Amazon Honor System

Nationalism * Support * FAQ * Write for * Editorial policy

Loyalty to our roots

At its most extreme, nationalism is quite like infatuation

July 31, 2002
The Iranian

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 beliefs.

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 federal elections.

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 are we?"

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

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for Ali Khalili

By Ali Khalili

Khalili's features


No walls
Why I love America
By Setareh Sabety

Here to stay
Lamenting our lost roots is unproductive
By Fereydoun Hoveyda

I felt tears swell up
By Maryam Shargh

Forgiving Salm and Tur
A polemic on race
By Laleh Khalili

It's all a myth
A response to Laleh Khalili's
By Asghar Massombagi

From political Islam to secular nationalism
The time has come to reconsider the image of Iran as a rigidly religious society
By Hooshang Amirahmadi


* Recent

* Covers

* Writers

* All sections

Book of the day

Shooreshian aarmaankhaah
By Maziar Behrooz

Amazon Honor System

Copyright © All Rights Reserved. Legal Terms for more information contact:
Web design by Bcubed
Internet server Global Publishing Group