is why they don’t think of the country as their home.
When you are confused about nationalism, try to draw a parallel between your home and your country.
You are protective towards your kids, right? You are protective towards your spouse. You respect your parents. Your parents respected their parents. You lock your doors when you go somewhere or even when you go to sleep at night. If there is a robbery at your place you are traumatized. You call the cops.
You want to keep the family comfortable so you get an AC, a water heater, a gas connection. You pay the bills to make sure everything works. When your kids do well at school you feel proud. When you get a promotion you celebrate. You throw a party when there is a birthday in your family.
When you do all these things, do you think you are being hyper-familistic? When you feel protective towards your family, do you think you are being jingoistic? When you feel insulted if someone insults your spouse or your child do you think you are thisvadi or thatvadi? No. These are normal manifestations for a family.
A country is like a family, whether you feel it that way or not. In fact, you realize that when you go abroad…you don’t have the same privileges that the people of that country have. You get a visa for certain days to go to that country and if you want to stay extra, you need to extend your visa. If you get in some legal problem, you don’t have the same rights as your local adversary. If the government thinks you shouldn’t be in that country, you are deported.
If you think nationalism has no meaning in this globalised world try entering another country without permission. Try entering Pakistan, for example, by simply crossing the LOC, or even better, try entering China. You will get a feel of what sort of “globalised” world we live in.
Does your own country deport you? No. Do you need a visa to live in your country? No. Are you treated like a foreigner or a non-native? No. As an Indian citizen, you can buy property anywhere, you can work anywhere (except for Kashmir). Of course aberrations happen (they can happen even within the family), but no matter where you go within your country, you have equal rights. Nobody is going to question if you celebrate your festivals (ideally). Your ancestors have lived, fought, survived and triumphed here. Your cultural icons, your historical ideals, have enriched your life.
Recognizing these privileges, and feeling protective towards them, is nationalism. Feeling good about your history, about your roots, and wanting to stop people from twisting your true heritage is nationalism. Feeling good that you are secure within your borders is nationalism. There is nothing wrong in this. The same feelings and emotions that are applied to your family are applied to your country. Just that you don’t want someone to malign your family, a strong sense of nationalism makes you stand up to those who intend to malign your country.