There are times when kids could display outrageous behavior. Imagine for a moment that on a random sunny day, an abstemiously disciplinarian mother of a 10-year-old kid enters his room and, to her despise, discovers that his room is in complete mess. The sight of the untidy room infuriates her since this is the millionth time the kid has been heedless to her demand of keeping his room clean. As a final attempt, the mother warns him about the consequences that he would face should he choose to leave his room in further mess. So, her son considers this warning as a mere bluster and flagrantly responds, “Are you questioning my integrity in keeping this room clean? You are insulting this house and the family that resides here, by calling my room untidy. By labeling my room unclean, you are questioning dad’s dignity and all the hard work that he has put in building this house where you live and thrive. You are ANTI-FAMILY. If you have a problem with this house or any of its unclean rooms, then feel free to move out and settle in some other house in our neighborhood.”
It is obvious that the impudent behavior and response of that son is wrong on many levels, and, of course, he will be met with a counter-response from his mother, as he will be torpedoed by several blows launched from her footwear. From this scenario, we see something that has become a norm in India. Whenever a voice of criticism or concern is seen taking form, it is labelled as cynical and unpatriotic. Even though an argument may have a constructive criticism, the most common response appears to be: “If you’ve got problem with this country, then go and live in…” You probably know the name of the country in that blank space. Criticism and voicing concern are not unpatriotic. It is a crucial part of healthy democracy.
Now, going back to the titular question: Do we need a refresher course in patriotism? The answer is No (unless you didn’t pay attention during social science classes in school). If we rephrase the question to this: Do we need a refresher course in patriotism from public figures? The answer is unreservedly No. You don’t want to be taught about subjects like nationalism or patriotism from celebrities, corporate heads, sports stars, film stars, politicians and so forth. Most of them won’t be able to answer basic social science questions, let alone talk about patriotism without looking at the script supplied by their PR machinery.
Public figures are out there to sell, and they will use whatever tool that is available close at hand. So, don’t you think they can use patriotism as one? They rile up the nationalistic sentiments to exploit them to their best advantage. An actor uses it to promote their movie, capitalists use it to sell their products, charlatans use it to get spiritual followers, new anchors to get viewership, and politicians, to get votes.
Public figures, in fact celebrated public figures, deliberately contribute in validating the action of quelling the voices of dissent and criticism. With their strong hold on pop-culture and public view, they influence their fans, masses and sometimes generations on a stupendously huge level. When they abhor or affront those who question people in power, the intoxicated fanboys follow suit.
Recently, a popular Indian cricketer was found lashing out at an individual in a video. This individual had left an online comment in which he stated that he preferred English and Australian batsmen to Indian players. Chances are that you have probably come across this video in which the sportsman can be seen responding to messages during the launch of his mobile app, and this is what the fuming cricketer had to respond: “I don’t think you should live in India, go and live somewhere else. This particular cricketer, who enjoys a Rock star like status, recently chose Italy as his wedding destination, endorses Audi, a German car; Puma, another German product; and, claims to drink only Evian, a branded bottled water from France. Now, for someone who chooses to drown himself in foreign product endorsements, displays reproach and shares a lesson on whether people deserve to live in the country for having a favorite sportsman outside India, comes across as quite hypocritical. His passive-aggressive comment of advising people to live in another country if they don’t like something that is Indian adds yet another drop in the ocean of hyper-nationalistic sentiment in their sub-conscious mind.
Do people really need lessons on patriotism from celebrities whose idea of patriotism is so slacken that they cling on to it only when it suits them?
