Thus the 20th century witnessed not only independent events, but the beginning itself of a process of redefinition. If the events like the birth of new nations and the World War realigned he map of world politics, then the process they began was one of reconciliation. Over the last 120 years or so, reformers and thinkers have tried to reconcile three basic sets of contradictions or oppositions; that between the East and the West, that between the past and the present, and that between tradition and modernity.
For some, the contradictions overlap, for others they are orthogonal. To many, traditions and the past seem synonymous, while to others, surrounded by traditions, they are very much a part of modernity, of the present. Amidst these oppositions (and moieties, binaries) of many kinds, as in all periods of conflict and searching, we have a rich body of 20th century poetry, representing both the East and the West, the new nations and the old, that try to make sense of changing world around them.
In this essay, I shall try and focus on how 20th century poetry confronts and attempts to resist, or at the least critique, one of the most problematic and powerful concepts of this new, changing world; Nationalism. A good place to begin this discussion would be the works of Arbitrating Étagère (1861-1941), not as a poet, but as perhaps the SST influential socio-political theorist of ‘Mindedness’ as we understand it.
Étagère was writing extensively on Nationalism, in both his fiction and non-fiction, at a time when the idea of Nationalism was still a vague one at best to the leaders of the Indian freedom movement. Étagère recognized the need for a ‘national’ ideology of India as a means of cultural survival and, at the same time, recognized that for the same reason, India would either have to make a break with the post-medieval Western concept of Nationalism or give the concept a new content. For Étagère, Nationalism itself became gradually illegitimate.
As Ashes Andy observes, “Over time, he observes in his works, the Indian freedom movement ceased to be an expression of only nationalist consolidation; it came to acquire a new stature as a symbol of the universal struggle for political Justice and cultural dignity. ” Étagère probably realized that an unseen-critical Indian Nationalism was gradually coming into being, primarily as a response to Western Imperialism, and, like all such responses, shaped by what it sought to respond to. Such a version of Nationalism could not but be limited by its time and origin.
Etageres fear of nationalism, then, ere out of his experience of the record of anti-imperialism in India, and he attempted to link his concept of ‘Mindedness’ with his understanding of the multi- cultural Indian civilization rather than a clinically defined Indian nation. As Andy puts it, “ did not want his society to be caught in a situation where the idea of the Indian nation would supersede that of the Indict civilization and lifestyle, where the actual lives of Indians would be assessed solely in terms of the needs of an imaginary nation-state called India. What was Etageres starting point in this matter of Nationalism against civilization? Does this relate only to colonial India, or will the analysis hold true even for an independent society ruled by its own nation-state, either created by the fall of colonial control or simply realigned by the impact of the World War? A post-World War I Germany, for instance, was in need of redefinition and reconciliation of immensely problematic socio-political binaries as much as a post- liberation East Pakistan, as marked by the rise and success of Doll Hitler in Germany, and on the Bash Andiron and subsequent Liberation War of Bangladesh, 1971.
Étagère addresses these issues of change and reconciliation of the society estranged from civilization by ideas of Nationalism in his brief essay Nationalism (1917), where he does not focus on India alone, but comments on the general nature of the nation-state itself. Étagère distinguishes between “governments by kings and human races” (his term for civilizations) and “governments by nations” (his term for nation-states). He explicitly generalizes his critique of Nationalism by saying that “government by the Nation is neither British nor anything else; it is an applied science. It is universal, impersonal, and for that reason completely effective. In his defense of the traditional’ civilization against ‘modern’ nationalism, Étagère says, “l am quite sure in those days (pre-colonial era) we had things that were extremely distasteful to us. But we know that when we walk barefooted upon ground strewn with gravel, our feet come gradually to adjust themselves to the caprices of the inhospitable earth; while if the tiniest particle of gravel finds its lodgment inside our shoes, we can never forget and forgive its intrusion.
