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Essais: Of Sundaes



Today I'm thinking about values. Mainly on a macro level, think country-level.

I was reading over Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, and was struck by an observation he makes in the introduction. Setting the scene, Hayek talks of his concern that his adopted homelands of the U.S and England are increasingly adopting certain ideologies, specifically National Socialism, that in his view, pursued to a logical end, would see both nations follow the path of Germany under Hitler. An alarming claim. Hayek believes that both countries are blind to the dangers they face, in part driven by an insecurity about national ideals. These are his words:

'"It is a lamentable fact that the English in their dealings with the dictators before the war, not less than in their attempts at propaganda and in the discussion of their war aims, have shown an inner insecurity and uncertainty of aim which can be explained only by confusion about their own ideals and the nature of the differences which separate them from the enemy."'

We each are born by seeming randomness into (or on to?) a specific country; albeit the randomness is explained by simple human migration based on opportunity or lack thereof, or violence. The act of birth is a near immediate assumption of a country - it's identity, ideals, language, culture, and rights and responsibilities. But what exactly constitutes an identity, a value system, a language, a culture, when over several millennia in the current age, humans have been migrating across countries and bringing with them their local cultures, and transplanting them into their new, host countries? How far does one have to go back, where a country can clearly delineate between its 'indigenous' identity, and those components that are seemingly transplanted from elsewhere?

History books are full of tales of conquests, invasions, surrenders and capitulations. In England alone we have Caesar, the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, the Vikings, the Danes, the Norwegians, the Scots and the French - a buffet of nations that shaped the identity of one island over hundreds of years. Where does one draw the clear line of English culture from Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Norman? Spouses of royal leaders were typically from other countries, used to cement political ties across borders and literally, over seas. Their progeny by definition would not be wholly 'English', and yet these were the leaders setting the ideological tone for the local population. And these in-bound historical tussles do not include the invasions enacted by the isle of England across the world, bringing back with it external influences, from food and tea, to, well...people, most often through slavery. And here yet again, these individuals were enfolded within the local, domestic landscape, marrying and having children, over the course of hundreds of years. How does any country decide to pinpoint the exact moment that their ideals were cemented as their own - unique and sovereign?

And then we get back to birth. Literally from one generation to the next, one's whole identity can radically change from one's ancestors. Say a woman is born in India, and before her generations of women gave birth to children on that specific patch of earth in Asia, but then one day, she decides to up and leave, to say, France, and she goes ahead and has a child there. This new human is now, at least nationalistically, French, and no longer Indian. The patch of minerals upon with one is born suddenly creates a whole new identity, that is vastly different from its forebears. It's quite wild really. That then begs the question, to whom does one owe one's ideological allegiance? What a cultural and sociological sundae, we have on our hands.



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