14 October 2021

National identity today

National identity today


Topic by Ines

Essay by Lawrence


We assume that national identity is a consequence of state citizenship, but national identity need not be linked to citizenship. We have two good examples, the Jewish nation and the Indigenous North American nations. Even imperialism does not endow people with a different national identity as that of the occupying nation. When the British eventually occupied India, the native Indian people did not have a British national identity; and in Italy, when living there, I noticed that people identified more with the town or city they came from rather than Italy as a country.


I would therefore argue that national identity is more a subjective feeling in certain circumstances and an imposed identity in other cases. However, today anything connected with nation and state can and does give rise to nationalism and xenophobia. The problem is not that in the past nationalism and xenophobia did not exist, but that today such ideologies can spread to a worldwide audience within hours.


A look at some dictionaries national identity is established by such factors as traditions, culture and language. But in historical and ancient countries such as those found in Europe, these three factors can be and usually are different from region to region in a modern state. Spain and Italy are two very good examples. It should not, therefore, be a surprise that the political systems of these two countries are not as cohesive as say a modern country such as the United States.


From a philosophical perspective there are a number of issues that might be of interest. For example, where does personal identity stop and national identity start? Is liking roast beef and Yorkshire pudding a matter of my national identity with England or a personal choice based on what I like eating? But if liking food from one’s country makes it a matter of national identity, what about liking food (or music, literature, speaking another language) from another country? Would liking Fabada Asturiana or authentic Italian pizza make one Spanish or Italian?


At best only a socially inept person would think that their national food is the only food worth eating; at worst only committed racists and xenophobes would think such a thing about their national food. It seems that the criteria for national identity are neither necessary nor sufficient.


Indeed does national identity, therefor, give rise to xenophobia? Or is one’s national identity a trigger for xenophobes and xenophobia?


Best Lawrence


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