A lot of people might think it’s one and the same, but nationalism and patriotism actually have a world of difference between them. They might both be ‘feelings’ and they might stem from the same foundation, but that’s where the similarities end. You could say nationalism unites people based on a rhetoric of us against them, while patriotism simply unites people without a need for hostility. 

While I wholly support being patriotic and having love for the motherland and all that jazz, nationalism really seems to bring out the worst, most unnecessary facets of loving your own country. Just look at the imposition of the national anthem before every movie. It’s straight up foolish, and honestly, a little jingoistic. People should have the option to show their love for their country in whatever way they want, not have it forced down your throat. Like the case of this Muslim trader who was slapped for refusing to shout ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ during a protest by Bajrang Dal activists (what else would you expect from them though). It really feels like there’s a sensible way to be respectful towards your country, should you be so inclined, but sadly, the difference really needs to be explained. 

Anyway, here’s a few examples that might help make that difference clear.

As you can clearly see, there’s an air of toxic competitiveness in the entire idea of nationalism. It always seems to emphasise ‘us against them’, even when there’s no need for that kind of talk.

Nationalism seems to give undue importance to certain parts of the nation, the rabble rousing parts mostly, while patriotism imbibes all languages, cultures, values and beliefs. 

Nationalism has been described as being proud of your country in spite of what it’s done, and patriotism is being proud of your country because of what it’s done.

One justifies every action of the state, including the bad, while the other clearly takes responsibility for its mistakes. 

It’s a difference of a militant form of respect versus a peaceful form of respect for the nation.

 One denies any form of deficiency by the state, while the other takes pride in its achievements but knows that things can be better.

It’s easy to see how nationalism can become a lot more dangerous and insidious than patriotism. One considers any kind of criticism an insult, while the other tolerates and works on criticism in a constructive manner. As Sydney J Harris put it, “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, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war.”

Designs by Vineet Kumar.