The political independence of a nation is heralded as a most significant achievement in the move towards nationalism. While this is to be understood, it makes little or no sense if the populace does not have an understanding of what nationalism means. It even gets worse, if leaders of national institutions fail to promote a spirit of nationalism and patriotism.
The sense of nationalism and patriotism being referred to, goes way beyond the realm of fun and frolic that often accompanies the anniversary celebration of a nation’s Independence. This is not to say that there is no place for entertainment and cultural activities, but in the promotion of nationalism and patriotism, there is plenty room for building a spirit of national pride and a commitment of the people to the ideologies, ideals, principles, standards and traditions the country preserves.
The cementing of the concept of nationalism by way of demonstrating a spirit of national pride, commitment and loyalty, is embodied in the definition of a nation, which is described by Luigo as “a collection of individuals who are joined together by the factor of territory, blood, language, culture or history.”
For the purpose of clarifying the distinction between nationalism and patriotism, our research shows that nationalism means to give more importance to unity by way of a cultural background, including language and heritage, while patriotism pertains to the love for a nation, with more emphasis on values and beliefs.
Accepting the belief that nationalism and patriotism are important to nation building, then it is left to determine the best approaches to be adopted towards ensuring that these noble ideals form part of the psyche of our people. The experts agree that at the heart of the promotion of nationalism and patriotism is the appeal to group loyalty. The word “loyalty” is to be stressed, as the lack of respect for collectivity or the willingness to undermine it, will be nothing more than an injustice to the promotion of the ideals of nationalism and patriotism.
The pride which we attach to the institutions that serve us, is bound up in our acceptance of the ideologies, ideals, principles, standards and traditions on which they were founded and operate. The view has been advanced that people see the nation as providing them and their progeny with security and safety as well as status and prestige in return for their loyalty and commitment.
To all intents and purposes, it would seem that nationalism and patriotism emerge from the beliefs, attitudes, behaviour and actions of our people. The way the citizenry behaves as far as expressing that spirit of nationalism and patriotism, is therefore heavily influenced by the actions of our leaders. Those leaders at the helm of national organizations who shout loudest about putting the country first and of demanding respect, but are willing to join forces with others for reasons of self-interest, that potentially serve to undermine fraternal organizations within their own territory, are guilty of nothing more than being a traitor to the national cause.
It is against this background that persons of integrity should denounce those who engage in acts such as these, as they go against the grain of the promotion of nationalism and patriotism. The point must be reinforced that nationalism is about expressing the unity of a people. Needless to say, our commitment to nationalism and patriotism should never for one moment be compromised by intended support for wrongdoing, injustices and the breaking of the law.
Ben Johnson, an American administrator, educator and author once wrote, “I would not maintain that the pledge of allegiance is the basis of patriotism, but I would say that it is an opportunity to show it and, perhaps for some, to plant a seed.” Using this as a guide, all respectful citizens and leaders of national organizations, should seek to follow this.
(Dennis DePeiza is a labour management consultant with Regional Management Services Inc.
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