These shoes are the Nation; they are tight, they regulate our steps with a closed-up system, within which our feet have only the slightest liberty to make their wan adjustments. Therefore, when you produce statistics to compare the number of gravels which our feet had to encounter in the former days with the paucity of the present regime, you hardly touch the real point… The Nation forges its iron chains of organization which are the most relentless and unbreakable that have ever been manufactured in the whole history of man. Étagère reminds his non-Lillian audience too, that the dangers of Nationalism are as potent in the European nations as in the colonized Afro-Asian countries. He comments, “Not merely the subject races, but you ho live under the delusion that you are free, are every day sacrificing your freedom and humanity to this fetish of Nationalism… It is no consolation to us to know that this weakening of humanity is not limited to the subject races, and that its ravages are more radical because it hypnotizes people into believing that they are free. Early 20th century poetry, specifically those written during the World Wars, demonstrate the acute awareness of this “delusion that are free” in European and Aimer poets. War Poetry provides a unique and powerful space for poetic creation; the battlefield. Both literally and figuratively, the battlefield acts as the perfect ‘others a margin without any conception of what it is to demarcate, what it is to separate from what other, because the war itself is an act of defining the lines; geopolitical and socio-cultural.
Consequently, the field of war makes it possible for poetry to create a new communicative index for ideas of Nationalism that both drive and a defined by the act of war. It often becomes essential for the war poet to critique t partisan nature of Nationalism, because the sense of disillusionment is more pot in someone who has actually served in the war, and it becomes difficult for ideological Nationalism to control their expression of doubts, in this case in the f of poetry.
We find a clear articulation of this skepticism in the poetry of Philip Deed Thomas (1878-1917), one of the major Anglo-Welsh war poets during the World W In his poem This Is No Case Of Petty Right Or Wrong, he writes, “This is no case of petty right or wrong/That politicians or philosophers/ Can Judge. I hate not Germ nor grow hot/ With love of Englishmen, to please newspapers/ Beside my hate for fat patriot,] My hatred of the Kaiser is love true-I A kind of god he is, banging a g But I have not to choose between the two/ Or between Justice and injustice. Too wrote this poetry after a famous public argument with his own father, a convention patriot who demonic the Germans. His main problem with the strand of Nationalism his father represents is its tendency to reduce any international rival to a binary to black-and-white, the tendency of martial British Nationalism during World War to define itself almost exclusively based on the ‘tethering of the rival. Thomas was a British soldier himself, and died in service during the Battle of Ear France, 1917.
So when he uses poetry as a communicative medium for his understanding of martial, patriotic identity, it is understandably based on person experience of the soldier’s life. What Thomas is articulating here is that the solid loyalty is neither unconditional nor a fragmentary concept, it is based on an object understanding of one’s own position visa a visa that of an enemy solider; the loyalty the ‘other’ to his own cause must be considered equivalent to the loyalty of the ‘s Nationalism banks in on the alienation of this ‘self from the ‘other,’ and nowhere this indoctrination become more visible than in martial training.
Ashes Andy, in Illegitimacy of Nationalism: Étagère and the Politics of Self (1993), explains this attempt to understand the ‘other’ with reference to the character of Knishes in Etageres Share Bare. Andy says, “Knishes believes that God is manifest in one’ own country and must be worshipped… by the same logic, God must be manifest in other countries too, and there is no scope for hatred of them… Such a manipulation requires, Étagère implies, symbols embedded in an exclusivity cultural-religious idiom… His form of populism combines mob politics with realities. The patriotic Nationalism that Thomas is finds so acutely disturbing is nothing more than this same populism, this manipulation of a multi-cultural society, utilizing certain common ideas of hatred xenophobia for an external enemy, to unite them in a shallow, brittle conception Nation to be proud of. ‘ One might remember, in this context, a much later poem the Bengali poet Shasta Osteopathy (1933-1995) called Dud Shunned. Addressing the acute awareness to HTH War Poetry provided battlefield Both literally AR d without any con tram what other. Cause and socio-cultural. Consent create a new communication defined by the act of war. I partisan nature of Nation in someone who has actual ideological to to poetry. Eve tint a clear Thomas one o In his poem This Is ND Case petty right our nor grow hot/ love of fat patriot. ‘ My hatred of TTT But have not to choose but wrote this poetry after ATA patriot who demounted Nationalism his father rep to d binary to black-and-w’ World War to denned Itself Thomas USA a British solid understanding of ‘littoral. Experience of the soldier’s loyalty is neither uncounted understanding of one’s owe the other’ to ms own cause Nationalism hanks In on this indoctrination. On become Illegitimate_y of Nationalism attempt to understand the Etageres Share Bare Name awn country and must be ‘ reevaluates other countries MNГ¶connation [of the symbols embedded in an corrosives politics Witt tells so acutely disturbing millionaire off multi-cult xenophobia for an external Untold ‘TA be proud of. On the Bengali poet Shasta Chi idea of the binary, albeit from a more domestic, personal “They go two ways, they go two ways/ Nobody goes Just on two lives apart/ Not lose a single one/ It’s hard to find some sides/ By walls, running away/ From whatever is not/ All d this game/ My heart is split into two, and they remain/ In actual word is shunts which denotes ‘zero’, ‘nothing and he richness of the concept explored here. ) Why this peer a shift to the personal is important (as in Sheath’s poem) w we progress.
