tue 06 jan 2009 11:45:07 witte de withstraat
cultural survival becoming oppression
from a mail i wrote last night about a possible project ...
what forms did the suppression of identity take. what did they do about it.
other things i'm curious about:
what is the motive behind the attempt by one tribe to suppress the identity of another? or to try to impose some kind of cultural conformity within a nation? is it a fear thing?
poles are often proud of being polish because it's quite an achievement to still be polish after all the attempts to eliminate poland. estonians are the same way -- always oppressed by somebody next to them who forbade them to sing in their own language. i've never heard or read an explanation for why this conformism should have been a good idea.
cultural unity feels like it's worth fighting for whenever you feel like the underdog. people are concerned about what's right when they feel they've been wronged.
in contemporary holland there's this sudden and rather crude effort to make the foreigners learn to act like dutch people, which is so unbecoming to the hitherto existing dutch archetype that it's making people want to avoid doing business in holland. it's as if they're willing to sacrifice their success as an international market, just to rescue their tiny ideas about dutchness.
in a similar way, i would be willing to fight for amsterdam values *against* dutch values imposed by the nation. but in so doing i would seem to oppress those nationalists who've taken up residence in our city. same goes for when i lived in boston -- i was always a strong champion of home rule, of neighborhood versus nationhood.
in romania under ceaucescu (i wasn't there, mind you, so i dunno), maybe they were trying to impose cultural unity because they felt themselves to *be* an underdog, and felt romanian nationality was worth "fighting for". in the same way but on a smaller scale, the csango insist that their villagers attend catholic mass.
does fighting for cultural survival necessarily mean oppressing the nonconformists in your own midst? if so, then cultural survival is obviously not a good idea, because individual freedom trumps all other concerns. but i don't necessarily think it's so. i think there is a strong polish identity despite all the nonconformists in poland. i think there are still plenty of nonconformists in bulgaria, despite their oppression by postcommunist chalga and mafia culture.
is this tendency to persecute cultural minorities a uniquely european historical phenomenon, or does this also happen in south asia, asia, america indonesia, africa etc? i think it probably does happen everywhere. but i've still never read a literate *excuse* for cultural repression. why one people feels so threatened by another that they want to enslave them, inburger them, or exterminate them. i'm still flummoxed by that.
does that mean i am unfit to work on this project, or that i am especially fit for it?