Colombo Telegraph

Patriotism And Nationalism Are Not The Same

By R.M.B Senanayake –

R.M.B. Senanayake

The authorities have issued a statement pointing out that the actions of individuals and civic organizations in our country will be judged by whether they are patriotic or loyal to the country. But there are other more fundamental values like truth and justice which rank above patriotism. When an individual is faced with a situation where one value is in conflict with another the individual’s duty is to uphold truth and justice. This is the preaching of religions.

Moreover patriotism or loyalty to the nation or the country tends to be equated to loyalty to the ruler. Hitler proclaimed that the German nation was in peril from a world conspiracy for domination by the Jews. He decided that in the interest of the fatherland the Jews should be eliminated from the German Empire which he was establishing through war. So he killed 6 million Jews which came to be called the ‘holocaust’. After this exercise in mass murder Hitler equated patriotism to loyalty to the Fuehrer. It was too late for those Germans who stood for truth, justice, freedom and genuine patriotism. So Bishop Bonheoffer was implicated in the conspiracy to kill him which some Germans had planned. Bishop Bonheoffer was executed.

A sense of identity, patriotism, or whatever we choose to call it, can in fact be a progressive and generous force. We are more likely to share things with each other, where we feel a sense of shared identity. Yes but we cannot equate it to Sinhala Buddhist identity or nationalism. It must be inclusive of the Tamils, Muslims and Christians as well. The President no doubt has his love for the people, particularly the Sinhalese Buddhists. He has spelt out his love for the Sinhala Buddhist cultural and social traditions and proclaimed reasons to be proud of being a Sinhala Buddhist. But other people too are proud of their traditions, religion and culture and space must be provided for them to do so.

Too many people — in every country — think nationalism and patriotism is the same thing. They’re not; they’re completely different. George Orwell defined patriotism as “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force upon other people.” According to Orwell, nationalism is the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or an idea, and “placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.” It is this sentiment that is echoed by the President and the Sinhalese nationalists both the clergy and the laity. This same fanaticism can be applied to any “other ideology”. Communists believed that any action by them in pursuit of the goal of socialism to usher in the ultimate state of a communist society where each was for all and all for each was the laudable objective. Today certain Fundamentalist religious sects believe in the same to usher in their ultimate state of well –being based on religious values. The world has seen this type of nationalism and the havoc it caused in Bosnia-Herzegovina (the former Yugoslavia) where the Serbs believed in such a nationalism which meant oppression of the other minorities like the Croats and the Muslims. Such blind nationalism always has that combination of blind zeal and indifference to reality. Our political and religious leaders must learn from the fate of the former Yugoslavia. But all nationalists everywhere ignore resemblances between similar sets of facts in their country and in other countries.  Today we see the same blind zeal on the part of Fundamentalists in Syria.

This type of nationalism revels in victories, triumphs and the heroism of the Armed Forces that defeated the enemy who is branded as terrorists because of their methods ignoring the cause for which they were using violence . But such blind nationalism is based on self deception and this self-deception led Prabakaran to disastrous miscalculations based on wishful thinking rather than facts. As for the Armed Force,  we can deny all the allegations of war crimes and humanitarian violations. But we have to convince not ourselves but the world, that these allegations are false concoctions by the Tamil Diaspora. Orwell says: “Political and military commentators, like astrologers, can survive almost any mistake, because their more devoted followers do not look to them for an appraisal of the facts but for the stimulation of nationalistic loyalties.”But the world at large will want to ascertain whatever is the truth through an independent inquiry. As George Orwell stated “the nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”So we refuse to even consider the possibility that such crimes could have been ever committed by our Armed Forces.

The world does not accept that patriotism overrides the fundamental values of truth and justice. Nor do the religions. Nor does the United Nations Declarations which we as a State have signed up to observe. These are also the values of the Commonwealth Charter and President Rajapakse when he takes over the Chairmanship of the Commonwealth will be expected not only to uphold them but also to preach those values to all other Commonwealth Stats as well for the next two years.

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