Some seminar thoughts...

...about national identity

Why should I be proud of High Tatras (Slovak mountains) just because I am a Slovak?
Why should I be proud of my ancestors who "won" a fight for their/my rights?
Why should I be proud of a slovak national hockey team that won some championship?

I think I can be happy about it. I can be happy that there are such a beatiful mountains in the world but I have not built them and I haven´t decided to be born in Slovakia. So why should I be proud? Shouldnt I be proud only of something I have done or I have contributed to? Tatras are beautiful. Alps as well. And I have heard that Mount Everest is also kinda astonishing ;-) 
Being proud about my ancestors. Why should I be proud of something they have done? I can be happy that they did. As many other people who have nothing to do with "my" country did. But why should their acts and their decisions make ME feel special about myself? The same goes for any sport team.

I do not want to hide behind national identity, gender identity etc and derive a good feeling about myself or excuses for who I am based on something I have not influenced...  

Postat av: Mari

Me again:) Right now I started thinking why we need patriotism? Why do I get shivers all over my body when we have a huge Singing Festival in Tallinn after every 5 years, where thousands of people hold hands and sing patriotic songs? And I think it's because people need something that connects them, people need to have this feeling that they're united from time to time and that's why we have invented patriotism. But patriotism is just one way to get this connection between people and sometimes it's not the smartest way, because it can cause really stupid conflicts. Also I could take such examples like a family (we need to feel that we belong somewhere), friendship (we need to know that we're not alone), religion, nationalities, European Union etc etc

2008-01-06 @ 14:32:12
Postat av: Lisa

I agree with you Kristina. I never really got the hang of nationalism. I like living in Sweden because its one of the better countries politically, and that is also something I can contribute to by voting for example. But for the other parts, culture and so on, it differs so much in Sweden aswell, so it would be difficult to feel at home in all parts. And I also feel I can adopt other nations proudness, I can be proud to show my family places in Germany or Russia when I have spent some time there, as well as parts of Sweden where I have never lived, but spent some vacations in (like Jämtland).

Postat av: maik

I see several problems connected to national identity:
One is that the search or definition of something called lik this is only very random.
And the other is, that national identity - once it is found and agreed upon - can turn into national superiority. And it shows in patriotism turning into nationalism.
To talk about this second aspect, I just want to refer to history. World War One had its reason (among others) for ever increasing nationalism. The national identity of the European Powers were highly charged with the attitude of one's own cultural, political and military superiority (all factors that today form national identity). This just shows the danger that lied within a concept like national identity.
Coming to terms with the first point: When we today want to define a state, we look at TERRITORY, the PEOPLE in this territory, and at the Government of the people in the territory. Those are the three indicators for a state. Now I have been travelling by car recently very much. I passed many borders and found myself in many different states. But, passing the Slovak - Polish border in the Tatras, noone can feel that the territory changes. The trees remain the same, the ground remains the same etc. Only humans chose to put a border there. Coming back to Germany I entered a country of Bavarians, Saxons, Prussians etc. They all have been at war with each other. Today they form a body of people. And that the bodies of people in European states are pluralistic, is a fact everybody knows.
So, if two of those three factors for a modern state and thus for modern national identity appear to be more or less random, how can we concretely define national identity?

2008-01-06 @ 22:17:54
Postat av: Maja

Yes.. I have been thinking about this recently also...
And by the way, I would like to congratulate on the great seminar (by what I read) you organized and I am sorry for missing the debates, and lectures..
But then, why do we feel shivers in our body when the name of the country we are from is mentioned (and even the country we spent some time in)..?
Do we maybe feel we want to give something back for the things we got from the country, for the feeling of belonging, for the education it provided for us, for the tradition and the culture? Maybe because of the depandence we feel of the state?
And I also see the borders and nations as unnatural proccess.. but why? And how come now it is all mixed with emotions (which I consider very natural)?

