Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

“We are all human beings, and our nationality is simply an accident of birth.”

This is my position on the Olympics and basically all national pride. It has nothing to do with anything, there is nothing to be proud of.

No one cares when I think it, it's nice to see others say it.

>“We are all human beings, and our nationality is simply an accident of birth.”

Well, this is obviously wrong.

Birth is not just a random momentary thing. It involves your parents. And they already had a nationality too. You couldn't have been born by any two random other people and still be the same person (DNA, childhood raising, education, food, native language, et al).

Second, you is not your birth only. It's also your upbringing, the culture you grew up in, the state/legal/etc environment you were raise, the language you spoke, the cuisine you were raised with, heck, even the national TV channels you were watching while growing up.

Would anybody dare to say the same thing to a black person? Nah, your culture and stuff is nothing, you could just as well be white? He'd be totally right to tell you to fuck off, for he has lived his culture (including bad treatment by white folks) all his life -- he knows that he being black wasn't just some "accident of birth", but an identity. Even a kid grewing up in Brooklyn by European Jews owes a lot to both Brooklyn and to him descending from European Jews (just ask Woody Allen).

It's also a potentially harmful way to see things. It's basically just an excuse to feel independent and non-connected and owning solidarity to anyone. Home country in danger? "Fuck it, I'll just flee. After all, it's only me, me, me that matters".

(You can feel solidarity for other nationalities and countries while also feeling pride and solidarity for your own people. Feeling solidarity for other people when you don't even care about your own is a little more difficult, despite those people paying lip service to "we're all one").

> "It's basically just an excuse to feel independent and non-connected and owning solidarity to anyone."

This is particularly important. In a growing culture of "independent connectedness" it is so very easy to forget both the historical importance of a community on the individual, as well as reduce the individual's compulsion to benevolence toward members of that society.

Our communities are in part a reflection of our national consciousness, and we'd do well to remember that we are a part of those communities.

It seems to me that the truth of this matter lies somewhere in the middle (as with most things).

Is your nationality meaningless? Certainly not, for reasons as coldtea has pointed out above. Though a person's birth could have happened anywhere (assuming, for a moment, that the parents had the mobility to settle anywhere they chose), the fact is that it did not happen anywhere. It happened where it happened. While I have much empathy for those who would deny nationalism in any way, shape, and form, it really cannot be overlooked so simply. As much as I try to be this objective, unbiased, rational being, I realize that my birthplace and culture has certainly affected me whether I'd like to admit it or not.

On the other hand, rabid nationalism remains meaningless to me. I see no reason to war against others in the name of my country, and I see no reason to prefer those with nationalities in-line with mine to others. If an Indian Nobel prize winner decides to turn his back on those parasitic "countrymen" who attempt to latch themselves onto him and bask in his reflected glory for no reason other than "you're Indian, I'm Indian", I support him all the way.

Well, this is obviously wrong.

Well, despite how obvious it is to you, you totally failed to convince me.

Home country in danger? "Fuck it, I'll just flee. After all, it's only me, me, me that matters"

Yes, and? Nationalism is the problem, not the solution. Oh, I understand the reasons articulated by the evolutionary psychologists for why humans are cliquish and tribal, and that all makes perfect sense. But we have the capacity for logic and higher order reasoning and we can transcend primal instincts like that if we want. And I think we should.

>Yes, and? Nationalism is the problem, not the solution. Oh, I understand the reasons articulated by the evolutionary psychologists for why humans are cliquish and tribal, and that all makes perfect sense. But we have the capacity for logic and higher order reasoning and we can transcend primal instincts like that if we want. And I think we should.

I agree, and argue this all the time.

Yes, I understand that nationality does affect me. Yes, I understand that human instinct is to "be social". But is that reason to spit in the face of a rational argument against a social problem?

> It's also a potentially harmful way to see things. It's basically just an excuse to feel independent and non-connected and owning solidarity to anyone. Home country in danger? "Fuck it, I'll just flee. After all, it's only me, me, me that matters".

