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Old 09-23-2007, 02:48 PM   #16
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Um, very.

Considerably more different than the most different Canadian and American are. And I say that having spent roughly half my life on either continent.

If you think a village in Bosnia is that similar to one in Sweden...well it really isn't, not at all to be honest.

and the Hollywood Hills are a million miles removed from Appalachia from suburban Seattle from Manhattan to the orange farms of interior Florida.

i feel far more at home in the UK or even France than i did filming in rural Texas (and i mean *rural* Texas).

but what North America, and the US has, in particular, are common signs and signifiers that remind people of what they have in common rather than what makes them different. there's a reason why there's so much more overt "patriotism" in North America and especially the US (though "oh Canada" is sung as enthusastically as the SSB, and i think that's great -- not only is it a nicer song, but it seems a positive affirmation of all things Canadian) -- people are so different, people are so dissimilar, that they need such overt displays of patriotism.

ultimately, what i'm saying, is not that history doesn't matter, but history matters only so much as you let it matter. it's the adherence to cultural identity in Europe -- and all of my friends who have spent considerable amouts of time, 2, 3, 4, 5 years in Europe agree -- that holds the Continent as a whole back, that you're a German first or a Frenchman first or a Swede first, and then all things are secondary, and there's a way for a German to act, a way for a Frenchman to act, and a way for a Swede to act. is it any wonder that immigrants have a much tougher time in Europe than in North America?

and this whole Belgian bru-ha-ha seems just a microcosm of the thing as a whole.
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Old 09-23-2007, 03:30 PM   #17
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Originally posted by Irvine511

but what North America, and the US has, in particular, are common signs and signifiers that remind people of what they have in common rather than what makes them different. there's a reason why there's so much more overt "patriotism" in North America and especially the US (though "oh Canada" is sung as enthusastically as the SSB, and i think that's great -- not only is it a nicer song, but it seems a positive affirmation of all things Canadian) -- people are so different, people are so dissimilar, that they need such overt displays of patriotism.
A common language and a common flag also help people feel connected. Europe simply has too much diversity in this area to feel a common identity. Even Quebec almost seceded from Canada a few years ago.
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Old 09-23-2007, 07:19 PM   #18
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I'm not sure language alone is quite the obstacle it's sometimes made out to be. India, for example, has 22 official (i.e. constitutionally recognized) languages with more than a million speakers each (far more than that, in many of those cases) plus well over 300 minority languages. And looking at its state boundaries, which are drawn (mostly) on the basis of those official languages' areas of concentration, the majority of them mark very distinct and obvious cultural boundaries as well, even to the casual visitor with little knowledge of the country...their own separate literary and artistic legacies, different regional empires which rose and fell over the centuries, separate political and military and architectural traditions...and yet in my experience Indians in general have a strong sense of national identity, "feel very Indian," and take great pride in the "idea" of being Indian. At the same time, as the survival of that many languages into the present indicates, they continue to have a very strong sense of also being Bengalis, Malayalis, Tamils, Rajasthanis etc. (And granted, as anyone who's watched many Bollywood fims can attest, this means ethnoregional stereotypes, some flattering some not, are alive and well too...the hothead Punjabi, the grandiose Tamil, the motormouth Bengali, etc. ...though in my experience it's usually somewhat taboo to throw those around freely in casual conversation.)

Obviously you could make the argument that forced political, economic and (to a lesser but still significant degree) social unification under the British Empire, and before that (at least in north India) the Moghul Empire, goes a long way towards explaining that...but I'm not sure that "formula" necessarily travels well.
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Old 09-23-2007, 09:23 PM   #19
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Originally posted by yolland
I'm not sure language alone is quite the obstacle it's sometimes made out to be. India, for example, has 22 official (i.e. constitutionally recognized) languages with more than a million speakers each (far more than that, in many of those cases) plus well over 300 minority languages.
With India, maybe it's cultural or economic reasons that discourage ideas of secession. The idea of Belgium splitting seems less extreme than Quebec wanting to secede because the latter doesn't have any neighboring country/province that is French-speaking. Looking around the world, I see several examples of unity based on language (and the culture and history associated with the language) such as the Arab League. The top allies of the US also seem to be English-speaking nations.
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Old 09-24-2007, 07:31 AM   #20
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and the Hollywood Hills are a million miles removed from Appalachia from suburban Seattle from Manhattan to the orange farms of interior Florida.

i feel far more at home in the UK or even France than i did filming in rural Texas (and i mean *rural* Texas).

but what North America, and the US has, in particular, are common signs and signifiers that remind people of what they have in common rather than what makes them different. there's a reason why there's so much more overt i"patriotism" in North America and especially the US (though "oh Canada" is sung as enthusastically as the SSB, and i think that's great -- not only is it a nicer song, but it seems a positive affirmation of all things Canadian) -- people are so different, people are so dissimilar, that they need such overt displays of patriotism.

