We Are All Bastards

In the present European reality, “united in diversity” is a good intended slogan with little substance. The identity of European generations to come will lie less in their nationhood but in the layers of their mobility.  By Dadiana Chiran

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Professor Sykes of Oxford University attracted attention in 2000 by proposing the theory that Europeans descend from just seven women who arrived on the continent at different times during the last 45,000 years – hence seven migrant women (!). Within a Europe of “ethnocracies” – which beacon pure ethnical belonging – we are all “bastards” in roots because historically, culturally and genetically we are a mix. In the last decades, primarily due to globalization and ‘technologization’, the identity and the civil participation dynamics are reshaping to the injury of the classic nation-state. This partially explains the character of GenYers and Z generation, of YUPPi’s and of counterculture people for which their nationality counts less. Will Europe need to reshuffle to better accommodate these changing views?

Through a simple exercise of imagination we could figure the philosopher who challenged the foundations of traditional morality and the theoretician of nationhood both entangled in a dialog on the nature of the nation state and national identity. It would sound as following:

Friedrich Nietzsche would say : “All things that live long enough are gradually so saturated with reason that their origin in unreason thereby becomes improbable. Does not the very precise history of an origination impress our feelings as paradoxical and wantonly offensive? ” [1]

Benedict Anderson would nod and reply ‘YES’: “I propose as an example the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community […]. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion […] Finally, [the nation] is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately, it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willing to die for such limited imaginings.” [2]

starsOur society is already accustomed to a statement that is often repeated in the current EU context “we are all equal although we are not the same”. Yet the “limited imaginings” show signs of disappearance if the current identity trends continue. Herein, the national identity was born out of wedlock, with the nation-state as a mother and utopia as a father. Intrinsically territorial and inclusive (one nationhood, one blood, one destiny), national identity was built upon ‘sameness’ of language, blood and tradition as opposed to “otherness” which became the glue holding together the essentialist national belonging. In the past a citizen was by rule bound to its home country and never forgot his or her womb.

But the European nation states were never neither pure in blood nor united by homogeneous ethnic legacy. Minorities, diasporas and migrants were ubiquitous since before the Silk Road was frequented by migrants caught by the fever of commerce. The continuous “waves of migrations from the East and the South make a mockery of any claim to ethnic or cultural homogeneity in Europe, while the persistent presence of Jewish and Muslim citizens challenges the identification of Europe with Christianity.”(Rosi Braidotti, Nomadic European Citizenship). Historically, Europe was a pantagruelic mix of “bastardness” – in the sense of ethnic, cultural and blood mix – fact that is even more valid in the present circumstances of the EU umbrella.

The nation-state survived long and took a toll on the stage of international relations on the basis of full sovereignty and unwavering authority over a border-defined territory. However, under the current circumstances, the arms of the nation-state are becoming an inch shorter with every day, eroded by globalization and the four freedoms that are enshrined in the EC Treaty: if before the nation-states were sovereignty’s watchful dogs they are now being reduced to the condition of pacifying lap-dogs in terms of actual and real-time control over the physical territory of a country and its citizens. As Rosi Braidotti notes, “one of the most significant effects of late post modernity in Europe is the phenomenon of trans-culturality in a pluri-ethic or multi-cultural European space” because we no longer live in a Europe of enforced boundaries, may they be physical or societal. The inner European borders are becoming pale and irrelevant not only for trade and business, but also for health care, work, scientific mobility, virtual communication (internet) or shopping in big capitals, music festival caravan tours and Erasmus – which perhaps inflict more on self-identity that initially believed. The dynamics and channels of multi-culture nowadays are much more densely and intensely used. Statisticians and scholars must have troubles in finding new methodologies to calculate it because the phenomenon is impossible to fully track.

The enclaves of one country/one language/one culture that once used to unite a population under the flagship of one common identity and belonging are slowly being dismantled. As Rosi Braidotti claims, “globalization challenged the hegemony of nation states and their claim to exclusive citizenship”. The advantages of post-nationalist sense of the EU can be seen through the slow but firm emergence of a Europe of itinerants and nomads – their whereabouts change spatially within hours and virtually within nanoseconds. Communication is now measured in how fast a person can type on a keyboard while information is available to anyone that has an urge for it. Technology also provides many sources through which information can be filtered and the young society is less misinformed now than in the past, when traditional media channels were the only voice and interpretation of politics. Euromaidan started on Facebook, the surprise of the Romanian elections in November 2014, when Klaus Ionannis was elected president (in spite of all predictions), mostly by people between 18-35 years old with more than 60% turnout, came from a well managed Facebook campaign (the new Romanian president also became the European political figures with the highest number of FB followers, overthrowing Angela Merkel). The Russian samizdat of these days is on the internet in blogs not on mainstream media.

The generation of Millennials and Z generation are characterized by sociologists as problematic and ‘lost’. Most studies in their regard are related to labor market inclusion and unemployment: they are problematic because they loath at the thought that they should be only dutiful, conformed subjects of the Produktionsweise; lost because judging by the shape of the European labor market, there is scarce Produktionsweise that could take them in even if they would comply to it. Yet less studies analyze their social and political perspective and what their views are regarding European space. The new generation is shaped by technology and globalization and, as statistics show, the young are challenging the existing political framework and the life of conformity. Many of the social movements that have been taking place in Europe since the outburst of the crisis showed that the young are not idle, they do not ask only for a better life standard but also a more equitable society, and their concept of society reaches beyond their own nation-state.

In spite of the rising xenophobia, which has also an increasing trend in Europe, we also see a rise of the civil society, the young ‘civilitarians’ and demonstrators which begin to show their interest in political and social equity and ethics. Their denial of the political class and demagogy is not only displayed in the streets with banners but also in the on-line channels. For example, FactCheck websites, which scrutinize and diffuse synthetic analyses over politicians’ statements, have become very popular in past years. These are many times ad-hoc platforms, with access and relevant contribution open to anyone who wishes to analyze the political figures. The trust in national governments is losing its grip.

In the present European reality, “united in diversity” is a good intended slogan with little substance. The diversity of the new generations to come might not be grounded only in diversity of statehood but in the variety of their experience, while their identity will lie less in nationhood but in the layers of their mobility. Certainly, our self-identity, either common or personal, defines or rather completes us to a certain extent as urban/rural/national/regional beings but the structure and design is changing from horizontal and hierarchical to layered and liquid. Although the phenomenon is not general yet it has an increasing trend and it will continue to carve into the structure of the society.

Europe and its politico-economic structure will need a perestroika so that its institutions and their representatives better accommodate the future multilayered identity of its inhabitants as well as their future endeavors.

Many thanks to Emilie Mendes de Leon for her contribution, insights and inputs.

Image: ‘European Union Stars’, courtesy of Mark Notari via Flickr.com released under Creative Commons 2.0.

[1] http://morephilosophystuff.pbworks.com/f/18641867-friedrich-nietzsche-daybreak.pdf

[2] https://www2.bc.edu/marian-simion/th406/readings/0420anderson.pdf

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