“Nationalism is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own identity.”
Nationalism is the belief that one’s national identity, nation or its government is supreme. It is an aggressive form of allegiance to one’s country wherein the nation is placed above the people. On the other hand, patriotism is simply devotion to a place which one considers to be the best, but is not compelled to enforce it on others. Nationalism is driven by cultural associations and, unlike patriotism, promotes the nation at the expense of others accompanied by a constant exhibition of one’s nation being on the path to prosperity and people with opposing views headed towards downfall.
Nationalists possess a unique trait of always being on the strongest side, not because they switch cohorts as and when the power shifts, but because they choose a side and convince themselves that it is the strongest even though all logic and facts say otherwise. It is essentially hunger for power even if it comes at the cost of self-deception and alarming dishonesty. While it can be argued that it just a type of expression of one’s love for his nation, it most definitely cannot be linked or equated to patriotism on account of the fact that it is fundamentally different in its approach, patriotism being defensive while nationalism being more aggressive.
In context of India, nationalism ‒‒ to be more specific, religious nationalism, has been extensively deliberated upon in the last few years as an attempt to justify nationalistic ideologies being enforced on the pretext of religion. Since nationalism typically suggests a notion of national superiority, bringing in widespread religious beliefs that differ from another culture or minority religion leads to conflicts. These conflicts form the basis of caste and religion based discrimination in an otherwise ‘secular’ country. What we are witnessing at the moment is religious nationalism being used to make political advances. Even more upsetting is the fact that such petty politics is being indulged in, to make sure that less attention is accorded to much more pressing issues such as women safety, poverty, unemployment and casteism that is still prevalent in the lower strata of the country.
A nationalist thinks only in terms of competitive prestige and is incapable of bearing even the slightest opposition to his beliefs. A similar trend can be observed in the kind of nationalism that the ruling party pushes as one of its primary agendas. Their nationalism dictates that only those who partake in mandatory national anthem before film screenings, who don’t eat beef and chant slogans like Bharat Mata ki Jai, are nationalists and even the smallest hint of protest automatically turns you into an anti-national. The sudden upsurge in violence in the name of religion and caste is a physical manifestation of this propaganda.
Moreover, the agencies designed to keep such practices in check are themselves, faltering. Media, popularly called the fourth estate, has failed to fulfil its role as the watchdog and gatekeeper of a healthy democracy. Prominent news channels, owned either directly by politicians or their allies, categorically evade news that portray the ruling party in a bad light. Questionable actions and policies formulated by the government in the name of religious nationalism are not given the same amount of analysis and thought that an issue of communal violence receives during the prime time debate. Regressive nationalistic incidents are labeled as mere outbursts of patriotism, which is not only incorrect but also a flagrant violation of duties on the part of mass media. Some major news channels prefer broadcasting stories high on sensationalism rather than actual content as a method of distracting the masses from the real problems.
However, not the entire fraternity has bid goodbye to ethics. Select newspapers such as The Hindu and news channels like NDTV are consistently reporting the truth instead of glorifying every nationalistic stance of the government. When majority of news consumption is from such credible sources, there exists a better understanding of nationalism and its implications.
It is safe to conclude that media plays an integral role in fostering a belief system amongst the masses with the aid of agenda setting and propaganda mechanisms. However, the increasing gap between the theory of media education, that strictly stands against falsification of news, and the actual practice in journalism is a major concern which calls for immediate changes in the functioning of the media. We, as informed citizens, must hold the government and the media accountable for their actions and invest more time and effort in spotting such blatant proliferation of misinformation in the name of nationalism, disguised as patriotism.
Picture Courtesy- HuffPost India