Monday, May 26, 2003
For once, I got thru a D'Souza posting without gagging or screaming my grey matter out. I am not going to say whether or not I agree with D'Souza, because I do not think even he understands what he has been writing. This essay, seen in isolation is fine. But put it along with his previous article on this topic, things take on a different color altogether. So, let me just comment on this article in isolation.

First the easier question to answer: Yes, I do agree with D'Souza in that every achievement of an Indian, whether in Kargil, or in an operation theater, or in a research lab, or the sports arena should fill us with pride. And yes, even if the loss of a Sanjoy Ghose may have gone unsung, it was indeed a huge loss for the nation. He is no less a hero than Lt.Col. Vijayaraghavan, who died in Kargil. Each served people dear to them, and died for that cause.

Now to the wider question raised by D'Souza. Are pride and patriotism self-defeating?
D'Souza need not pain himself so much with patriotism or national pride, which are concepts involving a society or a multitude of people. They are in many ways similar to the other competitive emotions we all experience - ambition, self-esteem etc. Now, each of us can give a thousand examples of people who, driven by ambition, simply overreached, and brought failure or destruction upon themselves. Would we say that ambition itself is wrong then? IMHO, no. These emotions could play positive roles in impelling us towards our goals. There is an anecdote (I do not know how true this is) that the Americans built the Interstate to convince themselves they had not lagged behind, when Russians launched the first satellite. It is an example of how such feelings could be tapped by leaders to do something positive to their country or society.

As much good as they could do, these emotions should also be accompanied by other values to moderate their influence on our actions. In some sense, they both temper and aid each other. Only a man with self-esteem can be expected to maintain his moral obligations and a man who does so, will feel every right to possess self-esteem. It is when such moderating influences are absent or suppressed, that there is created an imbalance that keeps accelerating us into oblivion. That is what happened to the Third Reich and its Fuhrer. This applies as much to us as individuals as to nations and societies.

DC Hawks gave us example after example of countries that were destroyed by their so-called peace mongering (e.g. France during the same WW2). Allende was killed because of his commitment to socialism. Does that make their values and ideologies wrong too?

In the first place, it is folly to judge the validity of an ideology purely based on what happened to it in some particular instants. There are too many factors and incidents that led to the fall of Hitler. What would have happened had Stalingrad fallen? What would have happened had the D-Day failed? So, to me it seems to be an oversimplification to hold that Hitler failed because of his pride in his nation.

True, national pride has proved to be one of the most manipulated collective emotions in history. Even this day, we see Bushies shamelessly chanelling the emotional vulnerability of the people of this country into partisan support for Dubya. But that does not mean such pride is wrong in itself.


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