A Titan Walked Here

Patriot of humanity…


Patriotism of Humanity: The phrase was Thomas Mann’s and was a striking way of underlining the idea that human welfare is indivisible; that those who seek to elevate humanity cannot afford to be chauvinistic. Western nationalism, at first a liberative force, had become an enormous obstacle to political, economic and cultural progress. Morally, its record was damning: three centuries of the spoliation of the world in the name of Western civilization: as if by some cruel logic, Asia and Africa were obliged to pay the cost, in tears, agonies, and death, so that the people of the West could be prosperous, cultured and dignified human beings.

Born and reared in the West, a man of Recto’s temperament and convictions would be necessarily – and paradoxically – opposed to nationalism which in the West had taken on the various forms of a predatory imperialism. As such, together with the other liberal, humanistic minds of the West, he would oppose all selfish national claims in behalf of the larger claims of mankind: he would be in name and in fact a “patriot of humanity.”

But conversely, the great spirits of the Western tradition, from Plato to Russell, were they to be transplanted today in an Asian or African setting, could not but become nationalists. There is no alternative if they must be true to their own intrinsic humanism.

For the articulate nationalist in Asia or Africa today precisely argues his case, not in terms of narrow values, but of the general human values. He is a rebel against social injustice, which to his mind is not a merely local but a world phenomenon. He knows that effective social justice cannot, in the last analysis, be fragmented into national concepts; that to be attainable at all, it must be accepted as a world goal, as indeed the charter of the United Nations boldly declares it to be; and that its serious implementation cannot but entail a reorganization of the patterns of relationships among states, that is to say, a reorganization toward ever-increasing social and economic equality.

Thus, the Asian nationalist, like Recto, is in every sense the representative in this part of the world of what Mann has called the “patriotism of humanity.” In the world’s poorest countries, it is the nationalist who speaks the noble sentiments of mankind. Those who call themselves “internationalists,” as opposed to the nationalists, are quite often, in reality, timid souls who like to rationalize their inability to come up to the moral level of the nationalist.

The nationalism and the humanism of a Recto are therefore, far from being in conflict, really one and the same thing. If, indeed, our aim is to measure the welfare of mankind in terms of the poorest rather than the richest and the most powerful, why should not the claims of poor nations and the claims of humanity be held as identical?