To return to World War poetry, however, HTH the binary and engaging with the ‘other’, echoing a Moe soldier looks through the thin shroud of Nationalism and of similarities (or at least, possibilities of engagement), is (1893-1918) in his famous poem Strange Meeting. In his p after their deaths on the same battlefield. Their martial, N been wiped out by the greater, more complete ‘tethering’ a each other and understand, for the first time, that they ha after all. The same machinery, the same deception had blip what the Nation required them to believe, and it took thee realize that. “Here is no cause to mourn… Eave the undone In a powerful moment of revelation comes the final stanza understatement, “l am the enemy you killed, my friend/ I k you frowned/ Yesterday through me as you Jabbed and kill hands were loath and cold/ Let us sleep now. ” There is a s personal from the institutional in both the poems we look through the recognition of the father’s blind faith in a cyst principle but hatred and denomination, in Owens poem t returns to this cynicism towards the ideas of glory and ma litany Nationalism define itself in a later, much darker p with the bitter rebuke, “My friend, you would not tell with ardent for some desperate glory,] The old lie. Looking at is perhaps more potent in the case of war poetry because constructs of this partisan, martial patriotism, and their p really signifies reduces these binaries to their bare minim die for your country is one of such ‘old lies’ that the soldier internalize; his preference to the country over his life sign Nationalism, the defeat of the personal by the socio-polite suppression of the basic, evolutionary human tendency t n ideology of Nationalism could not have failed to disturb Owen.
Perhaps the most openly cynical and bitter articulacy from the idea of oppressive Nationalism appears in the p Alfred E. Houseman (1859-1936). In this two stanza poem, the classic idea of martial sacrifice in the first stanza, then the second; “Here dead we lie/ Because we did not choose land/ From which we sprung. ‘ Life, to be sure,] Is nothing men think it is/ And we were young. ” The logical question point is; if Nationalism is to be critiqued, its problematic notions of martial sacrifice and denomination to be met with cynicism, what then should the focus be shifted to?
How can the soldier (or the common civilian, for that matter), disillusioned with the created binaries of Nationalism, redefine his or her own understanding of value systems that are intricately connected to ideas of freedom, bravery and loyalty? The answer, once again, is pointed out by Étagère; the personal self, not the political nation, should be the touchstone for social identity. Towards the end of his life, we find Étagère trying to analyze the rise of fascism and the World War II, and growing steadily more cynical about social constructs that try to categorize and compartmentalize individual identity.
If in Nationalism (1917) he values human civilization above political nationalism as a basis of social unity, in the much later essay Crisis In Civilization (1940) we find him rejecting civilization itself to search for a much more basic identity of the human self; “Once I was lost in the contemplation of the world of Civilization. At that time, I could never have remotely imagined that the great ideals of humanity would end in such ruthless travesty… As I look around I witness the crumbling ruins of Civilization herself.
