Difference Between Nationalism and Patriotism

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Nationalism and patriotism appear similar, but they are not the same.

Many Malaysians, including political leaders and the media, have mistaken nationalism with patriotism. This becomes more evident in the month of August when citizens are urged to fly the national flag to show patriotism.

Many Jalur Gemilang will be used to adorn the walls and fences of government buildings and those who have stuck many miniature flags on their vehicles, trishaws or bicycles have been touted by the media as being patriotic.

If so, patriotism comes cheap. Worse, our national flag is desecrated whenever a miniature flag became unstuck and is unceremoniously rolled over by passing vehicles or those hung ages ago have been reduced to shreds by the weather.

Raising the Jalur Gemilang and singing our Negaraku in gusto would certainly raise nationalistic spirit but this does not mean everyone present at the ceremony is patriotic, certainly not those who are corrupt.

Nationalism becomes ugly when we try to put other countries or nationalities down and it is never popular by people anywhere. For example, President Trump may be nationalistic, but he is far from patriotic when he brings harm to his own and many other countries.

On the other hand, patriotism is admired universally, and a recent example was the late President Nelson Mandela. There are also many patriots within our midst, although they may be lesser known and silent, unlike those who claim to be so.

In my book, anyone who study or work hard, is productive and pay taxes, contribute to charity or involve in voluntary work, respect the environment and everyone, adopt a healthy lifestyle and not be a burden to society is a patriot.

Those who do not study hard or choose the easiest jobs and work whenever they like to depend on government handouts and charity, spend more time eating than exercising, litter indiscriminately and treat drains and rivers as garbage dumps are unpatriotic.

This group includes large number of politicians, as many are self-serving and often used race, religion, rulers, language and sexual orientation to drum up support from the rakyat that are easily swayed by emotions, not realising that popularity gained leads to power and possessions.

And if cheering national sportsmen is deemed patriotism, then what about fanatical supporters of state teams or clubs, as fans can also be loyal to foreign football clubs? Therefore, strong display of emotions should not be equated as patriotism.

Nationalism and patriotism appear similar, but they are not the same. Nationalism is often at the exclusion or detrimental to the interests of other nations or nationalities. Patriotism is best measured by contribution to one’s own country without necessarily at the expense of others.

The views expressed here are strictly those of The True Net reader YS Chan of Petaling Jaya.