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What does it mean to be a member of a nation?

Flak said:
I think that ethnicity is not a valid definition for belonging to a nation. In fact you sort of state that. There are many notable countries that have strong cultures with mixed ethnic backgrounds: United States, India, South Africa, Malaysia, Canada. Even the United Kingdom has the Scots, Irish, Celts as well the Anglo-Saxons.

I myself am not a white American. My father was half African American and half Native American, my mother white European American (mostly French and Irish). Would you say that I'm less of an American than a Czech is a Czech just because I am not the result of a single ethnicity?

I would have to strongly disagree.

The original question is a difficult one for many people. Consider the situation of the European Jews pre-WWII. You had significant populations of French, German, Polish and Russian Jews. These people certainly were for many many generations contributing members of their respective lands and cultures. So when they were exterminated in Germany, was this a killing Germans or Jews? Or both? The fact that this question is still open to any kind of debate at all exposes the difficulty of trying define one's belonging to a nation.

Flak, in the definition I proposed (I don't know about your discussion partner's definition), ethnicity would play a role in the definition of some nations but not necessarily in the definition of other nations. So, I think you should see that it's not an "all or nothing" thing. Just because race or ethnicity is not a critical or determining factor when it comes to membership in the nation of the United States does not mean that it is not a critical or determining factor when it comes to membership in certain other nations -- such as for example the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq -- they would consider themselves a nation even though they do not have a nation-state. Regarding Jews, According to Judaism, all Jews, wherever they are in the world, belong to the nation of the "children of Israel":

The best explanation is the traditional one given in the Torah: that the Jews are a nation. The Hebrew word, believe it or not, is "goy." We use the word "nation" not in the modern sense meaning a territorial and political entity, but in the ancient sense meaning a group of people with a common history, a common destiny, and a sense that we are all connected to each other. We are, in short, an enormous extended family.

Some Jews don't like to use the word "nation." Jews have often been falsely accused of being disloyal to their own country because of their loyalty to the Jewish "nation." Antisemites routinely accuse Jews of being more loyal to Israel than to their home country. But whatever you want to call it, that sense of nationhood or peoplehood is probably the only thing about Judaism that we can all agree on and that we can all relate to. Anyone who feels any sense of Jewish identity shares that sense of Jewish peoplehood.

When we speak of that nation, however, we do not refer to it as "Judaism." We refer to that nation as "the Jewish people" or "the Children of Israel" (a reference to our patriarch, Jacob, also known as Israel).

This notion of Jews as a nation or people encompasses many of the ideas above. As a nation or people, we share common ideas, ancestry, and culture, but there is also room for diversity in each of these areas. The most important part of being a nation is that sense of interconnectedness.


http://www.jewfaq.org/judaism.htm

Also, many Quebecans consider themselves a nation even though they do not have as yet a fully independent sovereign state.

@eater, you seem to suggest that if someone doesn't consider himself part of a nation, he could not possibly be a member of the nation ... but babies do not consider themselves part of anything as they do not do much considering, yet the parents of these babies and other members of the nation would consider them to be part of the nation. Also even an adult could conceivably consider himself not part of certain nations, while at the same time the communities in these nations would still consider them as part of their nations -- this is something that actually happens without infrequency.
 
you seem to suggest that if someone doesn't consider himself part of a nation, he could not possibly be a member of the nation ... but babies do not consider themselves part of anything as they do not do much considering, yet the parents of these babies and other members of the nation would consider them to be part of the nation. Also even an adult could conceivably consider himself not part of certain nations, while at the same time the communities in these nations would still consider them as part of their nations -- this is something that actually happens without infrequency.

Exactly, I think you're getting it. Membership of a nation is by no means a clear cut issue precisley because nations are imaginary.

I would contend that the baby is not a 'member' in the sense that it doesn't participate in the 'real nation' (that is the psycho-sociological community that believes itself to be a nation).

However this does not mean that it might not be considered a member of the nation by the community.

Generally I would consider that it is simply necessary to note that beliefs about what all the nations are and who is in them are also personal, they change from person to person and it is impossible to sit down and objectivley define what they all 'really' are.

For instance one group of people (group A)might be commonly ascribed as a nation by others (group B) , but not belief so themselves.

If we are then to ask 'do Group A exist as nation?' we can answer both yes and no: they have no imagined community of their own, but they are a nation in the eyes of group B. (in effect a repetition of the facts).
This seemingly imperfect answer is nevertheless the correct one.

Your example of Jews vs USA is a prime example of how there is no standard for defining what is a nation or not, for saying one person is a member of a nation based on (whatever categories you like in here), rather the only thing that creates the nation is, as you quoted:

a sense that we are all connected to each other
 
eateroftoast said:
Generally I would consider that it is simply necessary to note that beliefs about what all the nations are and who is in them are also personal, they change from person to person and it is impossible to sit down and objectivley define what they all 'really' are.

Well in some cases or many cases or even most cases it may be difficult or virtually impossible to sit down and determine what they all really are, but that doesn't mean that they are not really something, even if this something is difficult for us to grasp, determine or define. As an example, what knowledge is is a perrennial problem in philosophy that is debated till this day and different theories, none as of yet universally accepted have arisen to try and precisely define what knowledge is ... but this doesn't mean that there is not some thing that knowledge really is; it only means that we have difficulty agreeing on it and/or have difficulty grasping, determining or defining it. What a nation is, is much "bigger" as a concept than what we are as human individuals and so it is natural that human individuals will have difficulty grasping or defining it with complete clarity and universal acceptance.

rather the only thing that creates the nation is, as you quoted: "sense that we are all connected to each other "

I would say that when that sense corresponds to an actual state of being connected to each other (and perhaps the sense that we are all connected contributes to actually being all connected) then the nation is a real one and not just an imagined one.
 
Flak said:
I think that ethnicity is not a valid definition for belonging to a nation. In fact you sort of state that. There are many notable countries that have strong cultures with mixed ethnic backgrounds: United States, India, South Africa, Malaysia, Canada. Even the United Kingdom has the Scots, Irish, Celts as well the Anglo-Saxons.

I myself am not a white American. My father was half African American and half Native American, my mother white European American (mostly French and Irish). Would you say that I'm less of an American than a Czech is a Czech just because I am not the result of a single ethnicity?

I would have to strongly disagree.

My point is, that nationalism is percieved differently in the US and European tradition. US nationalism is based on the citizenship. The European nationalism is sometimes called a "cultural nationalism". This is supposed to mean, that the European nations are often based not on the government, but on the cultural traditions, language, sometimes religion and often the ethnicity.

For example, there is fair number of people of the Asian origin in my city, but for many people, it is still very strange that they call themselves a Czechs. It has nothing to do with racism, it is just not ordinary, because this country doesn't have a long tradition of multiculturalism. In the US, it is common, but in many European countries it is not.

The original question is a difficult one for many people. Consider the situation of the European Jews pre-WWII. You had significant populations of French, German, Polish and Russian Jews. These people certainly were for many many generations contributing members of their respective lands and cultures. So when they were exterminated in Germany, was this a killing Germans or Jews? Or both? The fact that this question is still open to any kind of debate at all exposes the difficulty of trying define one's belonging to a nation.

I'll repeat my definition: it is a feeling of belonging to some nation and the acceptance of this by the other members of that nation.
 
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