And yet I shall not commit the grievous sin of losing faith in Man. I would rather look forward to the opening of a new chapter in history. ” As we move further towards the end of the 20th century and pass into the 21st, we find a shift that takes us further away from the critique of Nationalism as we found in World War poetry; we find additional attempts to define one’s poetic self in the times of war and conflict based on a predominantly human understanding of the nation, rather than any ideology of Nationalism.
This sentiment is echoed very closely in John Million’s idea that “every man be his own church”, as opposed to putting one’s faith in the dictates of the Church as an institution. This Nation as Institution versus Nation as Personal Perception is what has become a crucial debate in current critiques of Nationalism. I shall briefly discuss some contemporary poetry to demonstrate this shift of focus.
A good example of this shifting focus to the individual rather than the nation is the Egyptian- American poet Yah Allahabad’s What Is To Give Light (201 1), written in response to the early phases of the Arab Spring. Allahabad tries to find a poetic expression of how a single fruit-seller’s suicide by self-immolation in Tunisia sparked off what would become a remarkable youth movement across several Middle-Eastern countries, cascades of pent-up anger, resentment and impatience finally spilling over to topple the autocratic regimes in nation after nation.
Yet Allahabad in his poetry does not look at different nations coming together in a chain of events, he focuses instead on the singular, inherent human spirit of freedom as it moves through the superficial nations boundaries; “When words lose their meaning/ And an entire people their voice/ So they can neither laugh nor scream/ Death and life begin to taste the same/ From Tunis to Egypt, from Lebanon to Yemen/ The light from a burning man proved itching/ And those with nothing to lose or offer, but bodies/ Fanned the embers of their single hope into a blazing dream. This shift of focus to the personal perception of Nation is articulated more clearly in G. Arab Kinsman’s Arabic poem Being In Nothingness (2003), written as a response to the atrocities and war crimes during the US invasion of Iraq. The poem itself does not have much new to say, reiterating old ideas of unity, fight against racism and mutual compassion. However, what is interesting is the poetic voice of Sandra in this poem, especially the shift in his perception compared to his earlier poetry.
Some of these earlier works on similar themes are poetic recreations of verses from the Quern, appealing to an essentially Islamic spiritual identity to locate one’s inner courage in confronting evil. For instance, in I Live In The Seventh Hell (2001), he adapts some of the prayers (Dud) from the Quern into poetry; “l am a warrior/ In a leap of fire, I break your limbs/ One by one/ Far from anger, disarmed by strength/ I patiently wait for Time/ To undo you Allah free the soul/ I live in the seventh hell/ I burn in the seventh hell/ I rise in the seventh hell/ Allah free the soul.
Breaking with this Islamic voice, in his 2003 poem, Sandra shifts his expression to a more individual, non-institutional critique of violence itself; “Do you know the moments?… Let is when humans kill each other/ In the name of God/ Against the very spirit of each religion/ Based on skin color and beliefs/ It is when masses are hoodwinked/ By the machinery of their own elected masters/ It’s when your beloved ones set off/ In an endless voyage and invincible destination/ And you, my brother, cannot help them. As Kinsman’s attack shifts fro ‘Evil’ as defined by a particular religion to ‘evil’ as his individual human mind receives it, so does his conception of what his socio-political and poetic identity signifies. Keeping with Etageres 1940 essay, we find the human perception being valued in poetic assessment of the Nationalism, valued far above either civilization the politically defined nation-state. This would be a good time to point out that not a the poets we have discussed are consciously attacking Nationalism through their works.
These poets have in mind other immediate notions they are writing against; violence, war crimes, racism, sexism, xenophobia, communality, poverty etc. That heir poetry is actually resisting the all-pervasive institution of Nationalism often remains beneath the surface of their immediate poetic consciousness. This, in my opinion, makes the evaluation of their poetry as critiques of Nationalism all the moor legitimate. Nationalism, like most socio-political institutions, manifests subtly through other, more visible instruments of oppression.
To take a stance against Nationalism through poetry therefore requires an understanding, at once, of both the nature of these visible instruments and of the underlying institution that holds them in place. Nationalism as an institution makes itself invisible, because like any other institution of power and control, it needs to remain outside the sphere of daily engagement to efficiently exert control on its subjects.
