Patriotism may be defined as a social virtue demanding ardent love for, and selfless devotion to, one’s country. Consciousness of this value is inherent in human nature. Ever since the beginning of the history of mankind, man has attached great importance to this value and has made it a criterion to judge human character.
That patriotism has a social or moral value, inherent in human nature, is clearly manifested by the fact that however happy and prosperous our life may be in a foreign country, we continue to be haunted by the memory of our home. We often get attached to the place where we were born and brought up. It has been rightly remarked by a Persian poet that the thorns and dry branches of one’s own country are far sweeter than the roses and fragrant flowers growing in a foreign land, where one remains separated from his kith and kin. We love our country because of the voices which are ‘only remembered and no longer heard’. We love our country for our parents, friends, change of seasons and other sweet memories connected with our birth-place. They are flesh of our flesh, bone of our bones, blood of our blood and a lasting part of what we are.
Great men of history have suffered untold miseries and hardships for this particular social or moral value, called ‘patriotism’. Since times immemorial, people have cursed men lacking or sacrificing this value, without which liberty or independence cannot be conceived of. We today cherish the memory of such great national heroes as Sultan Tippu, Nawab Siraj-ul-Daula and other political leaders, who gave their blood for the noble cause of liberty. We call them patriots simply because they struggled hard to shake off foreign rule. Those who reconciled themselves with foreign rulers or helped them directly or indirectly are looked down upon as mean traitors.
We cannot, however, deny the fact that nationalism has often brought in wars. When it outruns its legitimate bounds, it becomes an organized butchery. Psychologically speaking, the strength of pure nationalistic feelings is the outcome of personal inferiority. There may be a man who is poor, hungry, socially insignificant; and to him come the apostles of nationalism and say, “Since you are a member of this nation or race, you are superior to everyone else in the world.” Thus, in the glory of this imaginary superiority, this man forgets his own shortcomings and becomes an ardent nationalist.
There is, however, no gainsaying the fact that no country can prosper of become a leading power in the world unless her people are patriotic. Lack of patriotic feelings gives birth to such mean activities as smuggling and espionage. Consequently, the economic stability of the country is undermined, and her very independence is in danger. Thus, patriotism is the highest social or moral virtue, without which no nation can exist.