February 26, 2016 by Cláudia
When you meet someone, you ask the name, age and nationality. It is something tied with the identity and one cannot exist without a nationality. Nationality is so important because it gives us a sense of belonging of which we are deeply proud. We study our country’s past and learn its victories. People who live in the same country share a language, a History and something more transcendental and untouchable that has been simplisticly named nationality. Something that unites the people who live inside some invisible divisions that are called borders.
The human being is naturally afraid of what’s different and being of a different nationality many times leads to a kind of aversion, reluctance or dislike based on that factor. Portugal and Spain, who are literally side by side alone in a peninsula, have this dislike for each other, probaby historical that dates back to the wars for territory and independence. When Portuguese travel to Spain or vice-versa, we like the people individually, it’s just a “national” attitude to dislike each other as a Nation. Many times, there’s a stereotype involved that helps explain and homogenize the individuals inside a country: French are racists, Brazilian are dishonest, Spanish are too loud, Swiss are organized, Chinese are good at Maths, Jamaicans are lazy and smoke weed, etc. etc. You probably recognized some of these and know others and maybe grinned – these simplifications are funny. But they are simplifications nonetheless. Some French people are racist, and some Swiss people are organized, but some are not. After accepting a stereotype as true, we have the tendency to interpret everything according to it and therefore over-simplifying a complex reality into a plain homogeneous idea. If you look around it’s undeniable the diversity of people that coexist in the same place. I am so different from my family and they live inside my house, so what to say about a whole country!
The concept of nationality is deeply rooted in our mentality and our frame of thought, but truth is, nationality is completely random. I didn’t choose it, I didn’t “earn” it, I just was born inside these frontiers and I could have easily been born somewhere else. How can something random define me? And how come am I supposed to be related to random people that lay inside the same invisible boundaries that me, more than I would be to the rest of the people that cohabit the planet I live in? One may be proud of a country’s History (in many ways I am not) but does that make sense when it wasn’t himself that starred that past? It is the same as apologizing for something my ancesters did.
There is this interesting mental exercise developed by John Rawls in which one must imagine they knew nothing about the personal characteristics in order to make fair decisions. How would your attitude change considering you could be any nationality? (Just imagine you don’t know from where you are – it’s a mental exercise.)
We are naturally afraid of what’s different so let’s focuse on what unites us: We are all Human. Same species. Same planet. Same rights.
I have recently encountered the term global citizen, which I am starting to become very fond of. But in reality, being a global citizen really means to be human, on top of British, French or German.