Friday, July 24, 2009

My thoughts on Patriotism

Whenever anyone says anything critical about Kuwait, whether it is constructive or not, there are always some Super-Patriots who mention that if expats don't like it here they can GTFO.

I've thought about that word 'Patriotism' a lot. A few years ago when I was in India, a news announcer on TV was talking about a group of Pakistanis who had been killed. And to my horror, my cousins in the room were all cheering, the sole reason for their enthusiasm being that these people had been Pakistani.

Does it mean I'm not a patriot unless I support every stupid thing that other Indians do? Does it mean I'm unpatriotic if this sort of 'patriotism' makes me angry and I become more than a little ashamed of what we have become as a people?

If so then I am not a patriot, as we view the word today.

Don't get me wrong. I love going to India. Heck, I like Indian food, Indian classical music, I think Indian girls in saris look fiiine, and I'm the first one of the dancefloor when some bhangra comes on. But I find cricket boring, I think we have the funniest english speaking accent in the world, and I can't STAND Bollywood movies. I know a lot of Kuwaitis who would fight me on that last point :D

And then I think about Kuwait. Would it make citizens feel so unpatriotic to question certain ways in which the country was headed? Do citizens feel they need to patriotically protect Kuwait's reputation from whining expats and every comment made about life here? Sure there are always some people who whine about Kuwait because that's all they're good at. But some people, Kuwaitis and expats, actually bring things up because they really want to see Kuwait do better and be the best it can be. We know the country can change for the better in order to advance in the eyes of Kuwaitis and Expats.

I'm always intrigued by phrases like "Proud to be Indian", "Proud to be Kuwaiti", "Pinoy Pride" (Philippines) etc. etc. Although it might work for some people, for me personally, a phrase like that doesn't cover the entirety of how I feel about who I am and where I'm from.

To be proud I need to have something tangible to take pride in. I'm certainly proud about a lot of things in India. But that doesn't completely blind me to the fact that there are a lot of shameful things going on in my country. Proud to be Indian might work as a nifty bumper sticker or a facebook status but it doesn't go much deeper than that. I'm equally proud to have grown up in Kuwait and had the opportunity to be a part of a multicultural environment where I've learned, amongst other positive things, to form friendships with Pakistanis. Something that is rare back in India.

Maybe you have differing views on patriotism and really 'proud to be _____' does work for you. But working on something tangible to be proud of, means so much more. Let's not let patriotism blind us to the fact that we can WORK on the negative things about our countries to create even MORE positive things to be proud of. And isn't that real patriotism?

Consider these quotes. You don't have to agree with all of them. But it's worth a think!

"My country, right or wrong" is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying "My mother, drunk or sober."

“A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.” - GK Chesterton

I will fight for my country, but I will not lie for her. - Zorah Neale Hurston

Patriotism, the virtue of the vicious. - Oscar Wilde

Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on his own dunghill. - Richard Aldington

If I knew something that would serve my country but would harm mankind, I would never reveal it; for I am a citizen of humanity first and by necessity, and a citizen of France second, and only by accident. - Montesquieu

He loves his country best who strives to make it best. - Robert G. Ingersoll

To me, it seems a dreadful indignity to have a soul controlled by geography. -George Santayana

Patriotism ... is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that robs man of his self-respect and dignity, and increases his arrogance and conceit. - Emma Goldman


mEL said...

patriotism is like a legal way of being racist and hating prefer be free loving and say " i respect " whoever whatever.,...cast or creed...but an unfortunate fact is patriotism is so diff. from racism :)

Anonymous said...

"I think Indian girls in saris look fiiine". I liked that one, and yes they do look fine wearing those Saris.

You're right about the definition of patriotism; criticism is a positive thing since it always allows us to reflect on ourselves and improve.

The problem, however, isn't about patriotism; if it were, you wouldn't have had all that corruption going on. Problem goes back to two things: the inability to take in criticism since its perceived as something degrading or shameful when, in fact, it isn't at all; it's a chance to redeem our actions and work for a great cause.

The second issue here, which I find to play a bigger role, is how wide spread this is. The maltreatment of domestic workers seems to be occurring on such a large scale that it is much easier to turn the other way than to face it, come to terms with its prevalence, and deal with it accordingly.

Which is why it's crucial never to give up, and to try to form more groups who would spread the word, even if it's one person at a time. This post was so cool by the way; liked the ethnic exchange of info there :-)

Keep up the good work Nabeel, never despair.

Anonymous said...

Dear Nabeel,

I stumbled upon this blog today and I have to say this is the single best thing I have seen in terms of publicizing the plight of migrant workers in Kuwait. The stuff you do is absolutely admirable. I am a Kuwaiti citizen, born and raised here, and i've always cared about this issue. The amount of xenophobia in Kuwait is beyond disgusting. But 'caring' and feeling 'compassion' is very different than action. I know many Kuwaitis who share these feelings but like me they prefer to pretend that everything is hunky-dory so long as they don't see any of these abuses. Your posts alone are a great service. Nabeel, could you please contact me via:*. I am very interested in doing something along the lines of this blog, but that is targeted to Kuwaitis. If you are interested please do so as soon as possible as I will be traveling soon. Although the laws are part of the problem, I honestly don't think it's the laws and the government that is the root of the problem, it's people's attitudes.

Please contact me asap.

I'm very sad that it took me three years to discover this blog!

*temporary e-mail I just made. Like you I don't want my e-mail publicly available online :)

email said...

Just to clarify:

The reason I want you to e-mail me is because I have a lot of ideas that I want to discuss with you on how to help. I want to learn from your experience. Most of all, however, I want to help.

Anonymous said...

patriotism my friend is a great thing,, but it's not something a person could decide for another.. even questioning authority or any kind of criticizing may be considered patriotism if you think about it.. s/he is thinking about a better way