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Smart patriotism and the marginal majority

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Nationalism is an ideology born of love of nation. It recognizes and respects a collective identity. It often results in political projects sourced in the interests of that nation. Neither patriotism nor nationalism need be recognized as the highest values.
Patriotism and nationalism are far from coterminous with chauvinism and/or racism. Chauvinism is a hierarchic narcissism. It is intensely self-centered and self-referential. It regards its own nation as intrinsically higher and superior to others. It brooks no critical interrogation of its past or present. Racism is the aggressive, even violent extension of chauvinism.

I stand for a patriotism that is compatible with both nationalism and internationalism. I stand for a nationalism that is compatible with internationalism. This is smart patriotism. Smart patriotism is perfectly compatible with cultural cosmopolitanism, though the latter is not a condition of the former.

However, neither patriotism nor nationalism is compatible with political cosmopolitanism. The difference between cultural and political cosmopolitanism is that political cosmopolitanism does not respect national borders and national sovereignty while cultural cosmopolitanism does. It also respects the sovereignty of countries and nations and opposes the hegemony, intervention.

I firmly believe that a patriot must oppose chauvinism and racism. I also believe that one must never confuse nationalism with chauvinism or racism. I am a Sri Lanka patriot. Within the ensemble of identities and affiliations that constitute me, I am also a Sinhala nationalist who detests Sinhala racism and chauvinism. That is why I supported Premadasa and Mahinda Rajapaksa while opposing the JHU and the BBS.

Patriotism and nationalism are quite different from xenophobia. Xenophobia resents any external influences on one’s culture. Nationalism recognizes that one’s culture is the product also of external flows and influences and welcomes these while protecting the country’s political sovereignty from external domination.

Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism strives to establish a dominant place for that majority at the expense of the minorities and attempts to keep the minorities in a subordinate place. Sri Lankan patriotism only wants the unity, integrity and territorial integrity of the country, which if it is to be sustainable, cannot but entail recognition of the rightful place neither exclusive nor domineering of the Sinhalese. They are two thirds of the population of the island. This is their home and the only one they have. In the sub-region and the region as a whole, the Sinhalese are a minority, dwarfed by the landmass and populace next door in Tamil Nadu from which incursions and annexations have originated many times in Sinhala history.

Most certainly, democracy cannot trample upon rights of the minorities but nor can democracy be misused or overlooked to install the rule of a minority and to marginalize the Sinhala majority and its interests. A majority on this island, in the modern world–system and its regional subsystem, the Sinhalese are a structurally marginal minority. This is their—our existential situation.

One of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s great historical merits was to leverage the weight of a rising China and resurgent Russia to compensate for that structurally marginal situation of the Sinhalese and offset the systemic advantage that secessionist Tamil nationalism enjoyed owing to its numbers in Tamil Nadu and its embedding within the Western democracies. Here he was only following perhaps instinctively, the dictum of Kautilya, that the main threat to any state comes from its immediate neighbor– one with whom the given state shares a border– and that this threat must be countervailed by allying with a power that is further afield and with which the given state has no border. It is the triangle of the factors (A) a strong leader from the Ruhuna (B) the Executive Presidential System and (C) the alliance with Eurasia i.e. China and Russia, that enabled the Sri Lankan State, its army, and the Sinhala nation to defeat the fascist-separatist LTTE, warding off Western pressures for a cessation of hostilities and a return to negotiation.

It is no accident that factors (A) and (C) have been overturned and that factor (B) is sought to be downsized if not dismantled by today’s elected puppet administration. Whom does it benefit and what will be the strategic and historical fate of the Sinhala nation? What will be their—our–existential destiny?
(Colombo Telegraph)

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