What is Nationality?

Is nationality the same as identity?

Nationality could be just a way to index your place of birth.

It could also be a way to identify with a culture.

The United States is unique in that respect because of our short history, and because every citizen is the product of immigration.

The melding and accepting of cultures is an uniquely American ideal. Perhaps this cosmopolitan ethos has expanded to other counties with the increase in globalization.

Nations were once very monocultural, and that was a “good” thing, which reinforced the nationalistic identity assumed as citizens.

But technology has bridged cultural gaps in terms of knowledge access and transfer and exposure, via the proliferation of media and information, and the ease of travel.

Europe, once taking great pride in its monocultural institutions, has many countries that are nearly as diverse as America.

This cultural pluralism is hotly debated. Is this diversity a good thing? Or is it a bad thing? When is it good and when is it bad?

I feel that diversity is a good thing when people reach across the aisle and seek to understand others, and minorities do their best to assimilate into the prevailing institutions, bringing with them their unique cultural values as contributions to expanding thought and perspective and ideas of legacy institutions.

It’s bad when there is no assimilation, when the majority is no longer tolerant, or the minority holds too tight to their culture, and refuses to adapt.

I’m an American. I speak “American” (English yes, but clearly a different accent, and often a different dialect depending on the demographic I’ve been socialized by).

Do I identify with American values? It’d be difficult to deny this. They are generic enough. Freedom and liberty? Sure.

I’m not the most patriotic person.

I’m mostly aware of my nationality when I travel, and I’m exposed to traditions and values and social etiquette that’s hidden in the folds of society when your submersed there.

Attitudes toward education, elders, women, technology, work, eating, health, vacation, etc, etc.

Culture is a hidden force that’s only revealed by exposure to radically different ways of living.

A force in the sense that it has shaped and molded our character and constitution in ways completely hidden to us without a contrast to compare to.

I know many who have never left the town they were born in. What does culture mean to them? “I am the way I am and I can’t be any other way!” And they you travel, and the world opens up and exposes these “other ways” of being. And possibility can finally bloom. Or the fear and discomfort of this “difference” causes a retreat back into the familiar, and a disdain for the “other”.

I find books produce the same effect.

Beliefs and assumptions and values are imbued throughout our psychological development which eventually become a more and more rigid identity that become more and more inescapable the longer we refuse to explore alternative ways of living and thinking.

The brain is plastic, so anyone can change. But it requires a more radical force to create this change if mind, because habits of being are so deeply engrained.

No one can escape the process of enculturation. But we can become aware of it, and choose our influences more wisely.

But individuals and groups behave very differently.

Mass psychology has a mind of its own, and often individuals would reject the mass psychology they see as detrimental in others, though they themselves participate in it.

I see the Christian disdain for Islam, and find it fascinating that more parallels aren’t drawn between the two. Gross generalizations projected onto the other, completely blind that they are active participants in the same mass psychology by a different name.

I like the Socratic attitude of being a “citizen of the world”.

That should be the response.

There are universal values which encourage the flourishing of humanity that no nation can claim as their own.

We should identify as citizens of the world. Humanity is one. Differences are a matter of perception, and dialog typically resolves those differences with understanding.

Culture is a by product of the collective struggle of the group to make survival meaningful. We struggle to solve problems as a group, and the activities produced by that struggle become our culture. And these struggles are not only engineering or political feats. They include relationships, labor, creating beauty through art, adapting to the climate, etc.

But the struggle is universal.

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