“Nationalism is a sacred passion, a great moral and ethical belief, a social expression on a national plane, immense love for the country. It is an infrangibly notion to treat loyalty to one’s nation superior to all other loyalties.”
A true nationalist is one who regards his country as the cause of his existence and ready to abandon his own interests for its welfare. An avowed nationalist never minds sacrificing everything including his life for the cause of the nation. People adore and glorify him as an incarnation of super being. After death he is treated as an eternal foundation of inspiration, an ideal to be followed by all, a beacon light which exhibits right path even after his departure.
The term nation is derived from the Latin word ‘natio’ which means birth or race. The dictionary meaning of nation is the population of a state beginning from a common race.
In modern political terminology, however, the word ‘nation’ has many more qualifications than mere racial affinity. It is as in a territorial community with historical and sociological bond. According to Carleton, a nation is “any group of persons who utter a common language, who cherish common historical traditions and who constitute or think they form a distinct cultural society in which among other factors, religion and politics may have played important though not necessarily continuous roles”.
Nationalism can’t be treated as a passive thing or inconspicuous way of leading life. It is such an active and self-motivated inner emotion which urges him to do and dare anything for the cause of nation. They die so that others may live.
The factors which rescue the growth of nationalism may be common geographical, historical, political, cultural, racial, religious, economic and linguistic interests which require watching for development and which create, promote and maintain national feelings. The most important factor of national feeling is geographical unity. It is this unity which reveals and promotes the pride of possession of a common land, which may be adored as a ‘motherland’ or ‘fatherland’. Nationalism has common cultural traits signifying unity of ideas and ideal. Unity of culture is based on common customs and traditions, common manners and folklore and common tastes in art and literature. The overall impact is one of a certain dominant view with its common rights and responsibilities to usher in a better standard of life for the fellow citizens.
Common race is also a unifying force. It binds the hearts of the people owing to common ancestry. It helps greatly in promoting and sustaining the national spirit. Common economic interest is the most potent factor contributing to the promotion of nationalism. The desire to raise the standard of living and to make life comfortable interesting and useful, enables the citizens, without considerations of race, caste, creed or religion to help the state in improving the economy of the country in all directions. Members of varying religious denominations work shoulder to shoulder to fulfill their common economic interests. This greatly helps in binding the people together in the web of nationalism.
Language also plays a vital role in binding people together and creating consciousness among them as a nation. A common language enables the people to project common ideals, sentiments and feelings, establish the common standards of morality, manners and justice and to conserve historical traditions so as to produce a common national psychology. Nationalism is conceived as a positive feature owing to the following causes:
- a) It fosters love for one’s own motherland or fatherland.
- b) It removes the sense of selfishness, narrowness. The nation thus makes progress in every direction.
- c) It inspires deeds of heroism and sacrifice among the people for the achievement of common ideals.
- d) It fosters a healthy spirit of fellow-feeling among people and tends to develop in them a strong desire to improve their own lot and that of their brethren living in the country.
- e) It helps to preserve ‘unity amidst diversity’ by integrating diverse elements into a common nation through processes of assimilation.
- f) It enables the people to present a united front at the time of need to defend national sovereignty.
There is also negative side to nationalism. It becomes occasionally visible with its ugly manifestations, when it takes the form of aggressive nationalism. Aggressive nationalism is never healthy as it produces intolerance and hatred for other nations. There is evidence in history to exhibit that it was the aggressive national spirit among the French and the Germans which was responsible for frequent wars between the two nations. Aggressive nationalism is always a threat to the welfare of other nations. Some of the philanthropists and enlighten thinkers of present time has supported the idea of cosmopolitanism that means the whole world is the nation of everyone. The theory of cosmopolitanism discards the boundaries of countries and everyone is the citizen of the world. It advocates that in the present age of globalization, scientific inventions, space research has brought the world closer wonderfully, so it shall be a folly to talk of nationalism. The idea of cosmopolitanism is, slowly and gradually started, getting recognition and acceptance now-a-days. We may sum up the concept of nationalism with Alfred De Grazia’s observation: “Nationalism combines love of country and suspiciousness of foreigners. Love of country comes from shared values, and suspiciousness of foreigners comes from the belief that foreigners do not share such values in the same strength. The first shared value is the love of familiar places- the neighborhood, the land, the homes, the valleys and the mountains, all of the surroundings that one loves because they have been part of oneself from infancy.”