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“Nationalism Is A Great Menace.”: Remembering Rabindranath Tagore On His Birth Anniversary

“I am not against one nation in particular, but against the general idea of all nations. What is the Nation? questions Tagore

Remembering India’s first Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore on his birth anniversary, in one of his famous essays on Nationalism in India, Tagore talked about how the real problem in India isn’t political. It is social. He also talked about “a parallelism exists between America and India – the parallelism of welding together into one body various races.”

Remembering Tagore on his birth anniversary.

Excerpts from the essay

“I am not against one nation in particular, but against the general idea of all nations. What is the Nation?”

“It is the aspect of a whole people as an organized power. This organization incessantly keeps up the insistence of the population on becoming strong and efficient. But this strenuous effort after strength and efficiency drains man’s energy from his higher nature where he is self-sacrificing and creative.”

“For thereby man’s power of sacrifice is diverted from his ultimate object, which is moral, to the maintenance of this organization, which is mechanical. Yet in this, he feels all the satisfaction of moral exaltation and therefore becomes supremely dangerous to humanity. He feels relieved of the urging of his conscience when he can transfer his responsibility to this machine which is the creation of his intellect and not of his complete moral personality. By this device the people which loves freedom perpetuates slavery in a large portion of the world with the comfortable feeling of pride of having done its duty; men who are naturally just can be cruelly unjust both in their actions and their thought, accompanied by a feeling that they are helping the world in receiving its deserts; men who are honest can blindly go on robbing others of their human rights for self-aggrandizement, all the while abusing the deprived for not deserving better treatment. We have seen in our everyday life even small organizations of business and profession produce callousness of feeling in men who are not naturally bad, and we can well imagine what a moral havoc it is causing in a world where whole peoples are furiously organizing themselves for gaining wealth and power.”

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“Nationalism is a great menace. It is the particular thing that for years has been at the bottom of India’s troubles. And inasmuch as we have been ruled and dominated by a nation that is strictly political in its attitude, we have tried to develop within ourselves, despite our inheritance from the past, a belief in our eventual political destiny.”

The full essay can be read here

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