Empty Days

Wednesday, July 07, 2004



Recognition.

Adaptability is not a universal human characteristic. This explains why immigrants overwhelmingly tend to stay within their respective communities upon moving to another country/society. Rather than integrate into the local ethos immigrants, second generation included, stick together and integrate the prevailing society only to a certain degree.

It takes a special will and powerful energy to break the bond with one's original nationality/community and fully adapt and take root in the new world. There are always exceptions, but even second-generation immigrants are rarely able to completely resolve their original ties. In fact, in north america more than in europe, national ties tend to endure longer and full assimilation has to wait until the third generation - where the child is born to parents who themselves grew up in the new country.

In europe the local societies are far tighter and exert a much greater pressure for assimilation. There, the second generation rarely stays as closely tied to the original national community as in north america. The melting pot model does not function well since the local society is far less diluted in its cultural make-up. By comparison North America is clearly much more liberal to the newcomer. Nevertheless, one has to wonder to what extent it is really a land of immigration - after all its dominant culture is distinctly anglo-saxon and arrivals from very different societies must adapt to the prevailing ethos (highly distinct enclaves like Quebec in Canada are even harder to integrate due to a tighter cultural environment).

In melting-pot or "multicultural" societies, where pressure for assimilation is not as high as in other countries, the problem of cultural and national identity takes a new precedence on the individual level - it gives rise to a phenomenon that might be called a dearth of recognition.

It may be said that early socialization forges one's cultural (or national) identity and implants habits and forms of interaction that constitute the basic language of cultural symbolics. When a child is only partially socialized in the dominant cultural milieu, he will tend to develop his most basic social symbolics in the community culture that he is most immediately related to. Implicitly the idea of mutliculturalism tends to deny the importance of native clan systems in favor of a certain "balanced" vision of loosely hung parts composing a certain somewhat vague whole. Basically it is a sort of cultural federalism with the "central government" represented by the dominant social ethos. But the strength of political federalism is dependant on the local vitality of confederates that constitute it. In the cultural sphere this effectively represents the strength of one's ties to one's original community.

Between generations many youths tend to lose these strong ties and their sense of cultural and national identity becomes diluted. The attraction of the dominant ethos appears important but it is itself so loose that it provides only a limited language of cultural and social symbolics. Yet it is these symbolics that permit recognition and the sense of the familiar between humans. The unfamiliar, for all its possibilities of discovery, remains outside of the basic individual sphere. Thus a dearth of recognition is experienced when one loses ties with his basic milieu and enters the dominant ethos. In multicultural societies people often recognize each other only partially, on the basis of the poor language of the "federal" symbolics, and human contact tends to remain superficial.

This lack comes to light when, after a long while, one is confronted with the immediacy of recognition towards those of his original culture.

(this was an imitation of Michel Foucault's "History of Sexuality")





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