ultimately, what i'm saying, is not that history doesn't matter, but history matters only so much as you let it matter. it's the adherence to cultural identity in Europe -- and all of my friends who have spent considerable amouts of time, 2, 3, 4, 5 years in Europe agree -- that holds the Continent as a whole back, that you're a German first or a Frenchman first or a Swede first, and then all things are secondary, and there's a way for a German to act, a way for a Frenchman to act, and a way for a Swede to act. is it any wonder that immigrants have a much tougher time in Europe than in North America?
Europe's population has been sedentary for much longer than the USA or Canada's two countries created within the last 300 years through immigration or forced immigration (slavery and what not). The last major movements of people into Europe happened at the end of the Western Roman Empire. The natural evolution from a city-state to nation-state, expanding borders threw populations into competition with people's of different origins, languages and cultures.

The US was manufactured, tailored so it would suit the myriad of people's who moved to it. The US never really had competition in it's own land for resources (well not strong competition from other nation-states). Do the Native Americans feel American? Or is their association first and foremost to their tribe?

What does bind you to the people of rural Texas culturally? Same anthem and flag? It's not really much when you think about it....I don't think the US is any better Europe at creating a common cultural identity, people in the US still obviously tie themselves back to the old homeland ie. Irish-American. What is an American? What are his or her ties to every other American?

People the world over need to recognise each other's humanity more, rather than having to manufacture some false identity.
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Old 09-24-2007, 09:59 AM   #21
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What does bind you to the people of rural Texas culturally? Same anthem and flag? It's not really much when you think about it....I don't think the US is any better Europe at creating a common cultural identity, people in the US still obviously tie themselves back to the old homeland ie. Irish-American. What is an American? What are his or her ties to every other American?



whole courses of study at the graduate level are dedicated to this topic, but the fact remains that as culturally isolated as i feel from the rural Texans we filmed, there are certain things we share, certain symbols we respond to, certain commonalities we all share. i'd probably have much more fun at a dinner party with a bunch of Londoners or Parisians than these people, so you're right -- there's really not miuch that ties us (me and the texans) together, except for a few very overt displays of national identity that seem to be more than enough to keep this country together. i'm merely suggesting that there's much Europe can learn from the North American experiments. i'm not saying this will be easy, or it's obvious, or that there's no reason for European provincialism -- i know where it comes from and why it's there. i am saying, that as a matter of survival, it's time a European Identity was created.

so, yes, i will say that North America is much, much better at the creation of this common identity. it's slightly different in the US than it is in Canada, but both countries are generally quite successful at maintaining a set of rather abstract national characteristics that enable both the ease of immigration as well as allow the most disparate populations on earth to find a sense of belonging to a greater nation. in many ways, this is the triumph of the "New World" (for all it's myriad faults). the ties to the homeland -- Ireland, India, China, Brazil -- are more cosmetic than anything, and generally speaking, are quite positive and create what might be called American "culture" (insofar as it lacks a native, from-blood-and-soil culture ... the issue of the American Indian is something quite different, and quite complex). everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day. everyone has a margarita on Cinqo De Mayo. everyone adores good Italian food.

i will say that i think the most interesting comment in this thread was the poster who said that the Flems and the Walloons probably have a greater attachment to a European Identity than to a Belgian identity. that's quite interesting to me.





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People the world over need to recognise each other's humanity more, rather than having to manufacture some false identity.
i agree, mostly, but what is Europe going to do? can the status quo continue? can you afford to not intergrate into a genuine European Union? can you afford to have a growing, dispossessed, unassimilated minority sitting for generations in suburban ghettos?
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Old 09-24-2007, 04:26 PM   #22
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Of course we can't but I don't think it is much to do with having to create a European identity...a change in attitude is needed in how many Europeans decide who is German, Irish or French...It will take time though, a European identity would have to evolve in Europe not be created like the American one was (I do not mean that as a slur in anyway against being American, or to denigrate it, or that Europe is better because of it.) Europe has been about evolution, America revolution, the states were created to be much more malleable than any European state.

I personally would not find much value in a manufactured European identity, it's a bit like the British non-existent identity, everyone is Scottish, Welsh or English, very few people would ever say they are British first and foremost.

I don't neccessarily agree with your bleak assessment of what could happen to Europe....nations are clamouring to get into the EU, Turkey most notably. Human rights issues aside, probably the main reason member states aren't that happy with Turkey's application is that it ain't a wee state lookin for protection , if it enters it enters as one of the big boys, so there is some stupidity working along those lines in the EU that will hold it back.
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Old 09-24-2007, 04:52 PM   #23
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Originally posted by Irvine511


i will say that i think the most interesting comment in this thread was the poster who said that the Flems and the Walloons probably have a greater attachment to a European Identity than to a Belgian identity. that's quite interesting to me.

