The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.
Question: Sir, can you give your views on nationalism and patriotism?
Acharya Prashant (AP): See, man always requires something to separate him from others. In this separation is the protection of his ego. If I were just the same as you, how will you say that I am ‘I’ and you are ‘you’? So it is very important that in some ways you declare that I am different from you and man has created a thousand ways in which he can separate himself from others. What are these thousand ways? He will give himself labels according to economic classification, religion, caste, educational qualifications, gender, and age. It is very important for us to give ourselves labels.
What is a label? A label is a superficial answer to the question; ‘Who am I’? So, somebody asks you who are you? You can very quickly say that I am a 20-year-old male, pursuing an engineering course, it makes it convenient for you, and you can provide an answer. The political entity which you call the ‘country’ is another such label, remember I am talking about the political entity, that which has been created by politicians. It is necessary for you to be separated. So, you find another way to be separated. ‘I belong to country X and you belong to country Y,’ and remember in this separation lies the sustenance of the ego. Now I can answer the question, ‘who am I?’ Now I have an identity: ‘I belong to country X’.
You can divide yourself on the basis of tribe, you can divide yourself on the basis of all kinds of beliefs, and you can keep putting yourself into groups and groups. What is the purpose of doing all this? So that you can have an identity, a collective identity. ‘Now, I am somebody’. It is such that this identity is fed so deep into our minds since childhood that we never really question it.
Ask yourself, ‘what really is the usefulness of having countries?’ Ask yourself, ‘why this planet must be really divided into nations? Is mankind anyway benefiting from it?’ In the history of mankind, thousands of wars have been fought and they have brought great suffering. A large proportion of those wars have been fought in the name of nationalism. The ones who have been at the forefront of these wars have…