2008-01-06 @ 22:57:45
Postat av: Mari

I totally agree with Maik what you say about national superiority and I think that in that lies many problems that we have now as well (USA's national superiority for ex) and it is very dangerous. And in my comment I didn't really want to justify patriotism, maybe I expressed myself a bit badly. I just wanted to find some kind of explanation for myself of why do we have that patriotism and nationalism things anyways. Because I don't consider myself as a patriotic person either, especially when it goes to extremes like here in Estonia during the April riots, and after these events for ex many estonians started putting estonian flags on their cars, just like presidents have, you know those small flags. And I think it is just so stupid.
I think it is possible to adjust with another country's culture as well, I at least feel very close to France as well, after living there for 10 months, because I understand them a bit better, they don't seem like strangers to me anymore, it also feels like home there and I think that if I'd live in a third country for a while then I would consider it as my home as well.

2008-01-07 @ 10:21:26
Postat av: Jan Tore

I´m not very patriotic, i would like to see Norway enter into the EU and i´m not sure if independence from Sweden really was a wise choice. But stil i do feel pride when a norwegian does something or wins something. I don´t really see anything wrong in that either. I think the important part is that we learn to live with different identities, and not one exclusively national. Sometimes my norwegian identity is strongest, other times other things are more important. And i think that having some sense of home or belonging also makes me more appriciate
of others similar feelings.
National feelings can be used to much evil, but the building of democracy and a social welfarestate atleast in Norway has also gone together with nationbuilding. And a sense of belonging and togetherness i think is important for both. If we are discussing national identity i think that perspective also need to be taken into account.

2008-01-07 @ 19:44:11
Postat av: maik

Another example that shows that national identity is created rather artificially can be found in globalization.
When we talk about mational identity, we very often refer to the language, the mother tongue. This happened during the seminar, but there is also an occasional debate in Germany by conservatives, who demand a German leading culture. For them language is the most essential part of national identity.
However, today more than 50 million people work in multinational companies (the number is growing). And for all those people (more than the population of the Baltic countries together) their job means the dissolution of the terms national identity and language. And we learn that those terms do not belong together. Internationalism is for all those employees every day business and it will necessarily affect their own identity. In a multinational context national identity is losing its strength.

2008-01-11 @ 11:06:25
Postat av: Minja

=)))) I better don't write anything.. but it is an interesting topic ;)

2008-01-11 @ 13:29:02
Postat av: Kristina

I just want to add that liking a country (home country) does not equal national identity.

2008-01-11 @ 13:42:04
Postat av: Kristina

Another thing: The shivers when national songs are sang in a huge crowd. I think you would have shivers also if another song would be sang. I for example have shivers when we sing Active song all together.

2008-01-11 @ 13:48:53
Postat av: kadri

i dont have shivers in random concerts.. music is cool, but you go to song festival
for feeling the unitedness. i think nationalism does not have to be negative, i think every radical way of perceiving things is negative, but being proud about a country, about ones nationality, why not. I am proud to be Estonian, but I do not think other nations, people are less worth. Im also proud to be European.
I totally agree that its nonsens to like things or people only cause of their nationality, but I dont see anything wrong in being proud to belong to some nation, as long its a positive feeling of belonging to somewhere and not finding other nations/people less worth.

I would write more here, but I wont.:-)

2008-01-11 @ 20:58:32
Postat av: Jan Tore

Yes, its artifical. And it is interesting how national identities are being made. But does that makes it any less "real" when you are singing national songs together? (and i think the fact that you are singing it with someone is the important fact here. It´s not quite the same alone in your room.) Doesn´t all identities have to be "made" somehow?

I´m interested in the requirements for a democracy to work. I think we need some sort of consensus, some sort of common understandings in society. And a common identity can be an important part of that. That identity might be build on different things, i would prefer it was ideas, not things that might be excluding. But i also see that it is difficult to accomplish that.

Look at the EU. Why is the European Union trying to "make" european symbols as the flag and the european hymn or sponsor history projects writing european history instead of national histories? Because they see that if the institutions of the EU are going to have some sort of legitimity, people in Europe also have to feel that they belong to a common area. They have to feel european, have some sort of european identity. Problem is that many don´t, atleast not yet, and that is one of several reasons why building democratic institutions are difficult.

And, not trying to make Minja to writing something :):), but its difficult not using Yugoslavia as an example here. A bit more yugoslavian identity in the end of the eighties might have been good. Then Milosevic revival of serbian nationalism would have had more difficulties succeeding. So there can be too much national identity, and there can be too little of it also.

