Political laziness and ignorance are largely behind the use of such terms as ‘patriots’ and ‘nationalists’, interchangeably. While both intrinsically link the relationship of a citizen to the nation, the differences are stark both in terms of usage and the implied import.
The American journalist, Sidney Harris, has remarked, “The difference between patriotism and Nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, while the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to a war.
This suggests a definite supremacy and intolerance attached to the nationalist, whereas an overarching sense of duty and service can be attributed to the patriot, who could disagree with any action of the state, without any erosion of their loyalty or fidelity to the state.
Clearly, the patriot is a more democratic, value-based and intellectual being who has the humility to correct himself whenever required. The nationalist is naturally contemptuous, intolerant and brooks no questions. As George Orwell has written “nationalism is the worst enemy of peace”
(Lt Gen PVSM, AVSM Retd, Former Lt Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands & Puducherry)
Part of a column,Published in Echo Of India,24 Dec