Joining this league of such public figures are news anchors in India. There was a time when elders used to advice youngsters to watch TV news debates in order to improve their vocabulary and strengthen their command over the language. But I doubt that would be used a method now that could be used for building language skills. Indian television is teeming with news channels which are competing to get the coveted title of the most viewership. The principal job a news anchor who is also a journalist is to scrutinize power and privilege without end, but what we get to see is yelling, screaming and more screaming. They believe that patriotism is what you assert with a loud voice, even if you are wrong. Sadly, there is an exponentially large number of populaces that buys whatever tripe that is packaged as debate, news or facts and sold by these news anchors. Staying away from such news anchors is the need of the hour because news channels have become peak corporate houses, their objective is not present news, but to sell news and sell it, whatever it costs, even if its costs communal harmony, security or public sanity. They schedule their debates on a prime time so they can sell it as entertainment. And what are the debates mostly about? Anything under the sun, but nothing that would question the people in power. It is obvious news anchors are under tremendous pressure to generate TRPs. The only way they can attract audience is by creating a delusion that you are supposed to hate what they hate, supposed to believe what they believe, because that is the only way you can keep the nation paramount. If you stick to one news debate till the end you will notice how news anchors suppress certain panelists who bring logical argument, by talking over them or abruptly cutting out the time allotted to them. We have come to a point where news anchors decide for us what is right or wrong what is nationalistic or not. They decide to be the judge, jury and executioners through incoherent hollering and by selling biased information. These news anchors sell hate, paranoia, fanaticism, bigotry and jingoism through misinformation, and they know very well that misinformation is like an addictive drug: if you take it daily, you will turn into an addict, a different man.
A simple online search will help you know who own a particular news channel. Once you find out who’s the owner and might also want to find out which political party that owner is inclined towards, because if news anchor of that channel is vehemently biased towards that party, then you are better off switching off your TV, because you know you are not getting unbiased, unsullied news from the news anchor of that channel, and most importantly you wouldn’t want to get lessons of patriotism from people who are under payroll of politicians.
If you are an ardent viewer of prime-time news debates, you will discover that the news anchors support certain politician(s) that they are biased towards. It is as if they are making it obvious as to which politician they religiously support. Politicians are usually looked upon as invincible, celestial creatures by their fans. Yes, Fans. I used the word fans because they are also viewed as celebrated public figures, which should make every normal person ask: WHY???? Why is a politician considered as a divine entity who has parted skies and descended upon earth to rescue humans from their misery? Why do people forget that a politician is a mere human like any other person who is out there to represent a certain group of people? It is because of such attitude that most of the politicians, if not all, take public and the responsibility towards them for granted.
It is ok if you prefer a certain politician over other, but it is not all ok to fall for your favorite politician’s bigotry, jingoism or hatred. A conscientious politician will never define or give you lessons on patriotism, because they know that the people he represents are matured adults who do not seek civic lessons, but seek to address issues such as employment, safety and security, law and order, infrastructure, education, health care and so forth.
A corrupt politician, on the other hand, will always try to inject paranoia in you. He will showcase himself as a gaudy entity who is out there to rescue you save you from your neighbor who is out there for your life just because he doesn’t identify himself with your community. A dishonest politician will swerve you from main issues and his incompetency. He will try to convince you to hate your neighbor, friends and even your family if they are not on the same page as the politician and his ideologies. Such politicians will try to plant the notion in your sub-conscious mind that questioning his failures is unpatriotic because the country equates to that politician and that politician equates to country. They will pit you against your everyone. These politicians will attend celebrity weddings but won’t meet the distressed farmers, grieving voters or families of martyred soldiers.
As voters, as countrymen and as emphatic humans, we need to say no to such politicians. The only way they gain control over vulnerable folks is by taking refuge under sentiments of patriotism. You must identify who is fighting for people and who fights with people that question these politicians. Every law-abiding citizen is a boss of people who choose to be their representative. Never do you choose to be pathetic, servile fanboys under their charm, because democracy places every citizen above politicians, and IT IS your duty to question them and keep in line.
When you are hired by a company, you are not designated as a crusader who fights for the entity. You are hired to do a set of tasks based on which your performance is evaluated, and that evaluation determines whether you are fit to continue working for the firm. Likewise, a politician is voted in to do the job, if he fails to perform or tries to hide his failures under the garb of patriotism, then you know he is not fit to represent you any further.
In conclusion, don’t let any public figure or anyone for that matter be the flag bearer of patriotism because there are lot of fanatics out there who are ready to hound people using the nationalistic sentiment as a tool, or else the day is not so far when you criticize your children for keeping their room unclean, pat you might get a response from the other side, “What? You are calling the house that gives you shelter dirty? How treacherous of you? You are ANTI-FAMILY. Go and live in the neighbor’s house.”