What's wrong with that mindset? The way I see it, a rational actor would be inclined to think like that. I am an expat living halfway around the world and I have virtually zero sense of national identity. I am loyal to whatever place is aligned with my personal interests the most. When the place where I live stops serving my interests as an individual, I will go elsewhere. I give back to the community by working here, paying taxes and being a productive member of the society. Is there something wrong or dishonorable with that approach? Why shouldn't we be allowed to dynamically choose and reevaluate where we want to live throughout our lifetime?

The moment you ask me to die for you simply because we are from the same town/city/country, you are crossing into irrational territory and losing me right there and then. The only thing worth dying for is a good cause (so you'd better have one ready), and most of the time, wars started by nation-states are rooted in anything but good causes.

Convince me I'm wrong.

Identity in total is obviously more gray than the one sentence can provide, but its sentiment is important. And that's all it obviously is -- sentiment -- not a statement of fact.

The world is an awfully large place, but its cultures are more widely distributed than ever before. Therefore a citizen has much better opportunity to form a morality or philosophy that is independent of the place they live. That is the sentiment, free and able to join your other points of cultural context.

You can write all you want, but outright nullifying someones argument with "Well, this is obviously wrong." immediately inspires resentment and you've already lost their interest.

coldtea went a whole lot further than you seem to imply that they did, regardless of whether you agree with what was said or not. If somebody loses interest in a critical argument because it opens with "you're wrong", then perhaps their interest isn't worth having in the first place.

I strongly agree with this. Nationalist pride is the Kool-Aid peddled by government and society to get you to conform to their respective agendas and keep you from questioning the stupid shit they get up to.

And I really don't mean to come off as a pothead going "It's all a giant conspiracy man!"...

Seconded. Nationalism is just outdated tribalism that requires you to put your societal overlords' agendas above your own. When they call for you to go to war and kill your brothers and sisters from different places, you do it. When they ask you to give them the fruits of your labor so they can fund their war games and send your children to die in trenches while shifting wealth from the poor to the already wealthy, you do it. They feed you intellectual manure and try to appeal to your monkey brain to accept them as your tribal leaders and unconditionally pledge your allegiance to them and their purposes. And if you're big enough a fool, you do it (most people are).

Nationalism needs to go. There is absolutely nothing honorable in it. It just creates an artificial divide between the peoples of this planet. It all stems from a time when tribalism was needed to survive, and as it happens, evolution optimizes for local problems on the evolutionary curve and some of these features never go away.

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying we shouldn't cherish our cultural differences. On the contrary, I believe diversity is a wonderful thing and I find it fascinating that nearly every group of people out there has devised their own ways of communication, worship etc. Just don't let that devolve into "we are better than them", as it usually happens.

An artificial divide eh? If it wasn't for nationalism everyone would hug and be friends? I think nationalism is more of an effect than a cause.

> If it wasn't for nationalism everyone would hug and be friends?

Did I ever say that? If I did, please point out where.

Absence of one type of divide doesn't imply that there wouldn't be others. But the less the better.

Nationalism doesn't make sense when a nation's citizens feel powerless to shape the nation. But if a nation's citizens, through actions and decisions unique to their nation, feel like they are building a better place to live... what's wrong with being proud about it? Just the other side of the coin. I think striking a balance is optimal

You guys take this way too seriously.

Unfortunately, we're always on our nerves. So pre-occupied dealing with petty things, and on top of that add the troubles of a third world nation (poverty, unemployment, corruption, not so great healthcare). It's only when we get out of that environment do we truly realize our potential.

You know, I could say that about pretty much anything that anybody has passion enough to argue over, but until I elaborated further my post wouldn't very contributing to the conversation.

Race and ethnicity is an accident of birth. Nationality is shared culture, values, beliefs, and institutions. I spent the first five years of my life in Thailand and Bangladesh. My parents spent the first forty of theirs in Bangladesh. My ethnicity is fixed by that. But when we came to the U.S., we happily embraced the culture and values of the country. And having been in a position to compare them, I think it's foolish to say those have nothing to do with anything and are nothing to be proud of.

Why do Indians and other people from the subcontinent thrive more often in America than in their home countries? Because nationality does matter. Because while you can hold whatever beliefs and attitudes you want, your personal success and ability to achieve depends on the prevailing culture. The culture of your school work place, teachers, friends, potential employees, government. And American culture and institutions are conducive to success in a way success in ways Indian culture and institutions aren't. And that's something to be proud of. That's not something that arises passively. That's some thing we work together to build and nurture. That's something people fought for. The people who struggled to fight racism and sexism or corruption or lack of education, or the numerous other scourges still deeply ingrained in India, contributed something lasting to our culture, something that continues to accrue benefits to people who live here and adopt our ways.