And that is the reason why i don´t think national identity in itself is wrong. It is what people do with it that is important, and that we must learn to live with different identities. (And not just national ones either) If we do that maybe not all people who feels like a nation feels the need for an own state also. Then we have gotten somewhere.

2008-01-11 @ 21:51:02
Postat av: Anonym

Yes, Jan Tore, this was a call for a comment, but i forgive you;) (nice comment btw)

I very much agree with Kadri and Jan Tore. With Kika too, when it comes to identifying the feelings one has.

I think, there are many perspectives people can observe "national identity" from. Yugoslavia, and what's left of it, is one. Globalisation and internationality is second (both political ones). But what counts is "real life". What a person or group of people has been trough counts - which, therefore,created an identity of the group. As every individual has an identity, personal one, so has a group of people. I'd go too deep into political definitions if i mention territory and borders. But remember - there once was a reason to put a border between people. I don't understand why it is ok to have different cultures, customs, etc, and not nationality? It's ok to promote intercultural learning, but not international learning? This is an answer to "how to make democracy work".
The wrong thing here, about "national identity" and "nationality" is that these terms have too many times been used for a political aspirations and for manipulating people/group of people, same as religion. and this should be changed.
to cut the story: I'm proud of being bosnian. why? that's another long story to tell, from a different perspective of observing national identity.

2008-01-11 @ 22:20:09
Postat av: Minja

that was Minja up there=)

2008-01-11 @ 22:20:38
Postat av: Kristina

It is very interesting that many of you "defend" national identity like I have said national identity is wrong. And so far nobody answered my questions: WHY are you proud. Yes many of you wrote you are proud. But I am asking WHY. (And please notice that I am asking about: why do people derive a good feeling about themselves based on success of someone else)

Second of all. Since people here are writing whether it is good or bad with national identity i will contribute too =) Jan Tore told it himself in the part about Yugoslavia. You actually mentioned a very nice example of a danger with strong national identity. People do not question their pride about their own nation. The pride is very strong emotionally and that makes people blind.

The question about belonging. I think it is from a huge part a phrase which is not questioned again. If it would be total true, then people from one nation would care more about each other and they would not unite together just in the situations when they should "fight" smth else (from "outside"). How many % of those who are standing and singing national songs together really do something for their country? (Pls don´t feel attacked here. I also believe that some of those people do) How many of Slovaks who have tears in their eyes when they talk about Tatra mountains and their beauty as their mountains really live the way so the nature (including Tatras) is not destroyed?

Especially for Jan Tore: I do not think that the national identity is needed for democracy to work. For democracy you need values that I believe are common for people from many different nations.

But yes back to my initial question: I wanted to ask WHY / HOW do we derive a good feeling about ourselves based on someones else success. And isn´t that just a "shortcut" to feel good without any effort?

2008-01-12 @ 10:32:10
Postat av: Minja

1. Why am I proud of Bjelasnica mountin (close to Sarajveo)?

Once upon a time, there was a small Olympic Committee in Sarajevo that applied to organize Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo. (Ex-Yugoslavia period).
Belgrade and Zagreb did their best to show to the rest of the world how people of Sarajevo aren't capable of doing something like that. There was no support whatsoever from other Yugoslavian cities and towns (meaning people in power). Sarajevo, however, got this chance to organize it, in pretty, cold, snowy February in 1984. Next to all controversies, traps, etc, people of Sarajevo managed to hold (by then) the best organized Olympic Games ever, on the Bjelasnica Mountain. Such a small area was a center of the World at that particular time.
Controversies, humiliations etc, that people of Sarajevo went trough, while organizing the games, made them only stronger, and determent and all of it made a spirit that only those people had: spirit of hope, consistence and pride! Forgot to mention that there were hundreds of thousands of people volunteering to make these Games perfect (out of 400.000 inhabitants Sarajevo counted at a time). The perfect product made them proud of themselves, for succeeding in sth, no one else believed in.
When u go up there, to Bjelasnica, u can actually feel that spirit.