I'm Flemish and I value my Eropean identity a lot more than I value my Belgian identity (or my Flemish identity). I'm proud to be European, but, especially at this moment, I'm definitly not proud to be Flemish or a Belgian.

The problem with a European identitiy is also that we don't have a true spokesperson. The EU is a beaurocratic instition, that, although it is explained to me over 10 times, I still don't fully understand. The decisions that are being made by the Eu never get a lot of media attention and people don't see any immediate impact. I know more about the American government than I do about the European government.
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Old 09-28-2007, 12:41 PM   #24
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I do agree that the lack of insight in the European Government is what's keeping European integration behind
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Old 07-16-2008, 10:22 AM   #25
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Belgium's government collapsed Tuesday, unable to resolve an enduring divide over more self-rule for the country's Dutch and French-speakers. The gap was so wide the premier suggested the end of Belgium as a country was looming.

King Albert II immediately began political discussions with lawmakers to try to resolve the situation, talks expected to take several days. He did not formally accept the resignation of government offered by Premier Yves Leterme late Monday, so Leterme's government stays on in a caretaker capacity for now.

In an unusual declaration, the premier said Belgium's constitutional crisis stems from the fact that "consensus politics" across Belgium's widening linguistic divide no longer works.

"The federal consensus-model has reached its limits," Leterme said.

Leterme failed to get his cabinet — an unwieldy alliance of Christian Democrats, Liberals, Socialists and nationalist hard-liners from both language camps that took office March 20 — to agree on a future together by devolving more federal powers to the Dutch-speaking Flanders and Francophone Wallonia.

Francophone parties expressed surprise that Leterme threw in the towel. Vice-premier Didier Reynders urged him to stay on, saying the government must go ahead with its social and economic program. Elio di Rupo, leader of the Francophone Socialists, said the constitutional reform negotiations were held in a "constructive, positive climate."

But mainstream Flemish parties — including Leterme's own Christian Democrats — accused French-speaking parties of not negotiating in good faith.

Granting Belgium's Dutch and French-speaking communities more self-rule began, gradually, in the 1970s, in such areas as culture, youth affairs and sports. Since then education, housing, trade, tourism, agriculture and other areas were shifted from the federal government and Flanders, Wallonia and bilingual Brussels were given regional governments and parliaments.

Now Francophone parties accuse Dutch-speakers of trying to separate themselves completely from French-speaking Wallonia, where the 15 percent unemployment rate is triple that of Dutch-speaking Flanders.

Flemish parties want their more prosperous, Dutch-speaking northern half of the country to be more autonomous by shifting corporate and other taxes, some social security measures, transport, health, labor and justice matters to the language regions.

Mainstream Flemish politicians say there is room for more regional autonomy in one country but hardline nationalist parties in Flanders advocate the breakup of Belgium.
Belgium government collapses - Europe - MSNBC.com
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Old 07-16-2008, 02:03 PM   #26
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Concerning cultural identity I can recommend this little flash film:
Link
thanks!

I'm going to Italy every year and like everything in this film is right...
I love stopping at a crosswalk and see the angry face of the other driver + the walker's unbelieving look ...LOL
and yes bureaucracy is also awesome! I had to go to the police cause someone damaged my car. but you can't just go to 'the police'...nobody wants you, so you can try carabinieri, polizia stradale, polizia municipal etc...
Anyway, sometimes I think a lot of things are so different in daily life, but I have much more in common with them as I thought. For example, that Berlusconi is back now; everyone thinks like : those italians! But the thruth is, that I only hear complaints, people whining everything is corrupt even their beloved football (soccer) is lost in corruption. But the people are great, I like them! I pity them, they deserve better! They always try to make the best out of the worst situation.
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Old 07-16-2008, 02:26 PM   #27
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i really should read more about this before i respond, but i lived in Belgium (lived, worked, paid taxes, etc.) and the linguistic/cultural divide astonished me. it struck me as European provincialism at its absolute worst.

[q]“We are two different nations, an artificial state created as a buffer between big powers, and we have nothing in common except a king, chocolate and beer”[/q]
...like I'll never get that.
I live at the border triangle ( germany, holland and belgium). I went to an elementary school which was in holland but it was more like a german school with german teachers and most kids were german. But we always had like 5 oder 6 dutch/ french speaking belgian kids in our classes. They didn't communicate cause one does not speak french or dutch. (not that they could speak any german) How could they be 'so different' but living in a country that is as big as this city, we often asked that!
Now, a few years later, visible economic devision and highly astable governments doesn't make it all easier...
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