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"note that I think all national identities are fostered, what's more only imagined..."  -DoDo

I think they are much more than that.  Most nation states arose as a consequence of wars and the outcome of those wars.  Nations that were defeated often vanished or were diminished in size and importance.  Artificial nations were created by colonial victors in those wars.  Many boundaries were set simply by the territories that were controlled by various armies at the end of those conflicts.  Thus a "Nation state" might have no clear logic, rational boundaries, or uniform composition in terms of ethnicity, language culture etc.

The most obviously disparate nations - e.g. Iraq often ended up very unstable and could only be held together by quite brutal or dictatorial means. Nationalism was fostered within states to try and create a coherent identity - through national service, parades, flags, emblems, religion, culture, sporting achievements, competition with neighbouring states etc.

In this sense all National identities are artificial, social constructs that could have been quite different had the armies ended up in different places.  Not only were national identites "fostered" they were enforced - by uniforms, repression of dissidents, pledges/oaths of allegiance, education systems and by the ideological apparatuses of the state.

The more diverse the state, the more the pressure to conform to some "universal" image of a Frenchman, German, Brit, or American.  Very clear norms and customs emerged - and stereotypes about the "others" usually cast in very negative terms - Frogs, Teutons, Loud etc.

What has always struck me as extraordinary about America - is the pressure to conform, to salute the flag, to recite the pledge of allegiance, to hate the Commies  etc. - and the way the US always has to be at war with SOMEONE - Commies, Drugs, Terror, Islamofascists etc. - to fear and hate the other - as a means of enforcing conformity and stability within.

I offer this a sociological observation, not an indictment.  The US is so large and diverse it could easily fall apart into e.g. an independent Republic of Texas or California etc. - if some kind of ideological superstructure created by the media and education system etc. did not exist, and at least it is preferable to an outright dictatorship as a means of ensuring conformance, uniformity and stability.

In this context, what makes the EU so interesting is that it is a voluntary coming together of previously largely sovereign states who are under no obligation to join.  Although obviously shaped by the outcome of the second World War and the Cold War, the outcome of those wars did not Directly lead to the foundation of the EU.

The EU is also relatively recent, and so it is not surprising that an EU identity is only emerging and that it exists side by side with National and regional identities.  The EU also does not have the same "engines" for forging a national identity - an EU army, an EU "National Service", an EU educational system, or highly visible symbols of unity such as an EU President.

So, in my view, the evidence of an emerging EU identity presented here is quite remarkable - even if it is in no way comparable to the strength of an e.g. Spanish or US national identity.  First of all - you can feel, in some degree, both Spanish and European - and not feel the two are mutually exclusive. And secondly not of the coercive elements of national identity formation so common in the history of Nations states are present.

So where Terry sees the glass of EU identity not being even half full, I see it as quite remarkable that there is such a widespread and tangible support for the notion of a European identity and ideal as a whole.  The evidence seems to be that the younger generation sees the EU as being something they take for granted, see as highly positive, and something they would like to see develop further.

Now that it has been confirmed that Ireland is the only country that is going to hold a National referendum on the EU Reform Treaty, I hope we do not destroy all that positive momentum by voting against it.  I haven't seen any recent opinion poll data, but the political atmosphere has soured considerably here in the last few months. Our Prime Minister's standing has fallen because of largely domestic factors, and many will vote against the Treaty not because they are anti-EU but because they have lost trust in his Government.

We are in for some interesting times.  

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 16th, 2007 at 08:54:03 AM EST

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