It's one thing to recognize your civilizational and societal achievements as good, useful and constructive and therefore love them and cherish them. Nothing wrong with positive self evaluation. Whoever sees a problem with that is an anti-intellectual.

However, for most people national pride is something that manifests as "we are better than them" and allows them to engage in all kinds of atrocities against other people because "they're outsiders/they're not us". It's very easy to justify all kinds of things when you adopt "us vs them" mentality.

Gotta be careful. Since most people can't be counted on to be well behaved and not let their pride devolve into justifications for colonization/genocide/ethnic violence, it's best to keep those feelings down to a minimum.

Culture is the largest difference between people. We are the animal that can (re)program itself. Nationality correlates to culture greatly.

So there is still plenty of difference between peoples of the world. Its silly to ignore this.

No one is suggesting culture should be ignored. It's pride that's the problem. Did you do something to earn your nationality?

Culture in itself is an important difference that makes people a lot more interesting to each other. But the examples given are not the same kind of difference: Olympic swimmers aren't expressing their culture. They're all, by rule, doing exactly the same thing. That the one from your nation does it the best says nothing about your culture, and there's no rational reason that swimmer or you should feel some sort of pride about that.

> Did you do something to earn your nationality?

Some people did. As an example, my grandfather had to fight for the right to live according to his culture, because our country was invaded. Once you fought for your freedom, you begin to feel rather strongly about "nationality", defined as belonging to a group of people that share your cultural beliefs. And yes, you could say he "earned" his nationality. He did not fight in a a war because somebody enticed him to do so: he fought to defend his freedom, his family, and his way of life.

Don't oversimplify those things.

Was he, per chance, invaded by a nation that loved its nationalism uber alles? A nation that was only recently unified from many tribes, and whose politicians longing for a great nation resulted in 50-70 million dead?

No thanks. Nationality is whose warlords turf you are born on. The second we get over this concept, the world will be a better place.

> The second we get over this concept, the world will be a better place.

Thus paving the way for our multinational corporate overlords to consolidate control. Personally I am very scared for the type of global corruption that will be possible without national boundaries.

As opposed to the national corruption that lends itself to global warfare, genocide, and nuclear warfare? I don't see it as good, nor do I see it as inherently worse.

Agreed, but my fear is that unification allows for consolidation of power in a way that current nation states prevent.

Well, close, but Poland was invaded by a number of neighbors (we also did some invading ourselves, back when we actually could).

Your reasoning makes me think of the prisoner's dilemma. Sure, if everyone agreed to just abandon the concepts of cultural identity (leading to nationality) and live in peace, the world would be a better place. But for the moment, I'm afraid that "world peace" is something that only Miss World candidates speak of regularly.

Btw, I'm not suggesting to abandon cultural identity. Those are natural in a sense, while I feel that nationality is a tool to herd people in. Conflicts will continue to happen, no doubt, we're still human. But at least they are somewhat justified clashes, instead of made up wars that serve only the interests of an elite.

Again, silly to argue that dedication, concentration, work ethic, attitude, family support are not cultural. They all affect how well that swimmer swims on the day. This is really very obvious, and its disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

>silly to argue that dedication, concentration, work ethic, attitude, family support are not cultural.

No, it's silly to argue that they are. You've exclusively mentioned virtues that are as common to every culture as they are to every grouping of humans that hasn't been designed intentionally to exclude them.

Culture largely consists of meals, hairstyles and clothing, dancing and mating habits, religion and racism, architecture, crafts, holidays, and nostalgia over mass media touchstones or memories of common suffering due to weather, famine, dictatorship, and war.

When people speak about culture writ large rather than a specific subset, it's usually when they're accusing foreigners or immigrants of lacking "dedication, concentration, work ethic, attitude, [and] family support" or explaining why the citizens of one's own country haven't achieved the "dedication, concentration, work ethic, attitude, [and] family support" of some country with more civil rights, and therefore aren't ready for more civil rights.

That's a very narrow view of culture, and wrong. Culture in some PC sense might be defined as only those things that are cute. But peoples differ greatly in important ways. There are real differences in family support, work ethic, dedication. Sorry if that seems offensive.

>Sorry if that seems offensive.

It seems groundless and silly, rather than offensive. Examples of cultures that lack family support, a work ethic, concentration, or dedication would make your case.

That is available to anyone who looks around, even here inside America. There is the inner-city single-family absent-dad culture where kids are unsupported and unemployable. There are solid Asian immigrant families that demand hard work and long study hours from their children, resulting in exceptional scholastic achievement.

In fact you have to be blind to not see all of this. Blinded by some touchy-feely wish-fulfillment dream that somehow we'd all get along if we just quit {whatever implausible scenario you want}. I suspect at root its the feeling that we'd all get along if we were all just like me.

But we're not all just like, well, anybody. We're terribly different. Get over it, deal with it, and learn to get along anyway. That's the answer, not blinding ourselves to the astonish variety of ways human societies work (or don't work).

>No one is suggesting culture should be ignored. It's pride that's the problem. Did you do something to earn your nationality?

A nationality is a collective endeavour -- it's the people of a country moving the country forward together (each according to his ideas of course). Even by paying taxes and cleaning some beach of garbage, or building a business in your country, you're DOING something.

And people do much more than that, from political action to take down a dictatorship to fighting to keep the nazis out, to tons of other things.

Plus, you don't have to "earn" something to feel pride about it. It just means you love it, and you want the best for it. Do people feel pride about their brothers and sisters? I know I do.

Did you do something to earn your nationality?

No, but we all contribute to our nation (taxes, labor, voting) so when our nation achieves something great, we share a small part of that success.

Think of a soccer team. Everybody on the team celebrates and feels proud when #23 scores a goal, even though they didn't score the goal themselves. They share in #23's success.

There are some sports that reflect culture more, e.g. football (soccer). In those scenarios, you could argue that fans are taking pride somewhat due to their attachment to the culture.

I wholeheartedly agree that there's no reason for me to feel pride in an athlete's abilities just because we're from the same nation, but I think a gold medal winning athlete has plenty to be proud of.

Her talent (accident of birth) and choice / opportunity to practice that talent for an exceptionally long time (part worthy of pride, part privilege)

Culture is not being ignored. Wars are fought over it. Human rights unfortunately are being ignored, and that's partly a result of nationalism.

If the 20th century showed one thing it's that human rights are every bit as ignored under [non-democratic] socialism as nationalism.

The closest thing we have to a guarantee for human rights is the ability to hold leaders accountable for them, and throw them out on a regular schedule.

That's a lot like saying, you could be born to any mother. It is simply an accident of birth, who is your mother. Does it mean you shouldn't love your mother, your family, and you don't owe your family for their love and bringing you up?

You should not love your mother just because she's your mother, you should love your mother because she loved you and did her best to raise you well

And if she did neither she -deserves- no love

Keyword being deserves, of course you can love a bad mother

I don't see why different rules should apply to a mother who gave birth compared to one who adopted

You don't have to love your mother, if she doesn't love you. But you should still feel you owe her for your own existence. It's not that she (or country) can't do any wrongs, it's that whatever wrong they do, it has to be weighted against this ultimate gift, which few wrongs can outweigh. But, they certainly can. We are talking about outliers, though, the territory where all analogies break down :)

A great analogy. I love my family because they are my family, and I love my country because it is my country. That doesn't mean I should think that either is objectively the best, or turn a blind eye to their faults, or treat others unfairly to favor them.

I love my family and country because they are mine, they helped make me, and my memories are with them. Which helps me understand why Brits and Egyptians and Chinese, etc, love theirs.

I think good patriotism makes us sympathetic to outsiders rather than the opposite.

I feel the opposite way. I love my mother because she's objectively ranks as nearly the best mother I could have had, and I love my siblings and aunts, grandparents and great-grandparents because they are objectively the best looking, most intelligent, and most dependable people I could have had in my life. It's the same way I feel about my friends, who frequently remind me that I'm one of the luckiest people in the world.

