17 May 2009

The emergence of identity

Posted by jofr

For every country there are a few deeply rooted stereotypes and “holy” values: the Americans believe in freedom and the pursuit of happiness, the Australians believe in mateship and support for the “underdogs”, while the Germans believe in order and discipline. These values are very similar to those which enabled the emergence of the corresponding nations in the first place.

In America, the optimistic belief in freedom, and the pursuit of happiness enabled the emergence of the USA: first the independence from the United Kingdom, then the abolition of slavery after the American Civil War (1861–1865). In Australia, it was the loyalty and “underdog” mentality which enabled the Australians to survive the hardships of their unfertile country and harsh landscape. In Germany, people are known to be “hard workers” and good engineers. Order and discipline are prussian virtues inherited from the former Prussia, the leading state of the German Empire. And there is also a typical lack of humor among Germans (because it could threaten authority). These virtues which are similar to old Roman values have enabled the emergence of the prussian and german empires from a fragmented rag rug of unimportant regional princedoms, as Steven Ozment has observed correctly in his book A Mighty Fortress. Typical for Prussian culture was perfect organization, discipline, sacrifice, rule of law, obedience to authority, reliability, honesty, frugality, punctuality, modesty, and diligence. These values were partly responsible for the rise of the country.

Other examples are maybe the Canadian and Dutch tolerance, the Chinese, Japanese and British politeness, etc.. Of course these are all stereotypes, but stereotypes which are typical of the national character of a country – maybe because they enabled originally the emergence of the country. It is remarkable, that these values are very similar to those which enabled the emergence of the corresponding nations in the first place. The national character of a country seems be to forged at the time of it’s first appearance (the time of ‘speciation’ for the culture). Where does this deep resemblance between the attributes of the national character and the values which enabled the emergence of the nation come from? Probably nobody dared to violate these values because they ‘belong’ to the nation or country. Things which belong to group are considered as holy, especially if they are associated with the identity and existence of the group. Rulers cherished these values because the principles that made the nation possible also contribute to it’s preservation (and therefore contribute to the conservation of their own power).

For persons it may be similar: the individual identity and personality of a person is an aggregate property, which emerges during the course of time. Although it depends on everything the person has done, the character of a person seems be to forged at the time of “speciation”, i.e. when the first “appearance” as an outstanding individual happened. Persons believe in those values which contributed to their identity: scientists in objectivity and science, sports stars in discipline, exercise and training, performers in arts and their instruments. For a famous violin player, his Stradivari and the classic composers may be a holy items, because they allowed him to become someone. For a tennis star his racket may be a holy item, because it allowed him to win Wimbledon, and for a scientist the objectivity, the scientific method and his microscope which allowed him to discover new bacteria.

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2 Responses to “The emergence of identity”

  1. […] small kingdoms. It began as a rag rug of local princedoms. As we said earlier in the post about the emergence of identity, the typical German traits discipline, order and obedience have enabled the emergence of the […]

  2. […] which define a nation, corporation, culture or organization emerge during the course of time: the identity emerges. The bureaucratic rules of Wikipedia and Stackoverflow are an […]


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