2. War in Bosnia ? hate myself for having to write about this;

Imagine a mother with a child. Bosnian.
Imagine a soldier ? from Serbia.
Imagine soldier coming to kill the child in mothers? arms, in front of Dutch (!) soldiers, who represented at a time UN force.
Imagine mother asking for understanding
from other people (nationalities), but noone understands except other Bosnian mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, friends and families, who have been trough the same or similar situation. She is trying hard to explain, but no, it doesn't work. Some things u have to go trough, to understand. Than she gets to think, that it's impossible to be understood by other nationalities, and she forms her bubble ? world consisted of people, Bosnians. Her only world. Pride comes at the same second when u realize that whatever good or bad she hears from outside the bubble, doesn't touch her, coz deep inside, she knows the truth and she has (i hate it!!) moral victory. There are hundreds of thousands of mothers like that in Bosnia.
Now, the story counts nationalities: Bosnians, Serbians, Croats, Dutch, UN (United Nations: meaning 192 member states ? nationalities). You say it doesn't matter? This mother hates Serbians, Croats, Dutch and UN. What is left??

What we do with this story is different thing.
I'm not saying that Bosnians should hate the world. I'm saying that it takes time. ..and politics.. but i don't go there now.

This is just one tiny, miny perspective.

3. Being pointed fingers every time a person from Balkan does sth bad (criminal act.) being called «bad Yugos» in Austria, Switzerland and Germany ? makes you pissed. Yes u didn' t do it, but u still care. Why? U didn't do anything to contribute to the success of the criminal act, but still u're pointed finger at, why? (ok, am being a bit sarcastic..sorry).

When a national team wins a game ? it's not good to feel proud, but when a terrorist from Afghanistan blows out sth, than it's all Afghanistan people who are bad?

Yes, Kika, u personally don't think like that ? but the world works like this.

Again, as Jan Tore said: It's up to us what we do with it, and how we approach to this matter.
Active has a spirit, because of the people, ideals, work, etc. Alcohol industry doesn?t like us at all. They fight us! One nationality also has these. Not necessarily every single one.

Why are u proud of being Active member Kika? Alcohol industry thinks Active is bad.

2008-01-12 @ 11:56:23
Postat av: Jan Tore

Why we drive a good feeling about ourselves? I probably do it because i feel a part of this group called "norwegians". That doesn´t mean that i feel i have something in common with all norwegians individually, some of them i feel are rather strange. I might like Active people living elsewhere a lot more, but still it is a group that i was born and socialized into. That happens in different ways. In that sense its not that different from any other group identities. A bit trivial example perhabs - but when my towns football team won the norwegian cup final last year i felt proud, i cried and i felt good about myself. Even though i hadn´t contributed anything else to that either. I was not the one playing.

Now - being norwegian is quite easy. I have never had my identity really challenged, noone has ever tried to disinguish it. People seldom reminds me that i am a norwegian (last time i think it was in Slovakia when someone looked at my bag from the shopping center, smiled and said "norwegians". Probably meaning that we tend to shop alot when we are abroad :) But that is not very threatning, and more fun.) My identity are rather safe, and that is the reason why i can allow myself the luxury of sitting here analyzing it. I see that this is a very different situation from the mother in Bosnia.

And democracy - yes you have to have values. But you also need to feel some common bonds between yourselves and other people. (Big inequaities in society i also think is a democratic problem, btw.) And if this isn´t national identity (which also can be built partly on values), then you need to replace that identity with something else. But i think you still need something that binds us together also more emotionally.

2008-01-12 @ 12:35:54
Postat av: kadri

sometimes we feel good about something without any rational reason. Maybe because I am brought up being proud about Estonian culture, songs, literature whatever. I am also proud cause its smth that my parents treasure and taught me to treasure as well. If I would have been born in Norway, I would be probably proud Norwegian.

As Jan Tore points out feeling good is rather unrational. Things make us happy and very often one cannot think of plausible reason, as things just make us happy.

And having one community in the world, united nation or similar. Maybe it would work. But 6 billion people with one pot of common values, common memory, common collective feeling??? Its difficult already in way smaller communities. But maybe it would work.

I still am proud, cause I am proud, cause its smth that binds me with my family in Estonia, with my Estonian friends, with the nature in country, with the culture. And I like it.

Noone is saying Kristina, that you identify national identity wrong. I just see it differently. Im not looking for reasons why am I proud, I just am and as long as it doesnt hurt anyone, I find it all right.

