Friday, March 22, 2002

Identity

The New York Review of Books: The Blood Lust of Identity
"We should feel part of our countries, and of 'Europe,' or even the world. Religion must be personal and 'kept apart from what has to do with identity.' I'm not sure all this is possible. One can feel British or French and 'European,' but not quite in the same way, since Europe is not a sovereign entity; neither, of course, is the world. And religion is hard to detach from identity, since identification with a community of believers is part of the religious appeal. I also wonder whether the symbols of Coca-Colonization matter as much as some people think. For the places with the greatest troubles—Afghanistan, Chechnya, Algeria—are the least affected by American commerce. The Thais in Bangkok or the Chinese in Hong Kong are not up in arms against the West. Poor Pakistanis are, but they may never have gone near a Big Mac."
I'm not convinced by all of Buruma's arguments. I think, for instance, there's more to American commerce than Coca-Cola and McDonald's, there's the developed world's reliance on oil and all that entails for starters; still, the argument (and I'm rephrasing it to my understanding) that religion, nationalism, tribalism, or what have you are are such effective tools for angrying up the blood of the masses when wielded by those with power and influence (who are motivated by greed) to accomplish all the violence and hatred they need for their purposes (acquistion of territory, resources, and wealth) because of how badly people need to have an identity. The second part of his review is a hilarious tear down of one guy's manufacturing of an Irish identity for himself and his son.

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