A nation is formed by the set of people who inhabit a certain geographical landmass, are a part of a consolidated political unit, have shared rights and duties, follow a common legal system and so on. But more than all of this, a nation is an expression of people’s ideas and aspirations. These ideas have originated, condensed, evolved, lost and re-gained prominence over tens of centuries. These very ideas and aspirations of people are expressed in the various symbols and rituals which a nation chooses for itself as its motifs. The internalization of and identification with these symbols and rituals is called as national identity. The respect and loyalty towards these symbols and rituals, which are in turn representation of the nation- its people, is called patriotism.
The history of the origin of National identity illustrates the importance of political events in the emergence of modern nation-states. It seems to be a superset of a combination of factors which include linguistic identities, regional loyalties, culture, religion and history. Linguistic identities have been a feature of several demands of national self- determination. The wave of Nationalism in Europe in the 18th and 19th century and the more recent struggle for and foundation of Bangladesh was largely based upon this very premise. One Nation-One Language was also mooted as the idea for the basis of national identity largely based upon the European experience. Similarly, regional identities have also acted as the foundation of national identities.
Culture has also served as the bedrock of various nationalisms. The diversity of cultures has been a challenge to the formation of a strong singular national identity. This line of argumentation also spilt over to religious identity as well. Religion was used as the basis for the two-nation theory, which led to the partition of United India into India and Pakistan. The modern state of Israel is also an example of the formation of National identity since an imagined coherence between Culture and Religion on one hand and Nation-State on the other.
When various groups feel assured that their identities would not be threatened, but will actually flourish in the idea or imagination of a nation, only then a diverse but united nation like India can sustain and grow. Only an inclusive imagination can breed patriots, since exclusivity breeds division, succession and war.
The turn of the 20th century was seen as a challenge to the age of Nations, as it has been popularly referred to in the parlance of social sciences, due to unhindered rise of globalization, the emergence of multinational companies with their revenues several times the GDP of several countries, and the age of the internet which connected the world more than ever before. There was also a faction of scholars that saw it as approaching ‘clash of civilizations’ where multiple national or other identities are bound to engage in a clash, to emerge as the superior-most among all.
However, both prophecies can be seen to be missing the mark. The globalization has not only brought the world closer than ever but it has also sensitized people towards their own identities. It has taught the world to be more appreciative of the diversity of cultures, thoughts and nationalities.
Similarly, the increased contact between the various identities is not leading to any clash of civilizations but, in fact, has resulted in globally coordinated efforts to contain such clashes. Foundation of various international forums and signing of various trans-national treaties to engage with issues of security, energy and environmental concerns are cases in point.
Towards the conclusion, it can be said that National identity and patriotism are deeply humane terminologies. They represent the urge of the humankind to be a part of the collective and contribute meaningfully and loyally to it. Similarly, there may be more than one ways of not only subscribing to a national identity but also of displaying the patriotism towards one’s country. One must always be ready and vigilant to defend one’s national prestige but must not enforce one’s own ideas and ideals of national identity and patriotism upon everyone else.
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