When I was a child I once asked my father that what was patriotism. “Humanity,” he said.
The next day I got a big red cross in my notebook beside my definition of patriotism and humanity. My teacher told me that I had written a totally different and opposite meaning. It was unexpected. I believed that my father couldn’t be wrong, after all he was an educated and intellectual person. My teacher told me that patriotism is vigorous support for one’s country, it’s an attachment to a homeland that is closely related to nationalism.
With the passage of time I realized that my teacher was right, so I could no longer doubt her knowledge anymore. On many occasions, I felt a devotion for my country, such as when our national team won a match and we celebrated it together. On Independence Day we waved flags, sang the national anthem, national songs and celebrated national parties. When we went abroad we abruptly become emotional and felt homesick. When we notice that our country is in some kind of political crisis, at war or suffering from natural disasters we support our country in a very positive way.
However, as I grew older my theory of patriotism changed again, but this time I was pretty sure my dad was right, even though I couldn’t understand his logic at that time. Personally we all live in a nutshell; our individuality is more sacred and respectful than unity. Additionally, we prefer to live in that shell though we all strongly believe in unity too. Some of us are so possessive that we can do anything for ourselves, we can cross any limit, without thinking about national interests and patriotism.
Elaborating a bit more, I have noticed many times for example that demonstrators often ruin public and private properties, and they don’t care if their actions cause a big loss to innocent people and affect the country’s image. Institutions and markets are closed due to road-blocks, hospitalized patients and their attendants suffer, daily wagers become jobless and the casual worker can’t reach their offices on time, the economy is affected, security issues go high alert, but who cares, as the protestors keep acting for their own personal purposes and interests.
During student life, we all claim that we will serve our country, but for beneficial issues, for example we will go on strike to demand higher wages. And yet, whenever we get a chance we resign our jobs and go abroad to earn a higher income with hopes of a better future without even thinking that such actions could cause a brain drain and the country cannot bear the loss of qualified people.
Furthermore, not letting the adequate people to do their job, as a result of egos and jealousy, is not just immoral, but it badly affects the overall attitude of a nation. If we don’t let eligible people reach the top just because we are not capable of getting there, this leads to the deterioration of the country.
Corruption is another tribulation; unfortunately the corruption ratio is high in poor and developing countries. Bribes kill merits and break the rule. In addition, family violence, adultery, child marriage, child labor, adulteration, sexual abuse, murder and other criminal acts are mostly the result of corruption that not only defames the country, but also ruins our personal lives. A country is not defined by its geography, atmosphere, environment and boundaries, rather it is defined by its nation. We make our country’s status, and our every single move can make or demolish our country’s image even though we keep claiming that we are patriotic, devoted to our nation and homeland and will die for her. Indeed it’s the height of hypocrisy.
As charity begins at home we have to clean ourselves first, and prefer our country’s image over personal and political benefits. As the world is like a global village and the media is playing vital role, I often couldn’t understand the meaning of freedom of speech that our media outlets were using.
Unfortunately my father is no longer alive, if he were I would ask him what actually is freedom of speech? Most electronic and print media outlets appear to be spreading rumors, rather than facts and reality. Criticism is good, but propaganda is not accepted. Once my mum narrated a story: “After the war in France, a man was walking on a road waving a stick and yelling ‘I am free, I am free.’ Suddenly the stick hit a person who was passing by, and hurt him. The passerby stopped the man and said to him, ‘Look your freedom ends when my nose starts to bleed, so please watch out.'”
Freedom doesn’t mean that we cross every limit. Don’t let your immorality offend your patriotism. “Our flag doesn’t fly because the wind moves it; it flies with the last breath of every solider sacrificing his life protecting it.”
Our country needs unity not rumors, propaganda and narcissism. In conclusion, humanity, caring and loving your people is patriotism.
*Ms. Sarwat Najib is an Afghan writer, columnist, researcher, critic and a poet.