George Orwell (1903-1950) points out this subtle, manipulative nature of Nationalism, inseparable from ideas of power dynamics, in Notes On Nationalism; “By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labeled ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But secondly -? and this is much more important -? I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests…
Nationalism is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is t secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other UN in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality. ” Thus, we can see why a grade shift to looking at the Nation as a personal perception, as we have discussed earlier, comes necessary in resisting an institution that seeks to “sink own individuality. ” What then, should follow a poet’s shift to personal perception in his or her resistance of Nationalism?
A creation of an alternate space, an alternate communicative index, becomes necessary, because the poet’s prerogative is not to counter an institution with another, but to exploit the gaps in the institution itself, creating a voice that, above everything else, resists. Resistance itself becomes an important tool in asserting the individual identity against the restraints of an institution; Just as an institution is in the constant process of imposing and restraining, the act of successful resistance itself too should remain constantly dynamic and prevent becoming a stagnant counter-institution itself.
We have looked at poetry in the times of war and conflict so far, but to understand this resistance more clearly, poetry written in times of apparent peace should be investigated. In times of war, the institution of Nationalism becomes more visible, and war poetry has the advantage of addressing it more directly than most other genres of writing. However, in times of ‘normalcy,’ the institution is as subtle as it can be, and poetry of resistance needs to be the most penetrative, the most acutely sensitive, to address and critique this system.
One such practitioner of the poetry of resistance we will turn to here is Unbar Apothecary (1948-2014), the Bengali writer who remained, for the greater part of his life, committed to revolutionary and radical aesthetics. In resisting the machinery of the nation-state, Unbars literature remains one of the touchstones, both in its radical, often subversive content and its unorthodox style, among practitioners of Bengali literature.
In his most famous poem Ii Impurity Pothook Mare Dash Ana, he articulates his idea of the nation as personal perception, “This valley of death is not my nation/ This hangman’s arena is not my nation/ This expansive cemetery is not my nation/ This bloodstained butcher’s yard is not my nation/ I will take back my nation again… ‘ will not make peace with the alcohol poured over the back whipped bloody in the torture chamber/ I will not make peace with the electric shocks to the nude body, the ugly sexual torture/ I will not make peace with being lynched to death, the gun firing into the skull at point blank range/
Poetry overcomes all/ Poetry is armed, poetry is free, poetry is fearless/ Look at us, Makeovers, Hickman, Neared, Argon, Inward/ We have not let your poetry go to waste/ Rather, the whole Nation is now trying to form itself into an Epic/ Where all the rhymes will be composed in the rhythm of the guerilla warriors. ” Such is the personal imagination of the Nation for a poet who, when asked about his most prominent ideological belief, said, “l am no longer anthropocentric in my belief system. It is Unbars break from thinking of the ‘self as a structural and functional nit of an anthropocentric system that allows him the space to look at personal perception as unrestrained, uncorroborated and truly individual. It is not Just violence Unbar is critiquing in this poem, but the very act of defining the Nation (and consequently, Nationalism) on instruments and events tainted by this violence. Poetry, here, defines the self for Unbar.
He looks at himself, above everything else, as a practitioner of poetry; “This is the correct time for poetry/ Pamphlets, graffiti, stencils/ I could use my blood, my bones, my tears to create a collage/ Of poetry right owe/ At the shattered face of the sharpest pain/ In the face of terrorism, looking calmly into the headlights of the Van/ I could throw poetry into their faces right now/ Whatever the murderer possesses, the memories of ’38 or anything else/ I could deny Individuality. What then, shoal her resistance to Nationalism? Communicative Index. Become: counter an institution with NC creating a voice that, above ewe important tool in asserting the Institution: just as an Institutes restraining, the act of successful dynamic and prevent becoming at poetry in the times of war a’ mare clearly, poetry relent in times to ovary. He institution of the advantage of addressing it However, in times of ;normalcy resistance needs to be the MO and critique this system.
