Loyalty to our roots
At its most extreme, nationalism is quite like infatuation
July 31, 2002
It's Canada Day and standing on my balcony, I can see thousands of people strolling
down towards the celebration grounds, with painted faces and maple-leaf tatoos and
Canadian flags. It's an interesting scene, because Canadians, unlike their southern
neighbours, are not exactly the most nationalistic of people. Scenes of intense patriotism
and flag waving are rare, in a country that is struggling to figure out itself.
Every Canada Day, I start to wonder about the concept of nationalism. In a sense,
you could say nationalism is a pretty silly idea. Afterall, who decided to draw all
these lines that we have to swear our entire lives and destiny by. Even worse, nationalism
or its ultra version must be the leading cause of death and destruction in our world,
even more so than greed and religions.
Indeed, at its most extreme, nationalism is quite like infatuation. You make up what
you want, out of the girl you meet and you keep making yourself believe that she
is the way you think she is, until after many years, you wake up and smell the coffee.
These are funny thoughts, for someone who used to pride himself for his extreme nationalistic
There was a time when it was Iran or nothing else in my mind. So, every Canada Day,
I still remember the sense of shame when I first began to feel some enthusiasm for
my new-found home. I felt like I was double-crossing my old love. Afterall, such
feelings were a sacrilege and flirtatious, even a few years before then.
But I could not help but to fall in love with my new
land. The multiculturalism attracted me as my many new diverse friends helped me
to think beyond my Iranian ways. The desire to build a "just society" as
Trudeau had proclaimed, warmed up my heart. And it's approach towards separation
left me in awe and admiration, as Quebec separatists were fully participating in
But above all, I found myself in love with this new land for the ironic reason that
over here, the nationalistic sentiments were so much softer and milder which meant
that people were more accepting of new people and their ways.
But despite this growing enthusiasm, nothing in the world to this date, has been
as exciting and memorable as the heartwarming memories of Norooz. And no beat --
whether an awesome Jamaican Reggae tune or just a western disco beat -- would make
me want to dance more than a good old fashioned bandari song.
It is this whole array of feelings and thoughts, that burden my mind, every Canada
Day. Instead of fully celebrating the day, I often find myself wanting and wondering
about my multiple roots. I sometimes feel like that Jackie Chan movie -- where he
was running around and asking himself "Who am I?" or even worse, "Who
Indeed, in 2002, the concept of "me" and "us" is becoming a blurry
one. We do live in a unique era, an era which will most likely forever change our
human civilization as we know it. From one side, the global desire to make as much
money as possible, is reshaping our world.
The other day, our company merged with another thousands of miles away. And within
a week I found out that three people I was working with, would be heading to that
new country, to cultivate our company's culture into the new acquisition. I was a
bit shocked. How could these people just drop everything and head to a new country
all of a sudden?
On the other hand, migration, in the kind of numbers and directions
we have witnessed in the last century, must be unprecedented as well. In case of
our Iran, a country that has been relatively static for centuries, we have witnessed
one of the biggest mass exoduses in its history. And the migration out of east and
south Asia that has gone on for decades, is still quite significant as well.
And from yet another side, the mixing and mingling of races must be occuring at a
notciable rate as well. Although, interracial marriages are still the minority and
most people would prefer not to add a whole cultural dimension to the complex equation
called "marriage" or just "relationship", their longterm societal
impacts in reshaping our world are significant.
Of course, Iranians, with that unique affection for the blond hair and blue eyes
and the European look in general, have been at the forefront of this race, as witnessed
by so many Iranians married to non-Iranians. But even communities that sometimes
seem so tight are finding it difficult to stay that way in the face of time.
A week ago, an Isamili friend of mine got married to a caucasian girl. For those
who may not know, Ismailis are one of the most successful and tight-knit communities
who have now mostly settled in Western Canada.
As I watched him getting married, I wondered what Hasan Sabbah, the man who spent
a lifetime separating himself and his followers in his fort would think, if he knew
his future generations would become mingled with "Ajnabis"? It may be ironic
but a people who survived the wrath of Genghis Khan, Iranian kings and as a minority
in India and east Africa, may not survive the fast pace changes of the 21st century.
But is this all good? Is this gradual and slow decline
in nationalism and the concept of nationhood, which is occassionally erupted by the
knee-jerk reactions in the form of neo-Nazis, good? Could societies survive for long
without a major cohesive sense of belonging? Is this trend just a shortterm thing
and will we ever face the rise of neo-nationalism in the numbers that we did face
in the 1930s and 1940s?
I have difficulty believing or even supporting the concept of nationalism anymore.
I can's remember the last time I waved a flag of any kind. But I feel a strong sense
that in this day and time, we have a tendency to look down on everything that may
come across as just simple sentimental attachments.
I may be wrong, but I deeply feel that even in our new age of enlightenment and openness
and reason and internationalism, we need a sense of loyalty to our roots and to the
people and areas that have made us who we are. A world, where we can drop our every
affiliation and connections every few years without any life threatening reasons,
seems so empty, so hard, and so shallow to bear with.
July 9, 2002