2008-01-12 @ 13:20:38
Postat av: Kristina

Yes..then we think very different. And maybe it will sound very bad now (eventhough it is not that bad) I hope I will not cause s scandal but I am NOT proud that I am Active member. Eventhough in this case I could even be proud (according to my personal theory of feeling proud about smth I contribute to) I am not proud. I am happy that Active is doing well. I m happy to see new members coming with ideas. I am happy. I believe in Actives ideas and I consider it natural that I do something for what I believe in but I definitely do not feel proud. I feel proud when I see a person I recruited doing something for Active (when talking about Active). I think then I can feel proud. I can feel proud when my team wins and I played too. I think I can also feel proud when my team loses but we (including me) did not give up during the game. My mum can be proud of me then because she tought me not to give up.
I like slovak mountains. I really do. But I am not proud because I think thouse mountains are not mine. Just because someone drew a line there I have no reason to be proud. The mountains could be Polish and I would like them the same.

Revolution in 1989. Students gathered and changed the system. There was a great spirit. All Western Europe was watching. But for me this is a history. I was not there. I did not do anything. I am thankful they did. I am impressed by what they did. And I will learn from them for the future. But i cant say I am proud. I am just amazed.

2008-01-12 @ 16:37:38
Postat av: Kristiina

Identity works in this way that we include people to one group and this also means excluding others. I don't think this is smth we should be afraid of. If not nationality, we will have other ways to exclude people, like non-Active members, the ones who don't understand english etc. The question is (as many have sayed before) if people are educated enough to deal in the right way with the differences.

In contrary to Kadri I am not especially proud to be estonian. Estonian literature seems like a small bad copy of world literature, all the songs sound very similar (speaking about popmusic now) and the food is just a mix of the german & russian peasant kitchen. But this is the place where I feel at home and where I like to be.

But then again, I wouldn't like this place where I'm living to be called "Soviet Union", "Russia" or smth with the world "Reich" inside. This is Estonia I am living in, and it is very good like that. And this confuses me, because there I see that I do have in a way very national feelings towards Estonia.

I'm reading a book about estonian soldiers in WWII right now, and it feels very weird. They were fighting for this state I am living in to be called "Estonian Republic", but on the other hand they were having very strong national feelings towards Estonia - values, that for me don't matter at all. And still they were risking their lives for it... I do not know what's right, but I think it would be very ignorant from me to make fun of their (or anybody elses) national values or consider them wrong. It's just another time & value system I'm living in, and this I am glad for.

2008-01-14 @ 14:21:58
Postat av: kadri

just for clarification: estonian popmusic sucks and the food is not very great either, except dairy products..:-)

i do have some favourite writers in Estonia, all from older times..

so in this regard I totally agree with Kristiina..:-)

2008-01-14 @ 18:46:15
Postat av: Kristina

Feeling home. That´s an interesting point. I feel home at place where i grew up. I feel home where my parents are. But I also feel home in Sweden. On the other hand I do not feel hom 100 km from my hometown still in Slovakia...
And I know people who do not feel home in their "home"...
I do not think national idenitity and feeling home have something to do together

2008-01-14 @ 19:15:57
Postat av: Kristiina

I never sayed actually national identity and feeling home are in 100% of the cases one and the same thing. But in some cases it might be, just as in some cases it might be not.

We all do have the right for a place called home, and I think also we all have the right to define this place for ourselves as we want to - so far noone gets hurt, of course...

2008-01-14 @ 22:09:59
Postat av: Kristina

Definitely. My home is the world =)Or Universe!

2008-01-15 @ 14:54:29
Postat av: maik

Identity per definitionem always means to draw borders. It always means "we" and "them" or "I" and "them" or "I" and "you".

And there could be said many, many more things - about the contract of Lisbon, about EU, about democracy and identity, about the question to whom mountains, lakes and the sky belongs.

But important here is this again: identity is without exception "we" versus "them".

Love, however, doesn't know borders!
Love is all! Is one!

2008-01-28 @ 19:23:01
Postat av: kadri

all different, all equal! drawing borders between my identity and urs, is normal, cause we are different. why should anyone want to be the same as the other? the only thing to bear in mind for me would be - not being fundamental and judgemental about others. for me its accepting the other to be whateever/whoever this person is and me being different, but we´re all equal.

