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Nationalism is a cruel epidemic of evil that is sweeping over the human world of the present age: Rabindranath Tagore

Revisiting the idea of 'nationalism' through Tagore's words on his birth anniversary

Sabrangindia 07 May 2020

Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore, born on May 7, 1861, is hailed as one the greatest Indian philosophers, writers and poets of all times. The first non-European to win a Nobel Prize in Literature, his works were ahead of his time, as were his views on social structures, and ‘nationalism’. His birth anniversary today, is a good time to remember his words on ‘Nationalism’, especially at a time when it is being used to target those who speak up for the rights of the marginalised.

 

  • “Nationalism is a great menace. It is the particular thing which for years has been at the bottom of India's troubles. And as much 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.”    (Source:  tagoreweb)

  • “Yes, this is the logic of the Nation. And it will never heed the voice of truth and goodness. It will go on in its ring-dance of moral corruption, linking steel unto steel, and machine unto machine; trampling under its tread all the sweet flowers of simple faith and the living ideals of man.” 

  • “Neither the colourless vagueness of cosmopolitanism, nor the fierce self-idolatry of nation-worship, is the goal of human history.” 

  • “Because each nation has its own history of thieving and lies and broken faith, therefore there can only flourish international suspicion and jealousy, and international moral shame becomes anæmic to a degree of ludicrousness. The nation's bagpipe of righteous indignation has so often changed its tune according to the variation of time and to the altered groupings of the alliances of diplomacy, that it can be enjoyed with amusement as the variety performance of the political music hall.” 

  • “But now, where the spirit of the Western nationalism prevails, the whole people is being taught from boyhood to foster hatreds and ambitions by all kinds of means—by the manufacture of half-truths and untruths in history, by persistent misrepresentation of other races and the culture of unfavourable sentiments towards them, by setting up memorials of events, very often false, which for the sake of humanity should be speedily forgotten, thus continually brewing evil menace towards neighbours and nations other than their own.”

  • “Once again I draw your attention to the difficulties India has had to encounter and her struggle to overcome them. Her problem was the problem of the world in miniature. India is too vast in its area and too diverse in its races. It is many countries packed in one geographical receptacle.”

  • “You who live under the delusion that you are free, are every day sacrificing your freedom and humanity to this fetich of nationalism, living in the dense poisonous atmosphere of world-wide suspicion and greed and panic.”

  • “Clever lies become matters of self-congratulation. Solemn pledges become a farce—laughable for their very solemnity.

  • “Man's history is being shaped according to the difficulties it encounters.” 

  • “catastrophes of nature whose traces are soon forgotten.” 

(Source:  Goodreads)

Nationalism is a cruel epidemic of evil that is sweeping over the human world of the present age: Rabindranath Tagore

Revisiting the idea of 'nationalism' through Tagore's words on his birth anniversary

Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore, born on May 7, 1861, is hailed as one the greatest Indian philosophers, writers and poets of all times. The first non-European to win a Nobel Prize in Literature, his works were ahead of his time, as were his views on social structures, and ‘nationalism’. His birth anniversary today, is a good time to remember his words on ‘Nationalism’, especially at a time when it is being used to target those who speak up for the rights of the marginalised.

 

  • “Nationalism is a great menace. It is the particular thing which for years has been at the bottom of India's troubles. And as much 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.”    (Source:  tagoreweb)

  • “Yes, this is the logic of the Nation. And it will never heed the voice of truth and goodness. It will go on in its ring-dance of moral corruption, linking steel unto steel, and machine unto machine; trampling under its tread all the sweet flowers of simple faith and the living ideals of man.” 

  • “Neither the colourless vagueness of cosmopolitanism, nor the fierce self-idolatry of nation-worship, is the goal of human history.” 

  • “Because each nation has its own history of thieving and lies and broken faith, therefore there can only flourish international suspicion and jealousy, and international moral shame becomes anæmic to a degree of ludicrousness. The nation's bagpipe of righteous indignation has so often changed its tune according to the variation of time and to the altered groupings of the alliances of diplomacy, that it can be enjoyed with amusement as the variety performance of the political music hall.” 

  • “But now, where the spirit of the Western nationalism prevails, the whole people is being taught from boyhood to foster hatreds and ambitions by all kinds of means—by the manufacture of half-truths and untruths in history, by persistent misrepresentation of other races and the culture of unfavourable sentiments towards them, by setting up memorials of events, very often false, which for the sake of humanity should be speedily forgotten, thus continually brewing evil menace towards neighbours and nations other than their own.”

  • “Once again I draw your attention to the difficulties India has had to encounter and her struggle to overcome them. Her problem was the problem of the world in miniature. India is too vast in its area and too diverse in its races. It is many countries packed in one geographical receptacle.”

  • “You who live under the delusion that you are free, are every day sacrificing your freedom and humanity to this fetich of nationalism, living in the dense poisonous atmosphere of world-wide suspicion and greed and panic.”

  • “Clever lies become matters of self-congratulation. Solemn pledges become a farce—laughable for their very solemnity.

  • “Man's history is being shaped according to the difficulties it encounters.” 

  • “catastrophes of nature whose traces are soon forgotten.” 

(Source:  Goodreads)

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