Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Nationality vs Culture: The Inconvenience of Individuality in a Nationalistic World

          All three of these stories discuss the difficulty of embracing a "foreign" culture as part of you personality in a world hellbent on creating titles and divides between people.  Nations are the primary offender in regards to these stories because it is the issue of national borders that insist on the homogenization of nation and individual.  This issue is deeply rooted in colonial idealism, in particular it seems to be birthed in Enlightenment ideologies of the self.  Several Enlightenment thinkers did not think of individuals as truly individuals, but a cog in the nation-state.  Hobbes called it the Leviathan with the head of state as the literal head of this monster and the people making up the body.  Locke called for people to give up individual freedoms for the betterment of the whole, which is not an inherently negative idealism, but the idea of giving individuality to the nation in order to gain supposed societal benefits has been misconstrued to give the nation far too much power. Rousseau saw this trend of giving freedom of self up to the nation in his work, "The Social Contract", when he said that, "man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains".  The Enlightenment developed during the beginning of Colonization and the impact can be clearly seen where "foreign" countries became the feet of the Leviathan, caring the body and given nothing in return.  Borders came out of this, and the creation of nations in general, as a trophy to the head of state to show how much he owned, though in actuality these borders are arbitrary.  The system of border may work in Europe because there are defined cultures unique to the individual countries and within them even different sections will have divisions, like Italy has Rome, Lombardy, and Sicily which all have different sub cultures, but as a whole they can come together as Italians since these borders have existed for several centuries.  This, however, is not the case in many other parts of the world where borders really were not a thing.  Take the "Middle East" for example, it use to pretty much all be the Ottoman Empire, but for the most part cultures were tribal dictated from place to place, but they did not have an issue with this for the most part.  Then come WWI and Europe decides to carve the Ottoman Empire up as a reward for their supposed hard work and that is when many of the issues of the modern Middle East come into play.  How do you simply tell people of hundreds of different sub cultures that they are now Saudi or Pakistani or what have you when they do not have a huge concept of the European national culture.  To this day the governments of these nations have little overall influence over the people because they govern themselves for the most part by the laws that have served them for many many years.  Coming back to the stories, I believe that it is this forced homogenization that causes the tension in each story because this old world mentality that the nation must control the people instead of the nation being for the people.  In "La Conciancia de la Mestiza", we see how someone living on the border of Mexico and the United States handles the idea of nationality.  She does not consider herself of either nation entirely, but a breed in and of itself, mestiza, which is a way of embracing Mexican, American, and even Native American culture without compromising the self by chaining self to a single nation.  Similarly we have the native american protagonist in "Borders".  She refuses to claim either Canada or America as her place of origin, but instead embraces her tribal heritage as part of her being and the border guards cannot fathom this level of freedom as she refuses to chain herself to their conception of self as nation.  "Who's Irish" is a bit different than the other two, but still shares a similar strand of choosing ones culture instead of being forced into, or out of, it.  The main character believes in corporal punishment as it is more common in China and uses it on her granddaughter and is subsequently thrown out of the house and embraced as an "honorary Irish".  She stuck by her heritage because she values it as part of her individuality, but because she refuses to conform to this new country's standards, she is mistreated by the most important institution in Chinese culture, family.

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