September 26, 2007

Chauvinism-by-default : A psychological tour

Hi there..

Are you a patriot? Do you love your country? And be willing to lay down your life if it came to it? Allow me to be break you up.

I was disillusioned when I read Albert Einstein’s “The world as I see it”. He says:

This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of the herd nature, the military system, which I abhor. That a man can take pleasure in marching in formation to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him. He has only been given his big brain by mistake; a backbone was all he needed. This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism by order, senseless violence, and all the pestilent nonsense that does by the name of patriotism–how I hate them! War seems to me a mean, contemptible thing: I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in such an abominable business. And yet so high, in spite of everything, is my opinion of the human race that I believe this bogey would have disappeared long ago, had the sound sense of the nations not been systematically corrupted by commercial and political interests acting through the schools and the Press.

He was of course talking about “patriotic” soldiers. I want to go beyond this and look into all sorts of chauvinism, where patriotism like behavior is seen: religion, culture, nationality, creed, the college you attend, the place you work.

Have you ever expressed opinions of the kind “I am a proud Indian” or “India is the greatest country” or “We have the best culture” (substitute with any other country as the case may be). If you make such a statement, you owe yourself a little question. “WHY?” What makes India better, that you are proud of it. Why is it better than the US, or Australia, or Denmark, or Switzerland?

Do you defend your university as “It is the best?” or “My religion is the best”. Again.. how is it better than others?

Coming to the soldiers in you, who are ready to lay down your lives for the country, have you for a moment wondered what it is that you are laying your life down for? Why is the land on one side of the border worth your blood, and the land on the other side the blood of another being? Just because you were born into it? Just because the people around you consider it ‘noble’. Those people, who in turn base their opinions upon the opinion of still others?

These are manifestations of what I call “Chauvinism-by-default”. You defend, or are proud of, an entity solely on the reason that you were born into it. If you were instead born in another country, you would be ready to lay your life down for that country. If you were born into another religion, you’d have gone through a separate set of activities and events, that would have led you into believing that that religion is “The one”.

Some of you might have seen the fallacy by now. Some of you may say “Well yes, thats true. I agree with the you, I would be a patriot of the US if I were born there. It’s the being a patriot that is the good thing, the virtue.”

THAT is the fallacy. It is nothing short of an abominable evil to be a chauvinist-by-default. Just being born, or enrolled, or selected into something, does not bring it above others. It does not prove it correct, it does not alter it’s nature. And it should not be, even in your own eyes.

I hope you see the reasoning. Take some time to mull over these words. You have been shown the door; entering it is wholly up to you. For some, this disillusionment may be the hardest thing to do. If you believe that the truth, no matter how hard, should be accepted, then you will come out of these reflections as a non-patriot.

If you do continue being a patriot, a chauvinist-by-default, understand that you’ve just lost your right to blame the world for its sad state. The reason, simply, is you.

[This was written sometime back, but disappeared when I changed my webhost. So, back again..]