Thursday, 9 February 2017

On Patriotism
" Kabira khada bazaar main liye lukhati haath,
Jo ghar phoonke apna, chale hamare saath "
Literally this doha ( couplet ) of the great poet Kabir means
" Kabir stands in the market, flaming torch in hand.
Whoever burns down his house should come with me "
But that is only the figurative meaning. Its real meaning is :
" Whoever stands with the people, with patriotism in his heart
Should forget his self interest, and follow me "
Human beings have two basic attributes, reason and emotion. Of the two great ideological builders of modern Europe, Voltaire and Rousseau, the former emphasized reason and the latter emphasized emotion. Not that Voltaire did not have emotion or that Rousseau did not have reason. But the whole point is about the emphasis. Voltaire certainly had empathy for the suffering people, but he emphasized on rationalism, and was a fierce critic of religious bigotry. Rousseau, on the other hand, emphasized on compassion ( like the Sufis ) and attacked the whole feudal system, which was the basic cause of suffering.
The English political philosopher Hobbes in his ' Leviathan' had written that men are wicked by nature, caring only for their self interest. Rousseau disagrees, and says that apart from self interest, men also have the attribute of compassion for the suffering of his fellow humans
Thus, in his treatise ' Discourse on the Origins of Inequality ', written in 1754, he writes :
" Mandeville well knew that, in spite of all their morality, men would have never been better than monsters, had not nature bestowed on them a sense of compassion, to aid their reason: but he did not see that from this quality alone flow all those social virtues, of which he denied man the possession. But what is generosity, clemency or humanity but compassion applied to the weak, to the guilty, or to mankind in general? Were it even true that pity is no more than a feeling, which puts us in the place of the sufferer, a feeling, obscure yet lively in a savage, developed yet feeble in civilised man; this truth would have no other consequence than to confirm my argument. Compassion must, in fact, be the stronger, the more the animal beholding any kind of distress identifies himself with the animal that suffers.
It is philosophy ( i.e. self interest ) that isolates man, and bids him say, at sight of the misfortunes of others: "Perish if you will, I am secure." Nothing but such general evils as threaten the whole community can disturb the tranquil sleep of the philosopher, or tear him from his bed. A murder may with impunity be committed under his window; he has only to put his hands to his ears and argue a little with himself, to prevent nature, which is shocked within him, from identifying itself with the unfortunate sufferer. Uncivilised man has not this admirable talent; and for want of reason and wisdom, is always foolishly ready to obey the first promptings of humanity. It is the populace that flocks together at riots and street-brawls, while the wise man prudently makes off. It is the mob and the market-women, who part the combatants, and hinder gentle-folks from cutting one another's throats.
It is then certain that compassion is a natural feeling, which, by moderating the violence of love of self in each individual, contributes to the preservation of the whole species. It is this compassion that hurries us without reflection to the relief of those who are in distress: it is this which in a state of nature supplies the place of laws, morals and virtues, with the advantage that none are tempted to disobey its gentle voice: it is this which will always prevent a sturdy savage from robbing a weak child or a feeble old man of the sustenance they may have with pain and difficulty acquired, if he sees a possibility of providing for himself by other means: it is this which inculcates that sublime maxim of rational justice. Do to others as you would have them do unto you.
In a word, it is rather in this natural feeling than in any subtle arguments that we must look for the cause of that repugnance, which every man would experience in doing evil, even independently of the maxims of education. Although it might belong to Socrates and other minds of the like craft to acquire virtue by reason, the human race would long since have ceased to be, had its preservation depended only on the reasonings of the individuals composing it."
Patriotism is compassion for the whole nation. A genuine patriot forgets his self interest, and fights for the upliftment of his nation, and for the end of suffering of his fellow countrymen.
History is full of examples of patriots. Cincinnatus was a farmer, but when Rome was in danger he left his farm, took command of the Roman army, defeated the enemies of Rome, and then retired to his farm and obscurity. George Washington was a rich farmer in Virginia, but when the American colonies rose in rebellion against British rule, he took command of the Continental Army, defeated the British forces, and then handed back the sword of his command to the American Continental Congress, retiring to his farm.
In India, Bhagat Singh, Surya Sen ( Masterda ), Chandrashekhar Azad, Bismil, Ashfaqulla, Rajguru, Khudiram Bose, etc gave their lives for liberating India from British rule. Countless other such examples can be given. These men never bothered about their self interest, but had the flame of patriotism in their hearts, and they were guided by Kabir's doha, although they may have never heard of his name.
Today India needs genuine patriots to overcome the huge challenges it faces.
But unfortunately I am disappointed in most of our educated youth, in whose breasts the flame of patriotism should be burning. Most of them are selfish and careerists, whose only desire is to get cushy jobs and make money, and care two hoots for the country. How then will India arise ?

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