Patriotism and Tolerance


Japan is one of the rarest countries which despite its huge technological advances managed to keep aspects of its traditions that are centuries old. The best symbol is the imperial traditions which coexist with the modern approach to economic and political issues. But among the youth, as in every part of the world, there are tendencies to adopt new values that go with their aspirations which may clash with the views of inherited values.

The Japanese themselves had a history of excessive nationalism in Asia, particularly in Korea and China. It was the Japanese version of their history during their occupation of these countries that led to a diplomatic row with them.

Japanese government call for the inculcation of patriotism in schools should not be a replica of the kind that made Japan a subjugating master making light of the other nations around it. Japanese youth should first be taught the shortcomings of Japan previous nationalism in the 20th century, which is still vivid in the mind of many.

Nationalism can have devastating effects. Not long ago, under Slobodan Milošević , Bosnia and Herzegovina was the scene of the genocide of the Muslim ethnicity never seen in Europe after the Second World War. The lesson to be drawn from such an incident is that excessive nationalism combined with the hatred for groups that differ in religion or ideology can lead to the rule of the jungle where the weak is exposed to all sorts of atrocities.

The key to international coexistence at state level is the fostering of tolerance and understanding through bilateral relations or the effective actuating of international organisations like the UN for world peace and cooperation.

People are now living in a world where globalisation is the order of the day. There should be a balance between national sovereignty and tolerance. Schools should instil the love of one’s country and respect for its specificity as well as the specifiities of other cultures. This is good for humanity as a whole. It will be dreary to be living in a world where there is only one living pattern making countries differ in names and not in culture.

People should be actively open to other cultures through tourism and cultural exchanges. If pride of one’s identity is reinforced by the respect for the culture of the others, nationalism will mean making one’s country an open door to other cultures and not a ground guarded by tight rejection of any new comer.

Nationalism is essential for the perpetuation of any country without losing its sovereignty or specificity. But it shouldn’t turn into a blind love leading to the rejection of all that is different. The most dangerous aspect of nationalism is the one mixed with religion leading to bigotry. The current clash of civilisation is the result of drawing a line between right and wrong based on personal perceptions making no room for tolerance.

Schools should be a window on the outside world and on one’s world and not a fortress breeding intellectual and armed militias permanently on the standby to ward off what seems to them as alien influence. They should be a place where common human values are taught and shared regardless of creed or race.

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