One turn to here is Unbar Bath for the greater part of his life, resisting ere machinery of the touchstones, both in its radical among practitioners of Bengali pothook Mare Dash Ana. He perception, “This valley of dead nation,’ This expansive cemetery not my nation/ will take back poured over the back whipped With the electric shocks to the peace With being lynched to De Poetry overcomes all/ Poetry is Makeovers, Hickman, Neared, Rather, the whole Notion is no’ homes Hill be composed In the personal imagination of the In prominent Ideological belief. . System. ” It is Unbars break’ unit of an anthropocentric cyst perception as unrestrained, our Unbar is critiquing In this p’ consequently, Nationalism) on Poetry, here, defines the self FCC as a practitioner of poetry; “The stencils/ I could use my blood, now/ At the shattered face of t calmly into the headlights of t? Whatever the murderer posse and write poetry right now. ” If his self, whose “blood, b inseparable from the act of writing poetry in his magi perception of the Nation for himself, that perception by poetry too.
In other words, Unbars poetry is not Nation as such, but is trying to bring his personal peer same sphere as his perception of himself; both as Poe and tears” form a collage of poetry, the Nation too, is t Epic”; a union of the Nation and the self through the c as poetry, within the poet’s imagination, is achieved. T radical and revolutionary ideas, because we find else expression of the poetic self becoming the revolution potentially destructive power of creative imagination; ‘ the smell of blood/ Let poetry go up in flames like gun torches of poetry/ Let the Molotov cocktails of poetry/ poetry/ Crash into the desire of this fire!
The idea of appears again in the poetry of the Bangladesh poet S especially in the well-known Buck Tara Bangladesh his idea of Nation as individual perception, he maps h the body of a young boy; the ultimate effect is not one Nation, but a reduction of the Nation to something that individual understanding; “And he walks out naked in torso/ The sun scribbles unique slogans/ He walks at t and suddenly/ The hundreds of guns that patrol the s bullets not Nor Hussein’s breast, but the breast of Ban cries out like a deer trapped in a burning forest/ And t out of her body. The poetry of Normalized Gun (1945 lacing the identity of the Nation within individual co specific, in Swap, Nab-Bouzouki Sheikh, the dread a personal dream, an individual aspiration; “When I gar petals of a sunflower, one at a time/ Shall blossom wit trapped inside the heart of my poetry/ And the grapes today/ Will become wine and intoxicate the Bangle of t then? (To digress momentarily, Gun’s use of the word nation is a clever, subtle pun, as ‘Bangle’ also signifies mischievously echoing the Wine’ that intoxicates. These common in Gun’s poetry, and often provide much nee conclude this section, I shall mention Buddha Bas specifically his poem, Misjudged Kibitz.
The quests here develops into one of active, constructive engage in understanding what Nationalism signifies to each o belief, but as a personal perception, “And I know we w history is what chains us/ Oh, how else could we be FRR effortless union? / Union of the human with the human world/ And you are the proof of that union, you are the how the critique of Nationalism through poetry has SSH 20th century and beyond, not Just chronologically but perhaps also depending on the specific socio-cultural contexts.
Resistance itself becomes an important feature of this system of critique; from the resistance of Nationalism as a partisan system that remotes what Jacques Lagan would call “the overriding attitude of unmediated opposition”, to the resistance of Nationalism as an institution itself in favor of personal perception, to the resistance of any kind of institution whatsoever in favor of locating the Nation within the poetic self. Of course, this is not a singular chain of events, nor does the process take place in a linear, consistent manner.
But having looked at the different pieces of poetry chosen for this discussion, it would seem that the critique and resistance of Nationalism are inseparable from each other; a eroticism of the institution of Nationalism would invariably present itself as a process of resistance, because the very machinery of Nationalism dehumidifies and compartmentalizes, going against the basic nature of individual spirit, that tends to locate itself in the physical world.
Poetry, always one of the most powerful instruments communicating the spirit of the personal, confronts this restraining nature of Nationalism and critiques it through a chain of resistance, ultimately culminating in the personal itself; to understand Nationalism is to resist Nationalism, s the only way possible for the concept of Nation to be compatible to the liberated human spirit is for the Nation to be located within the self.