As a student of Sociology in Grade 11, I came across a new term – altruism. To explain this term better, the book had the example – the service of soldiers for the country. Though I later studied about altruism in detail in Psychology, the example that stays in my mind till date is that of soldiers serving the country at the cost of self.
Not at all times in history have soldiers served their country because of their love for the country that they belonged to. There have been times in countries across the world when able-bodied young men were forcibly taken away from the comforts of their homes and enlisted in national service. Colonialism saw colonies feed soldiers into the armies of their colonial masters.
In the times that we live in now, most countries have done away with conscription (mandatory/ forcible enlistment) and colonialism is a thing of the past. We live in times in which sovereign monarchies are less violent and work strategically to earn the love of their subjects, absolute monarchies force allegiance from their subjects, autocracies force feed nationalism into the minds of their citizens, liberal democracies give open freedom for their citizens to act out of responsible love for the nation while illiberal democracies use soft power tactics to arouse love for the nation in their citizens. There are exceptions to each of the above. At times, systems of governments make transitions from one to another depending upon the regimes in power.
A touch-up on the above helps understand what love for the nation implies.
Love is a free bird that soars high in the sky with strong wings, but strolls on the ground without flight wings. This applies to all types of human love and includes an individual’s love for the nation. Just as love for a person cannot be forced upon another, love for one’s country cannot be imposed. Love that is coerced is not love in the first place. Forced allegiances regale the political masters in a false sense of victory, whereas stories of true dalliance with the nation lie few and far between.
Should we love our countries?
Yes. The country that we are born into and the countries that we choose to migrate to (if at all) deserve our love.
With love comes responsibility and accountability. Hence, we are responsible for our countries and accountable to them. Whereas, each of us is free to like any, every or all other countries of the world as well, none is expected to be responsible for those countries.
Can a country love back?
Though sentimental thoughts and rich literary articulations ascribe the good gifts or the bad ones that one receives, to the land, air and water of a country, in reality, what we get or don’t get, how we feel or don’t feel depends upon the government and the people of the country. When we love a country, we feel loved when its people and the government love us back.
The justiciable Fundamental Rights incorporated in the Indian Constitution by its architects are India’s ways of loving its citizens, whereas the various non-justiciable Fundamental Duties incorporated in the Constitution prescribe the obligatory duties of Indians towards India. Reciprocal love!
Why is it necessary to love the nation?
It is fair. It is legitimate. It is required.
The one other decision that no one gets to make, apart from not getting to choose one’s parents, is the country that one is born into. None of us gets to choose the country that we are born in. We can choose to migrate to another country later, but can never refute the country of our birth.
Just as it is difficult to love a person who doesn’t love you back, it is hard to love a country that isn’t warm enough. However, “to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient” is a God-given Biblical command that applies to all. Though there ought always to be space for constructive criticism of and dissent against those in power, to bring out the best in them, there is definitely no room for bad-mouthing – just as parents at times admonish children to help them live upto their potential, but should never abuse them or put them down before others.
Love for our nation is evident in our actions
- Have you witnessed parents of two children conversing about them? Each loses no word to praise one’s own child lavishly. Parents love their children and hence lose no opportunity to brag about them and their feats. Speaking lowly about one’s nation does disservice to it. Ascribing due praises to one’s country shows our love for it.
- Striving to lift up the nation’s face in various competitive parameters like sports, inventions, art forms, while stepping up to rid the nation of its ills and irrational dogmas like poverty, neonatal and maternal mortality, female foeticide, child marriage, racism, casteism etc. portrays one’s love for the nation.
- Citizens may not always have direct says in nation-building. However, citizens can always pray for those directly responsible for the same.
“ . . . entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quite life in all godliness and dignity”, says the Bible.
Is love for the nation, the highest form of love?
There is no comparison in love.
Soldiers who lay down their lives for the country when duty calls thus, are no less concerned about their families or friends. However, they are altruistic not because they love others less, but because they have dedicated their service to the nation over self and others.
While the eight-fold Greek classification of love towards people does not incorporate love for one’s country (since country is a non-human entity), be it as civilians or as armed personnel, loving the nation is important too.
Having said thus, it is pertinent to remark that though countries are formed by human efforts and their boundaries demarcated by think tanks, a country is a temporary habitation for humans. Our citizenship of a country ceases the moment our physical bodies cease to live and breathe. Our souls have heavenly citizenships in the eternal kingdom of God if we choose to accept His citizenship offer while on earth. Maligning the soul in the process of preserving earthly territories is fruitless.
Let us love our countries while on earth, but prepare to be heavenly citizens for eternity.