A Self Without Borders

“Globalization” is a buzzword. We often
hear about how it will unite citizens of far-flung nations, how it will bring aid to those in need, and how it will allow corporations to create and deliver
the highest quality of products anywhere, at any time.

But we forget that globalization
is also, by nature, disruptive. Although modern civilization has always evolved
through transnational exchanges, with the advent of the new millennium we’ve
seen unprecedented rises in cultural, material, financial, and human traffic
across the globe. As a side effect, the rigidity of national borders has been
called into question. Diasporas demand that institutions decide what
distinguishes the “new” from the “old”—the immigrant from the native.
International news sources testify to the relevance of immigration policy. National security institutions in nearly every nation around the world have, in
recent times, been grappling with this thorny issue. 

onslaught of the global economic recession has only further sharpened the relevance of immigration policy. Across the European Union in particular, neoconservative
anti-immigration groups have harnessed public anxiety to strengthen their

The neo-Nazi party has gained a foothold in the Greek congress; neo-fascist parties in Spain and Portugal have swelled considerably; and the
influential upsurge of Marine Le Pen’s National Front Party, though it has
evoked little more than a murmur from international media outlets, has
contributed to the erosion of Socialist Party influence in France. Eclipsed in
the public eye by the sensationalized civil uprisings of the Arab Spring and by
mounting pressure for humanitarian intervention in rogue states, right-wing
protectionist movements like the National Front have thus far been chalked up to
little more than the natural progression of a cyclical presidency and the
tantrums of the young, lazy, and unemployed.

The National Front Party, a conservative movement often described as
nationalist and covertly anti-Islamic, speaks to the dissatisfaction of a
country burdened by its highest unemployment rate in a decade.
Traditionally characterized by its anti-immigration policies, it has flourished
in French communities eager to peg immigrants as the scapegoat for France’s
economic troubles, exacerbating already tense relations between immigrant and
French-born youth. This rise in xenophobic “nationalism” has pushed to the top of France’s political agenda issues such as pork-free menu bans in public schools, the banning of religious
garb such as the Islamic hijab and Jewish kippah, and stop-and-frisk procedures.

What is most worrisome about the
National Front’s influence is that it is fed by public opinion. A France24 poll
found that 66 percent of respondents thought that there were “too many foreigners in
France.” Le Pen and other National Front politicians have begun to adopt the
use of questionable nationalist jargon, referring consistently to the imminent
demise of the “francais de souche,” the real French cultural identity. This
stigmatization of foreigners smacks of ethnic discrimination. 

All of this stems in part from
the misguided belief that integration requires assimilation. Granted, the
regression of political discourse to a more conservative, protectionist
standpoint may ease the economic pain of countries like France in the short
term. However, in a world characterized by the fluidity of its borders and the
dynamism of its exchanges, purist national identities are becoming rapidly
amorphous and obsolete. When societies demand that immigrants conform to those
purist identities—or kick them out when they fail to do so—they are only
prolonging the demise of an ideology whose time has already come.

The true answer lies not in
regression, but in progress and adaptation. Policies aiding the integration and
assimilation of immigrant populations will serve both host and immigrant
populations far better than exclusionary rhetoric. France’s immigration debate is emblematic of the challenges that globalization poses to national identity—challenges that U.S. legislation such as the immigration reform bill passed
last June, which effectively paved the way to citizenship for 11 million
undocumented immigrants, seeks to address. To adapt to the 21st century, we must
acknowledge the unprecedented flexibility of national and cultural borders, and work through our problems in a progressive and collaborative manner.

conflicts require responses that surpass mere shows of patriotism. These are conflicts of integrity,
human rights, and global identity. To solve them, we must come to terms with
the pluralistic and multifaceted identities that we assume as contemporary
citizens. It is no longer
sustainable to divide ourselves into in-groups and out-groups. It is no longer
enough to define our identities by the name of the country written on our
passports. Just as globalization has gradually dissolved the borders between
nations, we must begin to dissolve the borders between the disparate parts of
our societies and of ourselves if we are to make it to the 22nd
century together.

Camille Goering PO ’16 is studying English and international relations.

Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply