Nationality today and Personal identity

From the lessons we were taught at school it would seem, that European nations have lived side by side with each other for the whole history of mankind.  Sometimes peacefully, sometimes fighting, but always as strictly distinct groups divided by a clear line.  But this view of the world is  quiet flawed. Surprisingly, the concept of nationality as a salient and widespread characteristic of a person doesn`t actually go further than the 17th century.  Till then, you would hardly hear anyone say „I`m French“ or  „I`m Romanian“.  The real statement would probably be „I`m from Toulouse“ or in the second case „I`m from the village near the castle where the vampire lives“.

Romanian myths aside, the idea of nations wasn`t always as natural, as we take it today. To understand it we have to ask – What actually does really define a nation? It`s not common language – Switzerland has more than one. It`s not common land – Jews have taken themselves as a nation even before they established Israel. And it is certainly not common genetics(in Europe we are a mix of every possible gene flow). Basically the only connection between people from the same nation is the idea in their minds, that they somehow belong together. Like Benedict Anderson says, nation is an „imaginary community“.

What could get on  our mind? Is nationality really needed nowadays? When we see a face, we can`t recognize whether it`s French or Romanian at first sight. Also an average European can speak more than one language. Very often our parents come from different cultural backgrounds. Travelling around the whole world is allowed. So, is there really a reason to be so artificially separated?  No more. Nowadays the need is to be united and it is anticipated all around us.

On the other hand, national habits are a thing which should be preserved. It is important and enriching to share our cultures. Different traditions, different cuisines, different style of clothing and different languages, different songs, films and history and whole national cultures. Diversity of nations brings us  many experiences and ordeals.  From a psychological point of view, each one of us craves to have an identity. Craves to belong somewhere. It is a natural ambition to achieve an identity, to get boundaries and become really human. And nationality helps building this. It provides us with a background we can stand on. According to Tajfel & Turner`s social identity theory, one of the main reasons for this is self-presentation.  Personal identity is presented by characteristics as „ I am good, proud, bad person and so on…and social identity is implicated to special categories like a „ I am a citizen of…“

In conclusion I would say that it is necessary to have one`s own nationality for each person  in context of  his personal identity.  But that`s the border I wouldn`t like to cross, because behind it, conflicts start. We should look at everyone as an individual person, not through the lens of their nationality. Because everyone is, and always will be, unique.

Dagmar Mištíková, Slovakia, November 2010

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