Post Nationalism

I’ll say this for social media: national boundaries are feeling increasingly irrelevant.

The people I have connections to through Facebook in particular (but also Twitter) fall into roughly three groups. There are people I’ve met socially in the flesh, people I’ve worked with and, most of all, people with whom I share an aspect of my identity as an autistic trans woman.

Apologies to those in the first two groups, but with a few notable exceptions it is the last group with whom I feel the greatest affinity. The people who know what it means to be autistic or to be trans without me needing to explain myself.

The thing about these overlapping groups of autistics and trans folk is that they include people from a number of countries and ethnicities but that does not form the basis of the community.

Through interacting with and getting to know these people it has become abundantly clear that what we have in common has nothing to do with nationality: we are able to make common cause within a culture that owes nothing to geographic boundaries.

In many respects I see something similar in my work environment. I work for a subsidiary of a US-owned company. The development department that I’m a part of has teams located in the US, UK, Finland and Poland. I’ve had meetings where every participant was in a different physical location.

Whether you agree with it or not, globalization is a fact. It’s here now and with the world becoming ever more connected it’s only going to become more and more widespread. Barriers are coming down. First information and money, then goods and finally people moving more and more freely across the world.

The EU for all its flaws is, I think, a good example of this. The opening up and integration of most of the continent is a prime reason why there has not been any armed conflict between its member states–even the thought of a Europe-wide war has become almost unthinkable. It’s something that transcends nations, a reason to work together. It’s provided stability and shown that the EU as a whole is much stronger than any of its individual constituents.

That stability is facing a serious threat this week as the UK holds a referendum on its continued membership of the EU. Petty nationalistic interests are on the rise, threatening to not just rock the boat but overturn it. They’d leave us all adrift in uncharted waters. It’s telling that people like Putin who would benefit from weakening the EU favor the UK’s withdrawal from the union, while people like Obama and every EU leader have spoken in support of retaining the status quo.

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2 thoughts on “Post Nationalism

  1. Good post Alex. Also no need to apologise!

    Like you I work in a multi-nation and hence multi-cultural organisation. And I LOVE it! At work, being English I am in the minority and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have been wondering why the nationalistic sentiment has been running so high with this referendum. All I can come up with is a lack of familiarity. For me very much enjoyed my occasional work and holiday travels I can only wonder and value such diversity.

    I also don’t think many realise just how much technical development now needs to be a multi-national venture. Of course we do need to make sure that the big scale of such ventures don’t eclipse small and local concerns. THAT should be the question we should be answering.

    Thanks for another thoughtful post.

    • Thank you Charles. I agree that local concerns, the individual character that informs the identity of places has been suffering from erosion for a long time. It’s one of the negatives of global trade and communication, a homogenisation of cultures. How long have there been objections to the increasing Americanisation of much of the world, driven to a degree by the influence of their movies and TV shows, but also global brands (Coca-Cola and McDonalds are prime examples)? I think people fear the loss of those aspects of their culture that set them apart and make them distinct. Maybe it’s also the pace of change that has never slackened since the dawn of the industrial age? Change has always occurred, but barring catastrophe only in modern times have people seen so much affected in their own lifetimes.

      I value my individuality (my connection to the place I grew up, the remnants of my Lancastrian accent, and my little quirks of character that are mine alone) and I’m secure enough with my own identity that I don’t feel under any threat from the influences around me. I think it’s easier to accept the variety of differences we see in others if we define our own identity in terms of the things that make us unique, rather than the things that we share with others. To be sure those shared aspects of identity or culture can form strong bonds, but if they don’t define us we retain the flexibility to handle change.

      I don’t know for sure – just following a line of thought here.

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