Difference Between a Nationalist and a Patriot

The term nationalist has acquired a new meaning in the context of its use (or misuse) in current day politics around the world.



Often nationalism is positioned as a reaction to globalism. Protecting the interests of a nation under attack from international economic, ideological and terrorist forces is often cited as the patriotic  duty of citizens.




Appeal of Nationalism is enhanced by stoking the fear of losing sovereignty and security. Nationalism is often  promoted by authoritarian leaders / parties who seek to consolidate  power by stoking parochialism, majorityism  and anti-minorityism. There is always an enemy for those promoting nationalism. Someone has to lose in order for nationalism to win. Nationalism surreptitiously breeds  hero worship of a supreme leader and encourages subservience to the authority over expression of dissent. Under the garb of nationalism, state violence is justified as a means to protect sovereignty of a nation.




In a nationalistic atmosphere, the creative class, which often thrives on alternate and often dissenting perspectives, is suppressed and condemned as traitors. Ideologies that encourage the underprivileged to protest and assert their rights are condemned as anti-national. Secularism is damned. And liberal thinkers face mob attack by blind followers of the nationalistic ideologues. In a nationalistic regime there is no place for multiple perspectives—only one vision prevails.



On the other hand a true patriot is an exact opposite of a nationalist. A patriot recognises his/her duty to contribute to the building of a nation. Towards that goal, he/she is willing to sacrifice, experiment with ideas, challenge authority when powerful people impose a view that is not in the best interests of a free society. A patriot stands up for the downtrodden. A patriot is curious and hungry to create prosperity for his/her people by tapping into the diversity of the world. A patriot’s creativity stems from empathy for the pain of the suffering brethren and anger against oppressive establishment. A true patriot is not parochial—he/she thrives in a multi-cultural environment. A true patriot is not subservient to the state. He/she takes democracy seriously and assumes responsibility as a watchdog and acts with courage. He does not hesitate to resist oppression of the state.


The world will be a better place if there were more patriots than nationalists. The world would be more creative and happier if we open our minds and embrace others who are not like us. Our nation will be safer if we build bridges rather than walls.

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