2008-01-28 @ 21:32:44
Postat av: maik

aha =))
Yes, it "normal" to draw borders. However, this sentence sounds very strange to me.

I feel that "we are different" is used dogmatic (especially in an intecultural environment).

In my contribution I never mentioned that "anyone should want to be the same." I don't understand where this assumption comes from. But it is very interesting: Being the same, i.e. uniformity is a phenomenon that strongl occurs in groups with strong identity. Nazis for example, or rappers, or football players or German "cool" students; So I ask: why do we create Identity to feel the same?

And then the most interesting statement: "we are all equal" I want to search for the reason: Why are we all equal?
And I believe that the answer will show that we are ONE. Human kind is ONE. And that does NOT mean uniformity. From the awareness that we are ONE (tat we don't have to create BORDERS, even if it is "normal" right now) each individual derives the strength and the freedom to live out WHO he/she really wants to be.

2008-01-29 @ 10:44:07
Postat av: maik

What I am talking about is a change in the thinking. I talk about a paradigm change.
Many things that have been expressed here are true and I do agree in many cases.
But I am talking about a change of thinking.
Whenever I try to find an answer to the question "Who am I?" in a group, a nation, a religion, a sports club, a university programme or a gang, I am not finding the true MY SELF. I rather find something that comes pretty close to my Self; but it can never entirely suit to WHO I REALLY AM because the SELF is always more than a singular identity.
As long as we try to find our identity in larger groups, that is outside our own Self, so long will we create borders. And as long as we create borders, so long will we not have peace! And as long as we are not able to create peace or let peace create itself, we won't be able to evolve as human kind.
For me, humanity is boundless. Humanity is a state of no borders whatsoever. And I believe that to achieve this state, we have to change the paradigm. We have to change our thinking.
Individualism we have to exercise. I believe that there is something in the human being, that needs and allows social living together - zoon politicon. Empathy. And to find this, each part of human kind has to start searching inside, not outside his/ her Self in groups, nations, territories etc.
Who am I? Boyfriend, son, writer, footballer, musician, snowboarder, sober, painter, foreigner, student ... So, that is my identity. But do I belong to the snowboarders? Do I belong to the poets and foreigners? Do I belong to the boyfriends? An is there a state when I am ONLY footballer? Or am I not all those things ALWAYS together? All those things form my identity and I cannot take one identity out. Moreover, I am also much more. I am everything I choose to be! And that is my identity as human. The choice I make, I have to search in my Self. Then, I become who I really want to be. And I believe that, if everybody (including me) dared to to do so, all the time, we would stop to divide, we would stop creating borders. There would be no borders for we are ONE.
So, let's tear down ALL borders.

2008-01-29 @ 11:12:21
Postat av: kadri

hmm. I do not actually agree. As a good friend pointed out to me following this discussion, in our mind a person cannot define itself without relating to some kind of group. everything I do is bounded to some kind of social circle, social group. smaller and bigger. identifying myself in relation to others, creating borders with one group and being in in another group. Equality was meant that we are all human beings from birth and should have same rights and thats where equality ends for me. We all think different, look different, like different things, therefore we are not equal. But its fine for me. I want to be different.
if i would think of the true myself, I end up at Heidegger and relating to his true being, which will at some point lead to no being in our sense. For me its a rather nihilistic approach. Kafka and the boring (for me boring) book Process can be a good example, or Sartre. So not identifying myself through some group would end up for me in nothing, cause how do I define myself then? What is the true me? I was brought up in a family, my first social group, I define myself belonging there and others not. Followed by kindergarden, school, juvente etc. Whatever groups. What would be left of me if we take all these groups away??

and as remark, I think that Maik, you are mixing a bit political identity with a social identity. Social scientists would counter most of your arguments, sadly Im not an expert, but I could name some names who have very good arguments for borders of social groups etc.

And quite frankly, I do believe in peace with people bordering themselves from others, for me its about accepting these borders and why should we fight then? Now we fight, cause we dont accept differences, we want resources and whatever 1000 other reasons. But at least related to borders, the accpeting part for me would end some conflicts. Of course all the other reasons should be eliminated as well.

2008-02-01 @ 23:05:48

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