Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Building a national identity - a solution for ethnic violence?

Ethnic cleanising and ethnic conflicts are still commonplace on parts of the world. The pain and cost of it is not at all commonplace. The UN estimates 8 million children to die out of lack of food in 2014 if any intervention is not made. In some other parts of the world, a single death is the cause of an uproar on governance. I dont need to speak more about the condition of poverty because of ethnic violence. It is a horrific data we cannot bear to comprehend and hence better left unsaid and undealt with. ..syadly.

On the other hand, lets explore what helped some countries/communities emerge strong and stable. In 15th and 17th centuries, many of the developed countries of today emerged as a nation from being a bunch of fragmented comminites - tribals, peasant communities, settlements or communities with conquestorial interests. In nearly all cases, there are hereoes/heroines, a major movement - peaceful or violent which develops a sense of what it is to belong to that nation. 
The above makes sense when you look at examples - Germany was united under Bismark, French by the wars with Britain, Napoleanic wars and French Revolution, USA as a land of promise from settlers with roots in Free Masons, UK from accession agreements with Scotland and Ireland based on understanding of commonnality and differences in culture, India, China and several other countries with a struggle for independence from colonial powers.
Another major factor has been renaissance, industrialisation, freedom struggle, etc
Factors I call to attention in increasing order of importance -
- conquest by stable monarchs, under whom a common identity is felt
- legends, hereoes and heroines that form the common binding culture
- historic struggles that question status quo, cause churning and bring meaninfullness. In this process, they also establish new legends, heroes and heroines.
- Renaissance, industrialisation, freedom struggles, communist movements debunked the beliefs of fixed places for individuals in society based on their birth.

All this together helped developed a unique national identity that gave the people an identity and cemented them as a community. This is what we have come to identify as a nation of people distinct from a country (country's definition is limited to being citizens of a politically defined region.). The development of this identity heralded a common vision in which everybody finds a stake and this provides a stable environment in which this vision can be pursued.

This is effect an Organsiation Development perspective developed from applied psychology for small groups and organsiations.

Now by extending this model, can we examine what processes can be set , communication to be developed that can help small sub saharan, western african communities to develop national identities in ways that allows them to retain a tribal identity along with a national identity like India has language, caste, ethnic, regional identities co-existing with national identity.

What are the legends, struggles which are common in communities. The communication of challenges in such ways that it brings communities together to face them in a struggle that develops national identity.

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