Patriotism Corrupts History: Looking Over The World Events


“Patriotism corrupts history” quoted by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Patriotism can be defined as love and devotion for own country. Love and devotion to one’s country when exceeds through a certain level it sows the seeds of corruption and this is seen after a particular time period i.e., when history shows ill patriotic practices. Some leaders call themselves patriotic or in other words loyal to their country as well as to the citizens of their country but happens to make very harsh decisions for their own citizens, consequences of such decisions are seen later, later when it becomes history.  History favors those who are intellectually patriotic. Over patriotism will give you rewards and will be beneficial in the present-day situation but when you look back, history will punish you with outcomes. There are many events which took place in the world history which shows how being over patriotic corrupts history and how history punished them with disastrous outcomes. 

There are many recent examples which precisely suits here.  Starting from our own country. Addressing few decisions made by our Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi which no doubt was made while considering the development of our country but turned out to be an epic failure which resulted into devastating consequences. One such example is ‘Demonetisation’ or ‘Note ban’, its aim was to flush out black money. On November 8, 2016 Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced to the nation, the complete ban of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 note. The decision was so sudden that after midnight from the day of announcement, Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 note was of no use. Citizens with the currency notes were permitted to exchange them with new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes and to deposit huge aggregate sum in banks with explanation of their sources. The strategy behind such action was that black money held in the form of cash wouldn’t be deposited into banks, given that, people holding it would not be identified and further in this way an extensive amount of illegal money will be destroyed. Further, the explanation given by the government was that the demonetisation initiative would invalidate the cash hoards of tax evaders and wanted to form a less-cash society by increasing infrastructure to allow digital payment. While some saw Demonetisation as a step towards a misconduct towards economy but others saw the move itself as terrible. The RBI reports it to be complete failure. India’s large economy was hit by the policy, the real estate was badly affected with huge amount of people losing their jobs, the agriculture sector which largely operates on cash, was hard hit too. On top of that government’s policy caused a huge cash shortage, with people having to spend many days standing in ATM lines trying to withdraw their own money. Some even died in the process. Demonetisation’s repercussions are still debated. It’s been 3 years to demonetisation and now we have enough to analyse. Firstly, in jobs sector, Demonetisation caused 2-3 percentage reduction in jobs and national economic activity in November-December of 2016 according to a research. Between 2016 and 2018 around five million people have lost their jobs. Further, between September and December 2016 labour force participation started falling down for both urban and rural. Since then, there had been no recovery but the trend slowed down. Secondly, in the same financial year when the demonetisation was announced by the government that is in the year 2016-2017, as many as 8 million people didn’t file income tax which is highest since 2000-2001. However, in 2017-2018 there was some positive impact of Demonetisation. Third, Farm income wages decreased, although there was a normal monsoon season in 2016-2017. Farmer’s income from crop cultivation and wages of the farmers shrank. Investment in countries factory contracted 10 percent in 2016-2017 which was counted as their worst performance. Government wanted to form a less-cash society which allows digital payment but in II and III tire towns digital payments had doubled since demonetisation. Hence, some decisions which were taken for the welfare of the citizens turned out to be disastrous, history itself tells that it had devastating consequences which we are still facing. This is how it can be a defining example of patriotism corrupts history.

Secondly, addressing our neighbor country, Pakistan. Prime minister of Pakistan Mr Imran Khan’s government is on the edge of collapsing. The national government had failed miserably to make the system more professional and autonomous through systematic reforms, public elected them to make reforms in the system. one thing that will definitely cause harm in future or say it is showing its effects is giving more power to military, this cannot be just blamed on the current government but it has been seen since the time of partition. However, it is said that the incompetent civilian government and leadership in Pakistan that has made the military so powerful. The civilian governments in power supports the takeover of military that could collapse the ruling government. If neglecting few exceptions, political leaders in Pakistan often take help of the army, under the table. Pakistan already paid a huge price for the intervention of military beyond the provisions of constitution. The very well-known Rawalpindi conspiracy has given many unforgettable lessons. The Rawalpindi conspiracy case was attempted against the government of  Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, in 1951. The conspiracy was the first of many subsequent coups attempt against elected governments in the history of Pakistan. The coup was planned by Major-General Akbar Khan, a senior commander in the Pakistani army, in conjunction with 15 other military officers and left-wing Pakistani politicians. There were three main causes of the Rawalpindi conspiracy. First, a general discontent of Army’s Pakistani Officers with the performance of the Liaqat Ali Khan’s Government, whom they thought of as corrupt and incompetent. Second, many of the higher-ranking Pakistani generals viewed the British officers in the army as security threat. And lastly the most immediate cause was their discontent with Liaqat regime’s handling of the Kashmir war with India. Through this conspiracy they wanted to create revolutionary condition in the country by violent means. The conspiracy was colossal for the states as the elite of the bureaucracy were trying to capture the state machinery because the politicians were not working for the people. However, it didn’t go as planned, all the information and plans about the conspiracy was leaked and a tribunal was constituted and Akbar Khan was sent to jail. Such incidents are always controversial and will prevail in society as a matter of dispute among the society. 

