Jingoism is due to ignorance, not awareness

your say June 21, 2014 00:00

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The NCPO seems to be concerned about a lack of patriotism in the country. The Education Ministry has requested a list of national songs from the NCPO to play at schools to encourage patriotism.

The lack of knowledge of Thailand’s history is also to be addressed. However, there is concern that history involving neighbouring countries could cause antagonism. The fear is that this, together with a concentration of nationalist songs, could result in ultra-nationalist sentiment rather than patriotism.
Thailand’s problems are deeply rooted in its past. The lack of a comprehensive education system and awareness have led to xenophobia, but even worse they have allowed sectarianism to flourish in the absence of a strong sense of national identity. 
Many Thais have never been taught the basic message of Buddhism, which starts with awareness. Thailand is their cocoon, beyond which they must learn to see.
We all need something with which we can identify, but of overriding importance for national unity is belief in the need to prioritise the country. This is patriotism. Within an open-minded democracy it is not jingoism. The historical lack of competent, patriotic democratic governance to unite the people has resulted in the sectarianism the NCPO is now facing.
A broad-based education system that embraces international awareness, singing national songs, learning history and placing it in its proper context with an open mind is important to develop the mind. The UK had major conflicts with Germany in the last century, and with the French and Spanish before, but by learning the causes and placing these events in their historical context, the animosity fades (while not being forgotten).
Teach children to love their country, teach them Buddhism rather than the current idolatry, teach them true democracy rather than pseudo-democracy, and teach historical facts, and they will become enlightened. Encourage people to learn an international language but sing their national songs and patriotism will reign without the risk of jingoism.
The simple solution is for people to understand the basic teaching of the Buddha 2,500 years ago. It’s not complex in its original form, prior to its distortion and the adoption of jargon, but it is very powerful. It opens the mind to learning and understanding.
JC Wilcox