As European national identities crumble, the new international Europeans read the internet, samizdat for our time, for information and identity. Dadiana Chiran examines how Europe has always been a multicultural continent, as the nation state struggles to stay relevant.
Oxford University’s Professor Sykes captured notorious attention in 2000 by launching the theory that Europeans descend from just seven women who arrived on the continent at different times during the last 45,000 years – seven migrant women. Within a Europe of “ethnocracies” – which are beacons of 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 way we discuss identity, and the nature of modern civil participation are changing, which is damaging the classic nation-state model. This partially explains the character of Generation Y, and Generation Z, of Yuppies and of a counterculture where nationality counts for little, and appeasement of imposed norms is distasteful. Will Europe need a reshuffle in the future to better accommodate the new ‘bastard race’?
Through a simple exercise of imagination we could figure the philosopher who challenged the foundations traditional morality, and a thinker on nationhood, both entangled in a dialog on the nature of the nation state and national identity. It might go something like this.
“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? ”
Benedict Anderson would nod in assent:
“[The nation] 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 […] [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.”
Our society is already accustomed to a familiar EU maxim, “we are all equal although we are not the same”, yet the “limited imaginings” show signs of disappearance if the current identity trends continue. The national identity was born in marriage, with the nation-state as a mother and utopia as a stepfather. 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 their home country, they could never forget their womb
But the European states were never really pure in blood, or 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”, claims Rosi Braidotti in Nomadic European Citizenship. Historically, Europe was a pantagruelic mix of bastardness – in the sense of ethnic, cultural and blood mix – and this is even more the case under the EU umbrella.
The nation-state has survived long, and used its sovereignty over border-defined territory to shape international relations. However, under the current circumstances, the arms of the nation-state are becoming with every day an inch shorter, eroded by globalization and the four freedoms that are enshrined in the EC Treaty: if before the nation-states were sovereignty’s watchdogs, 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, an Italian-Australian feminist philosopher, notes, a significant effect of late post-modernity in Europe is multiculturalism, or “transculturalism”. Because we no longer live in a Europe of enforced boundaries, either physical or societal. The European frontiers are becoming pale and irrelevant not only for business, but also for health care, scientific research, communication, music festival caravan tours and the Erasmus exchange program – which perhaps inflict more damage on self-identity that initially believed. The dynamics and channels of multiculturalism nowadays are much denser and intensely used. Statisticians and scholars have difficulty 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. Technology has created a better informed young society than existed when traditional media channels were the only voice and interpretation of politics. The Ukrainian ‘Euromaidan’ movement started on Facebook, the surprise of the Romanian elections in November 2014, when the ethnic German 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 figure with the highest number of Facebook followers, overthrowing Angela Merkel. The Russian samizdat of these days is on the Internet in blogs, rather than hand printed leaflets.
The generation of Millenials and, and Generation Z, are characterized by sociologists as problematic and ‘lost’. Most studies look at labour market inclusion and unemployment: and the subjects of these studies are problematic because they loath 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 to take them in. Yet fewer studies analyze their social and political perspective, their views regarding on European space. The new generation is shaped by technology and globalization and, as statistics show, the young are challenging the existing political framework and a life of conformity. Less than half of them are patriotic, only 36% have still an attachment to religion, but 51% are supporters of gay rights. Many of the social movements that have been taking place in Europe since the outburst of the financial crisis show that the young are not idle, they don’t just want economic gains, but a more equal and equitable society. And this new society reaches beyond their own nation state.
In spite of the rising xenophobia in Europe, we also see a rise of the civil society, the young ‘civilitarians’ and demonstrators beginning to show 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 online. This is seen in the growing trend for FactCheck websites, which scrutinize and diffuse synthetic analyses of politicians’ statements. These are often ad-hoc open platforms, created and edited by anyone. The trust in national governments is declining.
In the present European spectrum, “united in diversity” is indeed a good intended slogan but with little substance in practice. The diversity of 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.
Thanks to Emilie Mendez de Leon for her contribution, insights and input.