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Grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Richmond, El Cerrito, Berkeley, Oakland. My time now is mostly spent getting better at being a person, refining my time management skills, trying to read normal people books and articles, and learning how to be a force for good.

T1D Life in full effect. 

I will never stop learning, nor will I stop working to make a difference for someone.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Nationalism: the poison of belonging

It's been a while since I posted. I know this Will Austin. I've come up with a bunch of really interesting topics to blog out. But alas, 'tis the end of a semester. I'm in the midst of a big ol' paper for Social Stratification, and it's really fun. It has taken over my life as of now, and so I must be honest about getting back to bloggin' come mid-December. So, I'm posting my final short paper for Social Stratification. The book was written by the professor of the course, who at first seemed a little over-the-top critical, but as the semester has progressed I have gained a whole lot of respect for her style. She not only tackles subjects with tenacity, and doesn't let us get away with anything, but also acknowledges her own limitations regarding subjectivity. She's a damned good editor as well-I can't remember a professor since 7/8th grade English that really took my writing to task. If you attend UH Manoa and need some Sociology coursework, I'd highly recommend taking courses Nandita Sharma is teaching.

So, even though I've already gotten feedback from her about this shorty, I'm posting it as-submitted. Hope someone enjoys it.


SOC 754, Social Stratification
Due: 11/18/10
Evaluation of: Home Economics: Nationalism and the Making of ‘Migrant Workers’ in Canada

            Why is citizenship in a capitalist nation-state so coveted? What are the benefits of citizenship in a capitalist nation-state? First, we must truthfully admit that in first world capitalist nation-states, the benefits of citizenship can include certain protections as an employee, and fewer personal restrictions on movement within and without the nation-state. Further, citizens are far less likely to face discrimination in as many forms, and can find that there are solutions to some complicated issues available to citizens that are not available to non-citizens. Citizenship certainly does not alleviate racial, gender, and sexuality biases; however, being a citizen means there is one less category in which to find the self punished for naturally occurring realities. When acclimating to a new place to live, work and engage in socialization and social mobility of some kind, being classified as a non-citizen can be extremely damaging. Employment opportunities cease to be viable for legal or social reasons; education can be almost impossible if not incredibly difficult to obtain and maintain. However, in terms of access to basic lifestyle resources, non-citizenship in a society favoring nationalism creates a severely limiting situation.
            Canada seems no different from any capitalist nation-state in terms of political action against marginalized peoples who move there from other nation-states in order to better their lives. Groups of citizens who hold seats of power use fear tactics such as blaming economic challenges on ‘immigrants’. To say that immigrants are ‘stealing’ opportunities from citizens is ludicrous at best, at worst a way to ingrain a constant feeling of fear of an ‘other’. The creation of the Canadian person as a non-immigrant is also a false representation of ownership of place, if we take into account that peoples of European descent are not the first folks to inhabit the physical land designated as Canada. Further, race is always a factor in the operationalization of placing nationality upon a person, regardless of their compliance with state-mandated requirements regarding citizenship. Not to mention the never-ending and forever progressive requirements of attaining legal citizenship, let alone being forced into a perpetual state of legal non-citizenship worker status. People who look different than what is assumed to represent a ‘proper’ idea of a citizen are marginalized within the social order of Canada, such as we might see from looking at the social order of the United States. The structure of the nation-state of Canada has allowed for peoples of European descent who migrated to Canada to attain a position of political and social dominance over others that are labeled and therefore publicly assumed to be ‘others’. With this in mind, a very interesting discussion emerges: the framing of internal ‘us’ and external ‘them’ within the context of globalization.
            In Canada as well as in the United States, people moving to the capitalist giants with the intention of staying, do so at great personal risk. Not only can things go wrong during a transition to a different country, but upon arrival in the new place creating a life may prove to be more challenging than anticipated. Especially when we consider that nationalist tendencies involve some very strong xenophobia. This seemingly natural xenophobia, when coupled with the fear of globalization, makes for a much more difficult daily life, and far fewer options as a newly relocated resident. If the local culture is such that nationalism has overridden a sense of hospitality towards newcomers, the reality of not only marginalization but exclusion will settle in. Laws regarding the restriction of citizenship can start to emerge and be seen by mainstream society as commonplace to a society such as this one. Restrictions may limit citizenship to those who are ‘natural born’ or born when the parent is in the country. Some countries may even restrict citizenship to people born to parents who are already citizens, making the attainment of citizenship practically impossible. All these restrictions or threats of restriction stem from a nationalist perspective of wanting to minimize the ‘pollution’ of the presumed existing strong natural nation-state. The perceived damage done by an influx of folks moving to a country that holds the promise of wealth becomes folklore with assumed truth associated with it. This in turn creates a seemingly natural fear of outsiders, or those not associated with appropriate levels of nationalist spirit are cast out of the potential area for belonging, and the comfort of home is forever unattainable. But now I ask: when nationalism assists in a fight for release from oppression, should we argue against the retention of the language of nationalist movements, in exchange for a global inclusion?
            My only critique of this text is this: how can we de-nationalize nation-states to create a global community? It is certainly a much more civilized and compassionate way to think about the population of the earth. But with nationalism in such a place of significance, what could we do to eliminate this fundamental part of understanding who we are? If we were to eliminate the need for identity politics of all kinds, how would we bring about the kind of global change that would make nation-states obsolete? I am not saying I do not support the thesis; I am saying that the challenges associated with the pure emancipation of the singular person from an identifiable and definable collective would, I imagine, prove to be spectacularly complicated. Though I believe the difficulties within this process would stem from a lack of understanding of how to relate to others without the defining factors of nationality, and not from a lack of desire to expel exclusionary and compassionless politics. In a post-nationalist global society lies a world of true democratic purpose and freedom; the way to reach this kind of almost-utopian world is still out of reach within a capitalistic structure of the ultra-comfortable vs. the perpetually exploited.

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