Why Pointing Out Flaws In My Country Makes Me A Better Pakistani Than Most

By Khushnood Ahmed | 24 Nov, 2016

From childhood on, we are told that patriotism is one of the great virtues of life. We, Pakistani millennials, may have difficulties inheriting many weird traditions from our elders however, the tradition of loving your country like a pagal deewana is not one of them. Patriotism seems to come easy to all of us. After all, it helps give many of us a sense of meaning and unity in a world that may often appear void of both.

 

But, historically, patriotism has never been all roses and sunshine.

The calls for patriotism accompany some pretty awful stuff too. Where there is war, xenophobia and authoritarianism, you’ll also hear cries of the patriots, shouting how the motherland is the greatest motherland of all, and how all is just and fair when it comes to the interests of the motherland.

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Source: sikandarazam789.files.wordpress.com

Research has shown that stronger feelings of patriotism in a nation make the likelihood of war higher. This fact alone may be enough for some to pull up the ladder on the whole concept of patriotism. But that’s not necessary, let alone possible. An expression of national pride exists and will continue to exist in people, and is not necessarily harmful. Sometimes it can even be useful in inspiring selfless acts like charity.

 

However, problems arise when patriotic sentiments take away all will and ability to think critically.

A great failure of not only our educational system, but our parental upbringing is that it does not encourage critical thinking, in fact it discourages it. From childhood on we are told to worship. Worshiping God one doesn’t mind but it then extends to worshiping parents, teachers, husbands (never wives, mind you) and last but not the least: the state.

Lincoln-Memorial
Source: firebreathingchristian.com

Courage is taken up by the people when it comes to bashing politicians for corruption and ineffective governance. Our Punjabis, in particular, demonstrate an admirable creativity with the language when it comes to criticizing politicians. Language that some schools would rather ban 😉

But daring to criticize the state authorities equals to treason, in many eyes. How dare one show self-reflection when faced with an outside enemy?

When war starts proving its futility which it almost always does, we search for scapegoats.

It is “they” who brought war upon us, we blame. But how true is it really? Is it not us, the people, who are excited when our country goes to war? Our beloved neighbor, among many other bad habits, shares this one with us too. Recent statements of your favorite Bollywood stars and some not-so-favorite ex-Pakistani singers, are an example. Love was what they preached – the Uri attack happened and cheering for war suddenly became the norm.

We, on this side of the border, are not much better either, unfortunately.

We are not able to critically think for ourselves and reflect on the actions of our own state, hence politicians find it easy to put the blame on the outside enemy. Demonize an outsider and win the honor of coming out of this whole mess as a nationalist hero – an old time classic.

 

What should it actually mean to be patriotic?

Difficult to answer but maybe the sanest response is: to help our country divorce itself from all kinds of injustices. If we love our country, why let it allow to attack the dignity of its people or any other people? Why let it break international law? Why let it do anything that equals to abandoning the path of justice?

patriotism-new-1
Source: ilmkidunya.com

But standing up against the injustices of our own state is exactly what we don’t do.

Instead many of us spend our lives employing a hypocritical attitude, condemning other countries for crimes that our own state commits too. ‘Look at what’s happening to minorities in India’ we cry but dare one of us mention religious persecution of Ahmadis, he or she will be eternally defined as being an agent of Jews who’s here to malign Pakistan (seriously what’s up with our obsession with Jews?).

 

I recall a time, when even I used to proudly indulge in the art of state worship.

There I was, always fighting my Indian counterparts on social media and going out of my way to highlight injustices happening in their country. But things have changed, I have changed.

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Via: quora.com

I specifically remember how this change in thought initiated. I was on YouTube, listening to an old fella named Noam Chomsky. Chomsky is a world-renown American linguist, philosopher, social critic, cognitive scientist….basically yaar, he is a pretty big deal. He once cited the Gospels on hypocrisy – a hypocrite is someone who refuses to apply to himself the standards he applies to others (I’m paraphrasing here but that’s the gist). By that definition, I was being a hypocrite – disguised as a patriot, because I was holding Indians accountable for actions that were happening in Pakistan, too.

This piece of Gospel wisdom has become a golden rule for me. It has helped me realize how many of us adopt hypocrisy instead of moral consistency, and wishful thinking instead of objective analysis. We condemn ‘Yahood-o-Nasara’ and our Hindustani neighbor for their wrongdoings but when it comes to our own country, we turn a blind eye or create an exceptionalism, providing lame excuses that it is somehow justified when our country does it.

 

We can’t stop loving our country – it’s as natural as love for one’s own mother.

But we can choose how to express our love. In my opinion, the greatest expression of love is to help our country reach to at least the level of minimum moral integrity. Minimum moral integrity means accepting that if something is bad, it is bad no matter who does it.

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Source: india.com

Hence, let’s not worship this country but conform its ways of justice, for if God exists, he will surely one day hold our nation accountable.

 


Cover image via: Rahat Dar/Al Jazeera

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