When we are global citizens...

When we are global citizens...

In the World Values Survey, the Patriotism Score table from the years 1995-97 showed India to be third in the world, scoring a 3.70 in a total of 4. (Venezuela was first with a score of 3.733.) The score was based on the average answer of the high income residents of a country to the question — “Are you proud to be a member of your nationality?” Yet, this was one of the peak periods of emigration of Indians to other countries, looking for a better life. So, what does patriotism actually mean?

In its simplest sense, patriotism is the love, devotion and loyalty that one has to one’s own country. But in day-to-day-life in today’s flat world, this definition struggles to anchor itself in reality.

It is almost a given that we love the country of our birth. Our early years are always wrapped in the spangled veil of nostalgia, the ‘good old days’, as it were. But as we grow older, our ideas begin to change as the rose tint in our glasses fades. We realise that though the ways and traditions of our land — our clothes, festivals and customs — are familiar and comforting, things are not what they could or should be. We find our living standards squalid, our collective morals appalling, our legal system deplorable and our work ethics abysmal. We look outward to other countries and find much in them to admire and covet. We sometimes even leave our country of birth to go in search of better living conditions. Does this mean we do not love our country anymore? Could it be that we are not patriotic any longer?

It used to be simpler in the old days, when news took days to travel around the world. People who lived outside our lands were truly ‘foreign’ — faceless and strange — and their looks, food, culture and customs were totally different. Blacks, whites, the ‘yellow’ Eastern Asians and ‘Red’ Native Americans — they were truly alien. Boycott of ‘their’ stuff was easier when only specific items, like fine china and imported cloth, were used, and only a privileged few used them. Wars were fought against these aliens who were portrayed as evil monsters, and people gladly joined up. Patriotism meant ‘Us against Them’ and since we were all good, and they were all bad, it worked just fine. 

Today, the whole world has flattened out, and is just a click of the remote away. Things have transmogrified to such an extent that there is no longer a clear-cut ‘Them’ or even a definite ‘Us’. For example, if our niece is born in the States or Australia and is a citizen of that country, is she ‘Us’ or ‘Them’? Every object we use has international links, and the slogan ‘Be Indian, Buy Indian’ is hopelessly obsolete. In fact, I challenge you to find one vehicle that is completely Indian made... even bullock carts have rubber tyres. Our entire lives, including food, speech, entertainment, why, even culture have evolved to incorporate ideas and items from the international smorgasbord. Travel has become more accessible to all, so many of us have actually seen ‘foreign lands’ and understood the similarities and differences in our lives. One vacation to Thailand or Sweden, and we ‘know’ the Thai or the Swedes. The world has shrunk to such an extent that the concept of country is now analogous to a large neighbourhood. No longer are ‘They’ all evil.

Life, as we knew it, has also changed, the focus today being on the individual rather than the group. Earlier, for an individual to progress, the entire group had to progress. These days, every individual is judged on his or her own merit. Witness the rise of Satya Nadella, the newest CEO of Microsoft. So the country is not necessarily an asset for an individual’s growth; to the contrary, it can, in some cases, even be a liability.

All these facts bring home to us something that we don’t usually think of... that countries are formed just by lines drawn on a map. Today, we are all citizens of the world. The boundaries may limit our lives to some extent, but they don’t rule our lives any more. So, if the concept of country begins to fade out, what do we transfer our allegiance to?One answer comes to us when we look at pictures of our beautiful blue-and-green, cloud-swept Earth taken from space. Maybe instead of being just patriotic, we should turn planet-triotic!

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