Similarly, we can relate to what happened in Sri Lanka. We can learn from Sri Lanka on ‘China’s Dept-Trap Diplomacy’. Hambantota, a district in South of Sri Lanka that over the past five years has been taken in consideration for developmental plan, mainly infrastructure. It was the plan of Sri Lanka’s former president Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa. For this gigantic project Sri Lanka looked for financial help from China. Because China provides them financial help very easily as compared to other sources with easy paper work. China with it’s cheap, easy and addictive money, pumped Sri Lanka with $8 Billion in loan. But the Sri Lanka soon caught up in economic crises. Now that Sri Lanka had gone in dept while continuously trying to develop Hambantota’s infrastructure and economy, Sri Lankan government was forced to give up majority of the control over the port to China in 2017. It gave incentive to outrage.  It is said to be China’s imperial agenda, a unique form of China’s ‘Dept-Trap Diplomacy’. Project Syndicate (2017) an article written by Brahma Chellaney, explains that Chinese loans put important natural assets as collateral very strategically. For now, if we consider the Hambantota port, on either side it has Indian Ocean trade routes linking with Europe, Africa, and Middle East to Asia. The strategy which the Chinese loans use is usually ‘Cash for resources.’ China helps poor countries with finance and building up infrastructure and in return ask for their valuable natural resources which would help their Chinese companies, it would further help China for its geopolitical ambitions. For Sri Lanka’s development it cost them loss of their resources and threat to sovereignty of the country. It might happen that similar developing countries might suffer similar fate as Sri Lanka and become puppet of China’s Global strategy and could realize the harm caused by such decisions later in history.

Lastly, peeping into history and talking about one of the most powerful and notorious dictator of the 20th century, Adolf Hitler. Hitler was a German politician. In 1929 when the stock market in the United States crashed, it brought about a global economic depression, it’s impact in the Germany was horrible. Many people were thrown out of their work and many major banks were collapsed. At this time Hitler and Nazi party took the advantage of the emergency to gain public support to win elections. They promised to reject the Versailles Treaty, strengthen the economy, and provide jobs. Even though Nazi party was an extremist party yet managed to win the elections. And how? It was not because what he promised to give but it could happen because Hitler was a magnificent orator. He used his oratory skills to manipulate the German people to support his regime’s propaganda. He influenced millions of people to become his followers. He relied upon pathos to get people to vote for him. What is the relevance of this example here? Hitler was a patriotic, an over patriotic I must say. A fascist who would go to any extend to protect his nation against its enemies, but for him definition of love and devotion for his country is totally subjective based on his own ideas. He used a propaganda and economic instability of the Germany in the period of emergency to blame on a specific minority i.e., the Jewish people and tried to brain wash the German people by making them believe that they are the most superior. The Reichstag that is the government office in Germany basically parliament, passed an Enabling Act, giving full powers to Hitler at the time of his ruling. Even passed a law stating that the Nazi Party “constitutes the only political party in Germany.” In his speech in May 1933, he claimed that Germany supported disarmament and peace, but without anyone knowing, he had withdrawn Germany from the League of Nations and begun to militarize the nation in anticipation of his plans for territorial conquest. All the decisions led to poor relations with neighbour states and caused trouble to Germany’s economy. Germany constantly invaded Poland in 1939 which led to the outbreak of World War II and by 1941 Nazi forces occupied much part of Europe. Hitler was obsessed in pursuit of Aryan supremacy which he considered as “purest” race that further fuelled the murder of six million Jewish people in an act of genocide. In addition, other groups that were targeted and were victims of genocide were gypsies, homosexuals, the disabled, addicts, political opposition, communists and those who depreciate the Nazi Party. Hitler was a true patriotic but in a negative way, his only aim was to see Germany on the top of the nation’s regardless of the cost. It shows that too much of anything is bad and regretful. When you look back in history you will see how those patriotic decisions hampered the country itself for which you are being over patriotic. We need to get to the goal with right means and path with accurate strategies and with consciences. Not only in the perspective of world events, too much of everything is bad in personal life also.

Author- Vaidehi Umbarkar (DES Navalmal Firodia Law College, Pune)

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