Why do the so-called intellectuals sneer at nationalism and patriotism?
There is a famous saying of Oscar Wilde that the so-called intellectuals often like to toss around: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
Mistakenly, since most of the so-called intellectuals are not properly well read, they mixup patriotism with nationalism and often end up saying, “National is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
But the issue is not whether they mistakenly intermix patriotism and nationalism in a statement made by a British intellectual, the issue is the sentiment, the attitude, of these intellectuals, when they say such things.
Among these intellectuals, for example, it has become a matter of pride to claim that they have been declared “anti-nationals” by the government and in India’s case, mostly by Hindu communal forces, whatever they are.
Take for instance this cover page of the recent Elle magazine on which a Lord Meghnathis-looking Arundhati Roy is portrayed as lavishly saying that she is on the A-list of anti-nationals.
This is interesting because I have observed that many intellectuals of her class wear the badge of anti-national with great pride. It’s like they have been crucified for following the path of righteousness and like great crusaders, prophets and revolutionaries, they have been branded as renegades, pariahs and anti-nationals by the governments and by those who subscribe to the divisive and communal tactics of the government of the day (which is, of course, the BJP these days).
I’m sure that during regular soirées they tease each other with, “you are anti-national, no, you are anti-national,” while eating caviar and downing it with premium-class champagne, and the whole charade culminates into a big bout of laughter.
Lots of ambiguity warps the concept of nationalism and anti-nationalism. This is why intellectuals like Arundhati Roy hold patriotism/nationalism in contempt. Whether this ambiguity is purposely maintained to keep people in a state of confusion or whether they really mean it, is debatable.
If you ask me, these people purposely maintain the state of confusion so that when they blur the lines, they can easily claim that their own concept of what is nationalism and what is anti-nationalism is not clear and hence, they are not at a great fault.
In fact, people who accuse them of being anti-national are to be accused of propagating an outdated and duplicitous notion of nationalism and anti-nationalism. This state of confusion is taken to such a great level that people like Oscar Wilde equate patriots with scoundrels.
Why have things come to such a state? Why are nationalism and patriotism dirty words in certain circles and why do people belonging to these circles get to be called “intellectuals” and people who openly say that they are nationalistic and patriotic are labelled as, by people belonging to the circle mentioned above, unrefined, motivated, less educated and communal?
In other countries there might be different reasons, but in India’s case, such intellectuals are basically the proverbial McCauley’s children. McCauley, when the British were digging their roots deep in India, wanted to create a class of “elite” Indians who would ridicule their traditions, religion and cultural roots and would hold in great esteem the norms and ways of their colonial rulers.
Physical and material colonisation can be overcome, but it is very difficult to overcome mental colonisation which these “elite” Indians were subjected to. They were also made powerful so that they could wield their influence over even those Indians who didn’t fall victim to McCauley’s policies. Most of these elites wielded power in the echelons of bureaucracy, royalty, literature, education and to an extent, even politics.
After independence opportunistic politicians immediately took over. They realised that in order to wield unchallenged power, they needed to keep the influence of McCauley’s children intact so that through them, they could continue their dynasties unopposed. The corridors of political power were easily accessible to these McCauley’s children and in return, these McCauley’s children were given the task of feeding the minds of the masses with as much clutter as possible. This nexus between McCauley’s children and the political class has gone on for many decades.
The current breed of intellectuals is nothing but the offsprings of multiple generations of McCauley’s children.
So for them, anything Indian, anything cultural, anything traditional, is to be looked down upon. The dirty, unwashed masses indulge in tradition and culture, not these elites.
Patriotism and nationalism are steeped deep into our cultural and traditional values. In India, religion often gets mixed up with patriotism and nationalism and hence, many call the country Bharat Mata and even pray in front of the image. This is a big reason why the intellectual class isn’t comfortable with the ideas of patriotism and nationalism.
Another reason is that patriotism and nationalism are associated with pride and progress. The problem in India is not that we are patriotic and nationalistic, the problem is we are not patriotic and nationalistic enough. We don’t have strong feelings for our country. We hold each other in contempt. We are divided into various castes and classes. We don’t care how our surroundings are. We don’t care for cleanliness. We don’t care about lawlessness. We don’t demand better education for our children. We don’t demand better hospitals for our fellow citizens. Our policemen are worse than goons. Our municipalities don’t work. The list goes on and on.
Why is it so?
Because our sense of nationalism and patriotism is constantly suppressed. The intellectuals who were supposed to be the backbone of the country’s thought-process have betrayed multiple generations especially after independence. Somehow they have convinced us into believing that we are inferior beings and since we are inferior compared to other countries, we shouldn’t feel, strongly, patriotic and nationalistic. If we feel patriotic and nationalistic, we are to feel embarrassed about it.
This is why they do exactly the opposite of how the masses think. This is why they support extremists and separatists. This is why they constantly encourage caste divides in the country. This is why they are constantly selling India’s poverty and misery to the outside world and even among our own countrymen and women. This is why they make sure that there is no sense of pride in the historical accounts of the country. This is why they keep on pointing out to us what’s wrong with the country and what’s wrong with us while never talking about what’s great about us. If you believe them, we are the most wretched nation in the world and our culture, our religion and our traditions are a matter of shame rather than pride.
They know that with a strong sense of nationalism and patriotism we will start taking pride in our country and when we start taking pride in our country we will try to improve its lot. We will demand our politicians to perform. Why do you think of a country is so dirty and our rivers, mountains and jungles are being ruthlessly destroyed? Because we don’t care for our country. If we start being nationalistic and patriotic, we will start loving our country, we will start caring for it, and this is something that makes these intellectuals very uncomfortable.
Things have changed for better after the formation of Narendra Modi’s government and this fact keeps the intellectuals twisting in pain. Even if you manage to ignore the concept of nationalism and patriotism vis-à-vis Narendra Modi, the sheer hard work he is putting in, these intellectual fear, is going to spoil the people because then, they will expect all politicians to work like him, or at least be like him.