I've see what other people have to work with, and there have been many exceptions amongst my own family and friends, but as individuals, they are simply better than most other people.

I couldn't care less about blood or soil.

> I love my mother because she's objectively ranks as nearly the best mother I could have had

"Objective" and "parenting". That's cute.

I agree on all this :)

With respect, it's much easier to make this argument [that you are indebted to your mother] if you are privileged to be born to a good mother who loves you and brings you up well.

I don't disagree. But, even a bad mother is one who gave existence.

True. But many become parents through bad decisions. Should we celebrate those decisions?

Haha, yes. Perhaps I am an accident. I do celebrate it though :)

By that logic you should should really love the hospital you were born in. After all, it was more involved in bringing you into the world than the ground it was built upon.

The whole notion of "my country" is really interesting... If you were swiss, but born and raised in India, does India become "your country" or not?

The media in Subcontinent area feeds loads of BS about nationalism to the point that you start to believe it and start to thing it's true. Even the Indian national anthem's first verse is India is better than the whole world. Perhaps upon leaving India people realize common threads of humanity that bind communities together.

With the advent of the internet hopefully more people are learning this without having to leave a country as people work in multi national teams remotely. The people I interact with are very every day are in India, UK, Bosnia etc. We work on the same thing together. There are accents and cultural differences, but a lot of what we assume about people we haven't met dissolve in the face of realities which challenge your biased views.

The internet in some way has helped dilute the power of national boundaries. You find clusters like HN where people of all background come together and interacts based on commonalities that transcend mere physical attributes of our existence. While I agree that the physical attributes are still important, nationalism is not a physical attribute, it one imposed by some a-hole who wanted to draw lines and have power.

Love your mother, your family and the hospital that you were born in. (If you were born in a barn, said love should go to barn). Destroy those to dare assert superiority over those who were born in your particular hospital/field/barn etc. If that sounds ridiculous, please thing about how some other arbitrary inanimate object in place of hospital/field/barn makes more sense.

>By that logic you should should really love the hospital you were born in.

No, your family usually cares about and for you, unlike the hospital you were born in, which you cannot rely on for any favor.

About the country issue, it is simply a manner for many people to identify others on many traits using common associations (e.g Indians are poor, Eastern Asians are hard-workers, Swiss are meticulous), that sometimes relate to accurate correlations. And it's one of the few ways, other than age and salary, to do this kind of association in a neutral and non-controversial way.

I'm talking about people, not just the physical place. The Hospital, or a barn, are inanimate objects. They did not make any decisions about the process any more than air and water decided to flow through your system. You can thank nurses, but the act of being born, although crucial, isn't as laborious as carrying to term and not sleeping every night for a year.

If you were born in England, and raised in India, you do have have dual allegiances, but probably more to India.

That's exactly what I'm talking about. Allegiances to people, you community Nurses makes sense. But to a random border which you were not a part of creating does not

Borders and territories are not random though, they confine the community and people. A country is combination of both.

>This is my position on the Olympics and basically all national pride.

I don't disagree but I think pageantry and even national or ethnic pride have a place. I like St. Paddy's day, Robbie Burns parties, cheering for my local sports teams, putting up douchey flags on my car when my team wins a game at the World Cup, etc.

At the end of the day, nothing really matters anyway.

Ireland won anything lately ?

The Rugby on Sunday. They were looking very good actually, might be a dark horse for the Six Nations.

Much like as has been mentioned of Olympic athletes, the local sports team is rarely local. The players are from everywhere except the locality. The only things local are the stadium and the fans. St Paddy's is fun, but I don't understand the ball game cultures at all, laying claim to a team's victory, a sort of socialising a stranger's success. Maybe just an excuse to celebrate on occasion. I simply can't relate. I watch formula 1, but have no attachment to any team or driver. I get excited by a good drive, whoever's. Cultures cross national boundaries - how does a country reconcile national pride with diverse cultures, if the national character is of a certain culture, unless the nation is not the culture, but the system, which will be determined by the cultures, which change, and will therefore change the system, in which case what is national pride of? A team of non-local players? Mind games?

Think you're over egging the pudding there. Was simply responding to the question "Ireland won anything lately?"

Wasn't aimed at you, just this branch. Respond away. :)

It was banter for the craic, no offense.

