Nationalism is a funny thing, and if you ask different people what their definition of nationalism is, I bet you will get a lot of different answers. I just recently discovered that my definition of nationalism wasn’t the right one, not at all. I have always thought that nationalism was the love for your country and your willingness to sacrifice for it; it turns out that is the definition of patriotism. According to the dictionary nationalism is the way citizens identify themselves with the state or nation they live in.
I’m not a Brit so it’s hard for me to know how the Britons feel connected to their nation. But I am a Dane and I can without hesitation tell you that I have very little, if any, Nationalism in my body! I don’t care about the Danish monarchy or old school meals that we so proudly call a part of the Danish culture, and H.C Andersen doesn’t interest me at all, I don’t hate the Swedes and I am usually cheering against the Danish National Soccer Team. I must however admit that I wouldn’t give up living in Denmark, not because of the Danish cultural inheritance or the mentality the Danes have, but solely because I have roots and my family and friends live here. If I for some crazy reason lost all my family and friends, I doubt that I would take a fresh start in Denmark; I think I’d rather move to California and start a new life there.
The fact that I don’t feel like I “belong” to Denmark and that I don’t feel inseparable from my native country makes it hard for me to know what makes a person belonging to their nation. My guess would be their roots, the love to the system they live in, the geography and the landscapes, I guess everything plays in.
When I think deeper it’s not that I don’t like Denmark, everything has their pros and cons, I love the Danish welfare system, I love Copenhagen and I love that you can’t get more than 80 miles away from the ocean. But then again I am not too fond of many of my fellow citizen’s mentality, in Denmark people don’t smile at each other or greet one another on the street, they do in California. In most of the US you can walk down the street a sunny morning and if you just smile and look open, people will smile back and greet you good morning. In Denmark I have even noticed that if there are only bus seats available where you will have to sit beside a stranger, many people prefer to stand, it’s crazy how the Danes have the ability to dislike people they haven’t met before!
Taking about belonging to a nation, another interesting word is multiculturalism.
I will use The UK as an example because they indeed are multicultural nation, a well-functioning one as well. I don’t think they are that well-functioning solely because of their way of integrating immigrants, I simply believe that their long history of immigration makes them better than many other nations at receiving immigrants in an appropriate way. England has since the 1920’s had a huge amount of people immigrating from the colonies of The British Empire. My guess is that because they were received with less suspicion and criticism than immigrants usually are today, they felt welcome and therefore had a bigger urge to take part in the society and learn about what it is to be a Brit. If I was an immigrant and was received with open arms, I’m pretty sure I would feel more urge to be a part of the society than if I were received with anger and fury. Apart from the long British history of integration and immigration I also believe that the native Britons mentality of newer generations might be better suited to large amounts of immigration, simply because they have grown up in a society with a high percentage of immigrants.
It’s just not that new for them compared to other western countries.
As I mentioned earlier I believe that everything has its pros and cons, upsides and downsides.
When it comes to multiculturalism I believe there are more pros than cons. In a well-functioning multicultural society the culture has a tendency to look more diversified. We learn from those who are living among and around us, I believe the culture does so too. If there are many different cultures living in harmony I am sure they will affect each other in a positive way, just like we humans has a tendency to dress like the people we socialize with, the culture will take positive features from one another and thereby diversify. I also believe that the more multicultural a nation is, the more suited its inhabitants will be of the more and more globalized world. If you mingle with many different cultures every day, it is obvious that you will learn and be better at interacting with people from foreign nations and cultures. I believe that with time the world will become more and more united and until it ends as “Pangaea” or to explain “a super continent”. In the ancient world the continents weren’t parted like they are now, they were all geographically connected. I don’t believe that the continents will be geographically connected again, that’s just too unlikely to happen. No I believe that the continents will be combined once again but this time with a global language, one religion and a mutual state of mind, and I definitely think a multicultural society will prepare everyone for that. I know that it might be far in the future, thousands of years from now, but the future generations will be better prepared with a total multicultural society.
But as all other great things I believe a multicultural society have its downsides. If a multicultural society goes sideways, you have the risk of a nation forming ghettos, where people live in their own small societies independent from one another, only held together by law and order. I though think the “ghettorization” will happen only if you differentiate and look down on other cultures, if people start seeing foreign countries as unworthy.
I strongly believe in multicultural societies, and I feel sorry that I don’t live in one myself. But if everything goes as I predict it might end up as one!
/Anton B. Zeuthen