The valiance of a soldier is celebrated everywhere. The brave troops of our country work hard to keep us safe. They patrol ice, and sweat in deserts to defend us. Soldiers who die on the front are given full military honour, wrapped in a flag with an eternal flame celebrating their sacrifice. What could be more valourous than dying for one’s country?
Certain illusions have a vice grip on our lives. One such illusion is the idea of a nation. Let us distinguish truth from fiction. Fiction is anything that exists on paper or in people’s minds. Truth remains even when people fail to think about it. The border between India and Pakistan is fiction – there is no real line between the folds of the Himalayas. However, the mountains, their majestic snow-capped peaks, their harsh winters and the difficulty of soldiers on their icy frontier are real. So is the danger of shells or bullets ripping across the (fictional) Gaza strip, threatening the life of terrorist, soldier and school child alike.
When a war is waged, a country does not suffer, for a country isn’t real. It is merely an anthem, a flag and a constitution – fictions written by its people. Its citizens are real. Kashmir isn’t real, whereas the people of Kashmir are. When the fictional entities, India and Pakistan, go to war, the real people of Kashmir suffer. When the USA bombs West Asia, children in Iraq and Syria lose their parents to drones. Their pain is only too real.
Nations are powerful illusions. They are stories we tell ourselves. The nations we fervently worship are mostly less than 500 years old. Their flags are but dyed pieces of cloth. However, national leaders have used these symbols to manipulate people into going to war. Napolean Bonaparte famously claimed, “A soldier will flight long and hard for a piece of coloured ribbon.”
Nations exist for a reason – convenience. As a student in middle school, it was interesting to switch from a geographical to political map. Suddenly, we had all these lines and states criss-crossing the paper in our fingers. Those lines make the world easier to administrate. They help us assign prime ministers, presidents, chief ministers, governors and mayors, all of whom invoke stories to administrate and often manipulate us. But we often bend the truth in pursuit of convenience. When people offer their lives in sacrifice, should they do it for convenience?
Inspiration: 21 Lessons for the 21st century – Yuval Noah Harari