People shouldn't feel proud of where they were born. They should work to feel proud of the government they have.

If your country is decent and just, addresses the needs of the poor and sick, welcomes people of different cultures, etc., and especially if you play an active role in improving your government, there's reason to be proud.

If you vote "no taxes," don't volunteer, don't donate, and wave a flag, then you suck.

I understand your point, but for the olympics in particular you are saying something different: that someone's training and environment and opportunities in a particular country are meaningless.

Given how many Olympians abandon the country they represent to train, it is somewhat meaningless.

Seriously, if there's one thing I've learned from watching the Olympics, it's that many of the successful ones are enabled by their ability to move away from their place of birth, well, that and good genetics.

Well there you go then: the place where they were born determines their drive or ability to move away from their place of birth. It's not random.

George Orwell wrote my favourite piece on this issue in his essay, Notes on Nationalism[1].

[1] http://orwell.ru/library/essays/nationalism/english/e_nat

Hmmm ... it is an accident of birth but I also love my country (at least the principles we espouse). At the same time I'm dismayed by how my government is run on a day-to-day (year-to-year?) basis. So national pride is simply a feeling you have or you don't.

Nobel prizes and Olympic medals on the other hand are some combination of nurture versus nature, and while the “We are all human beings, and our nationality is simply an accident of birth.” quote is factually true, people making that statement should (in theory) have a long list of people who helped them on their way to achieving that dream. Nations which encourage certain behaviors can have an impact.

I think that this is not about national pride or nationality. OP is lamenting about lack of opportunities that all Indians face in their country. It's about improvement of quality of live of 1.x billions of people.

Ethnicity is an accident of birth. Nationality can be chosen.

Indeed it was chosen by Nobel laureate who made the quote.

Nationality can be chosen by people like Nobel Laureates who can move anywhere, for most people they're more or less stuck where they started unless they get lucky in a lottery

The gentleman was not a Nobel laureate at the time of course. He came here for his graduate degree and stayed.

But you're right, unless you happen to be born gifted or are exceptionally driven (to the point where you'd migrate illegally for instance), you're stuck.

I found it interesting that the article called a position like that "downright rude".

If you feel pride because of the achievements of your compatriots, you should also feel shame because of their crimes.

I guess some people are happy to accept that shame if it means they can share in the pride too. But I suspect most people who feel proud of their country would wash their hands of the shame by saying the crimes were nothing to do with them. Fairweather collectivists!

I get the gist of what you're saying, but the reality of it is that nationality matters a great deal. It's part of our identity whether you realize it or not. As many immigrants know too well national identity isn't as arbitrary as it seems. It isn't just the exclusion you will face in your new home, there's a strong internal compass that will always point home for many people. It's part of who we are, and a great deal of people have worked hard and sacrificed much for the sake of their country. This picture becomes clearer with age and experience. I celebrate diversity in its many forms. I like new ideas, learning new and different old ways of thinking and doing, but I also know where I come from, and that's as valuable as appreciating others. Maybe even more so.

Nationality is not part of an identity, but nationalism is. I mean that there is no single characteristic which applies to all americans, so obviously there is no part of the 'american' identity which derives from being an american national. However, there is an assignment of values that occurs in people's minds of their particular subculture to 'american' identity.

Identity is too complex a phenomenon to boil it down to such simplistic notions as nationality or political party. Nationalism cannot express a 'whole' identity, and therefore always forces people to ascribe to philosophies which left to their own devices they would not have supported. And that is how we get wars. Thz nation-state is the modern version of the regional tribe, and tribal culture is what causes wars. In that sense, there is no instrument more damaging to human rights than the nation state.

Though one's nationality may be an accident and one can understand the futility of the pride, how can one ignore the way world treats people based on their nationality?

I agree, based on my experience many of the people who downplay nationality as something significant are among the first to judge an entire group based on nothing but nationality.

I find the Olympics unbelievably tedious. It's just physical trials. Wanting your country to win is fine as long as you don't take it too seriously.

I agree. I think the next phase of evolution should involve transcending international boundaries and working as a planet rather than as a nation.

I feel the same way about patriotism. It is a sentiment that has served its purpose and it's time to move on.

George Carlin eh?

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact