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In a world of strangers who speaks your language?


“We are unexpectedly losing numerous vital elements of a civilized, salutary society. We are seeing a sharp boom in human beings suffering alienation or simply feeling adrift … we recognize there is a widespread increase of inhabitants struggling a lack of sense of community, identity, and continuity.” That quote speaks to our age. It speaks to an experience of dislocation and insecurity that has ruptured global politics.

In a global of porous borders, open trade, deindustrialization, the mass movement of human beings, technological revolution, developing inequality, heightened fear and suspicion, international terrorism, and the march of robot armies, that quote speaks to want for retreat, for nostalgia, for desire in a beyond that perhaps by no means existed instead of a frightening future we can not manipulate. But that quote isn’t always written now; it comes from over again, a time earlier than globalization, or Islamic State, or the European Union.

The American journalist and social critic Van Packard made that commentary greater than forty years ago in his 1972 ebook, A Nation of Strangers. He had traveled the duration and breadth of is us of handing out questionnaires and speak to human beings. This changed into a time of the Cold War, battle in Vietnam, China became nonetheless mired in its Cultural Revolution. Packard reminds us that every age has its uncertainty, its reputedly existential crises. He additionally reminds us that a few matters are perennial. In 1972 he touched on the very human need for connection, for belonging. Packard’s Nation of Strangers is now a global of strangers. Societies anywhere are splintering along ideological, magnificence, ethnic, racial, cultural, and sectarian lines.


How does the center maintain? Can we even locate that center?

Journalist Bill Emmott, in his latest e-book, The Fate of the West, identifies an erosion of belief. “The clash among tribalism and openness reflects feelings of fear,” he writes. Much of that worry is targeted at the stranger. Migration has to turn out to be a potent political fault line. Old borders are being reinstated, partitions are being built to hold people out. The European test is fraying. Right now, Britain is negotiating the phrases of its go out.

My bookshelf is teeming with tomes foreshadowing the stop of times as we realize them. At The End of Europe, scholar James Kirchick writes that “Great Britain’s choice to go away the European Union … has begun the bloc’s gradual unraveling, emboldening nationalist forces throughout the continent”. Associate Editor of UK’s Spectator mag Douglas Murray is near hyperventilating in his e-book, The Strange Death of Europe. Murray sees the conflict of cultures as undermining the very nature of European identity. His is a take-heed call to a Europe this is digging its own grave.

“We can not become Indian or Chinese, for example. And but we’re predicted to agree with that anybody in the world can move to Europe and turn out to be European,” he writes. Murray’s argument is not racial; it’s far built across the concept and maintenance of European values. “The global is coming into Europe,” he says, “at exactly the moment Europe has lost sight of what it is.” The International of strangers, it seems, is making us strangers to ourselves. Australia is grappling with those strains.

English and citizenship

This week the talk has been on citizenship. The Government wants to make it harder to turn out to be Australian. It argues that the right to turn out to be one folk’s wishes be earned. It is becoming a topic. Last week Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull became speaking of patriotism. Earlier this yr he became extolling the virtue of “Australian values.” A not unusual denominator is language. English proficiency, Mr. Turnbull says, should be pre-considered necessary for citizenship. The consciousness of language is going to the heart of what it’s far to be a country.

Writing in 1882, the French Historian Ernest Renan set down his mind on nationhood which might be considered seminal. He disregarded the concept of racial and linguistic bonds. Languages, he wrote, “ask to be united; they do now not pressure it.” To Renan, languages have been “ancient formations that mean nothing regarding people who talk them.” For Renan, a state was a “soul, a religious principle.” It is born of the past, “a rich legacy of memories,” and the existing, “the desire to live collectively.”

But Renan did no longer stay in the world of strangers we now inhabit. The father of psychiatry, Sigmund Freud, wrote of what he knew as “the Uncanny,” repressed impulses born out of uncertainty. Writing about this, Australian teachers Ken Gelder and Jane Jacobs stated an “uncanny experience might additionally occur when one’s domestic is rendered, somehow and in a few experience, unusual.” They quote Julia Kristeva’s e-book, Strangers to Ourselves, which offers the tension of disentangling what home is and what is foreign. Our global is now in this experience “uncanny.” Politicians are seizing at the impulses of fear and distrust in the weather of developing uncertainty.

This is the blowback to globalization. The liberal cosmopolitan dream becomes a international order that would unite us in shared values that would sit down astride the borders of nations. But countries are persistent. They want to belong is powerful and enduring. But defining that belonging is no smooth factor. Broadcaster and creator Michael Ignatieff distinguish between civic and ethnic nationalism. Common ethnicity, he said, “now not affords the glue that binds the country to the state.” He says “thick” definitions of national cohesion demand assimilation into a dominant countrywide way of life. But he prefers a “skinny” definition, a “civic settlement” that binds us to the legitimacy of the regulations — democracy, rule of regulation, possibility for all.

Of course, that increases questions on fairness and whether or not the country returns that legitimacy to all its humans; however, Ignatieff’s “civic nationalism” permits us to live as a “country of strangers.” I walked amongst the ones “strangers” this week for my software, The Link. We were asking whether being an Australian intended to speak English. I met people of all colorings and faiths who spoke more than one language. Some were no longer as fluent in English as a local-born speaker. However, all professed love of Australia’s country has provided them, unswerving to a “civic nationalism” that speaks louder than words. One young woman from Africa advised me to learn English as a young scholar; she also spoke French.


Geneva A. Crawford
Twitter nerd. Coffee junkie. Prone to fits of apathy. Professional beer geek. Spent several years buying and selling magma in Miami, FL. Spent a year lecturing about psoriasis in Las Vegas, NV. Managed a small team writing about circus clowns in Las Vegas, NV. Garnered an industry award while writing about lint in the financial sector. Spoke at an international conference about getting my feet wet with dust in Libya. Spoke at an international conference about researching rocking horses in Bethesda, MD.