Gerald O'brian


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How do you define NATIONAL IDENTITY ?

Why should a State worry about its National Identity?

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    Nov 16 2011: I don't and they shouldn't. Focus need shift to sustainability of all necessary resources for all people.
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      Nov 16 2011: So you're saying the whole idea is a waste of time?
      Please develop your point.
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    Nov 16 2011: What is a state? What is national identity? If one looks back into the past, there were cohesive groups sharing a language, a culture, a religion, and myths and heroes -- these were called nations. Examples: the Visigoths, the Hungarians, the Catalans, the Picts, the Walloons, and so on. States, on the other hand, are political structures involving a recognized source of power (a king, a warlord, a bureaucracy, an army) and an accepted framework in which power is exercised. We now live in a world where various nations live in one state (e.g. Belgium or the United States) and others in which nations are divided among states (e.g. Hungarians in Hungary and Hungarians in Romania).

    I have no idea of whether politicians (or bureaucrats) should 'worry' about 'national identity'. That's a decision they need to make.... But as leaders, they do need to keep an eye on the people they rule to see if these folks are 'nationalists' or 'internationalists' or 'regionalists' or whatever. And if (as in Egypt -- with both Muslims and Copts) a state has a population that take religion seriously, they need to worry about religious identity threatening their grip on power. Civil wars solve the issue of 'national identity' by splitting up states (e.g. Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia), but they create a lot of destruction and pain in their wake -- and politicians leading and ruling over ever fewer citizens....
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    Nov 23 2011: Spain has been grappling with the 'nationalities' issue for decades (Catalanes, Vascos, Gallegos, etc) and has attempted to hold everything together with 'regionalism' -- a decentralization of power. Unfortunately, the regions have not always been responsible parties and large and possibly destabilizing debt has built up in the regions. And the Catalans are upset that a large percentage of their wealth flows out of their region to 'Madrid' (the central government).

    It's a bit strange to visit Barcelona and see so much Catalan signage (and folks speaking Catalan). Fortunately for 'foreigners' Catalan (a legitimate language with a long history) is closely related to French and Spanish, so one can manage.

    The violent separatist movement in Pais Vasco is (fortunately) on its last legs -- though the central government has been crowing about 'dismantling ETA' for enough years that every such announcement is greeted with skepticism (and a lot of new cynical jokes at the government's expense).

    Nations are sometimes held together with 'chewing gum and string'.

    One need only look back at the American Civil War (aka The War Between the States) to see a nation that fell apart and was only pasted back together by force of arms. It took a century for most folks to put that bloody conflict between them..... Or have they?

    The political and religious map of the United States (and its current political paralysis) follow the same divisions as those extant in 1865.
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    Nov 16 2011: Gerald,
    National identity leads to nationalism and my country right or wrong mentality, which directly undermines national security and leads to wars and conflicts.
    If we could understand we all ride this spaceship together, sink or swim, we might be able to understand how national identity has leads to conflict. At this time in human history, we desperately need to reverse nationalism and identify that we are all global citizens, together. Global warming has created the context that survival depends on co-existence or no existence. Does that help?
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    Nov 16 2011: The funny thing is, Gerald that I taught my kids to be citizens of the world and we are very proud Canadians. The Canadian identify is really hard to pinpoint. Often we define ourselves as 'not American'. I think that the Canadian identity has everything to do with fairness and human rights, with winter sports, fresh air and maple syrup on top.
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      Nov 16 2011: What do you think about countries where there is a national identity crisis? (Or at least where it is said to be such a crisis)
      Countries where different cultures are mixed, sometimes with turbulence.
      Should the State interfere in building national identity? How?

      I'd love to know your opinion on this.
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        Nov 16 2011: This is a pretty far reaching question. I thought about it as I walked. Some of the identity crises that nations face is as a result of good and proper change. However, some of the nations which are facing such crises today are facing change arising out of immigration where the immigrants have stong agendas to change the countries to align with their religous views.

        Canada is a young country (we only got our own flag in my lifetime) so much of what we hold dear is really fundamental. A nation of immigrants, we want to find a way that has to do with merit rather than a class system. We are almost all within memory of the poor and disposessed relatives who made long journeys to find better lives. The waves of immigrants sought to build lives within the country's framework and because our weather conditions necessitate cooperation and mutual vigilance those who came before others usually made room for the newcomers with some compassion. Having said that though we did have a history of colonization. My grandmother came at the age of 13 as a bonded servant girl who had been told she was actually 18. Our First Nations people suffered under the colonial system and still bear the scars today.

        We really are making mulitcultural ideologies work. Not perfectly of course but pretty well most of the time. We are vulnerable to scammers because we are so open and naive in some ways. Even so in the main, we adore our different ethnic groups. We never actually assimulate their cuisines exactly- we always celebrate them, In Canada you do not go out for curry but for 'Indian' food, or Thai food, or Chinese food - even long after we have come to make these dishes part of our daily fair.

        I think the state should enshrine some fundamental human rights which are irrevocable. I think the state should rightly engage in nation building to enhance identity but it is for the people to declare what their nation's identity is. In Canada it is up in the air and we are OK with it.
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        Nov 17 2011: What part Gerald? Some of what I said was pretty controversial.
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          Nov 17 2011: What I get out of it, at least, is that identity as far as the state is concerned has to do solely with human rights and its institutions to defend them,
          not with language or mythology or whatever,
          which should be up to the people, including immigration people.
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        Nov 17 2011: We have two 'official' languages in Canada, French and English. If someone is arrested or hospitalized, we usually have services which provide translators.
        I think with a foundation of human rights, most other things will settle in for a society.

        The biggest danger for most societies is when an organized group with a different agenda immigrates into a country with a multi-staged plan for reforming that society to match the one they left. We had a near miss in Ontario (the central province near the great lakes) where some groups wanted to institute Mosaic law for divorces in their faith. Another group then wanted to institute Shiriha law and it almost passed. For me that it particularly frightening because I am worried about losing the ground that I helped to gain for women's rights in Canada. I want our laws to trump any others which could diminish anyone's pursuit of a well rounded and full life.

        In the past this sort of phenomenon happened in churches in bygone eras (and probably still today come to think of it). People would join existing churches and try to change them into their expectation of church dogma or to what they had before. This often led to rancor and church splits. I see it as the same phenomenon that is happening in some European countries. I just believe that you should not join something with the intent purpose of changing it. You should choose to join a place where you accept and believe in the basic value system. After all, there are many places in the world where people can choose to live and becoming a citizen of an existing country is a privelege that much of the world will never enjoy.
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          Nov 17 2011: Thank you very much, this is beyond what I could've expected to understand about my little question.
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    Nov 17 2011: Does this question have relevance to Andorra, which has an interesting national identity?
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      Nov 18 2011: I did have larger countries in mind, like Spain and France... Andorra is interesting though :)
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    Nov 17 2011: Debra, Certainly I speak from a physical presece in the US of A. However if you follow all the posts I have shared regarding this question, I don't believe your contention holds up. Actually I see the two questions very much related and that is why I tweeked it a tad.
    Check my other posts and tell me what you think. Thanks
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    Nov 16 2011: Gerald, Your question directly contributes to the problems my response is attempting to address, if ya get my drift.
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    Nov 16 2011: Personally, I believe a more important question is, How do we (the people) define National SECURITY? How might it be different than our government defines it? How might that be relevant to the occupy movement?
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      Nov 16 2011: Or what quarks look like at zero °K.
      These are important, don't get me wrong.

      But what about my darn question?!
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      Nov 17 2011: Craig, Is it possible that you are speaking from an American centric perspective in the way you are worried about this question?
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    Nov 16 2011: Belgian Identity is based on it's absence and surrealism i guess...
    we have national tendencies, but they are mainly from Flemish separatist movements... though among their numbers few are of the flag waving kind...

    How about Andorra?