Treat the earth well.
It was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.
undermines the ability of a collection of individual persons to be a people, to have bonds of loyalty to each other; to have the ability to take pride in each other’s achievements and feel shame at their shortcomings; at the limit, to love each other, not in the romantic sense, but in the brotherly sense that marks those who live together well. It is just a fact about human nature, about the kinds of beings we are, that we love and care for those we share life with, and this in a way that is different to those who are strangers to us.
These bonds of partiality are most pronounced in intimate relationships. They exist also in political communities. Over time, in the context of concern between generations and cooperation between families, villages, and towns, so communities develop cultures, which bind us together. They can do this only if there is a certain level of stability, stability regarding whom I live with and, usually, stability in where we live. Without some such culture, people living together are merely a collection of alienated individuals, living an impoverished life.
The direction a culture takes is owned, though, by the community that sustains that form of life. This is true for native Americans; for aboriginal peoples in Australia; for tribes in Papua New Guinea and Peru. It is true, too, for the British.
is in a debate about French identity. At a time of economic malaise, of seemingly sliding international prestige, of globalization, and an ongoing wave of terrorism and immigration, what exactly does it mean to be French? Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy threw the country in a tizzy by announcing that immigrants to France should be taught that, upon entering the country, their ancestors are now Gauls, the inhabitants of what is now France before Roman times. Immigrant children, children who were not born in France, and even children in French colonies in Africa, were taught that their “ancestors” were Gauls. In other words, in France, “ancestry” is a matter of ideas and culture, not blood.
To be French is to believe in human rights, and our own Declaration of the Rights of Man, and maybe a few other ideals, like secularism. But for 1,500 years, to be French meant to be Catholic, to pledge allegiance to the king, and to be consecrated to the immaculate heart of Mary. If French identity has changed radically over the centuries, the implication seems to be that the Frenchmen of the past weren’t really French.
You can see French politicians with impressive degrees go on TV and say, with a straight face, things like, “The history of France begins in 1789.” Really? Louis XIV? Molière? Montaigne? All not French? What were they then? Once you start defining French identity as something more than an idea, you start going into unhealthy territory, grasping for other identifiers like descent, blood, even skin color.
Our economic and social problems persist because of an inability to reach a consensus, partly because we all have a different idea about French identity. Before it can get its house in order, France will have to figure out who and what it is.
is central to China’s national identity. Ethnicity and nationality have become almost interchangeable for China’s Han. Even ethnic Han whose families left for other countries generations ago are often regarded as part of a coherent national group, both by China’s government and people. President Xi Jinping in a speech set his sights wider: “Generations of overseas Chinese never forget their home country, their origins or the blood of the Chinese nation flowing in their veins.” China today is extraordinarily homogeneous. It sustains that by remaining almost entirely closed to new entrants except by birth.
Unless someone is the child of a Chinese national, no matter how long they live there, how much money they make or tax they pay, it is virtually impossible to become a citizen. China’s Han-centred worldview extends to refugees. Non-Chinese seem just as beguiled by the purity of Han China as the government in Beijing. Governments and NGOs never suggest that China take refugees from trouble spots elsewhere in the world.
China has almost completely closed its doors to any others. Aside from the group from Vietnam, China has only 583 refugees on its books. The country has more billionaires.
says it must look after its own before allowing in Syrian refugees. “It is an issue of demography,” Abe told reporters after his speech to the UN general assembly. “I would say that before accepting immigrants or refugees, we need to have more activities by women, elderly people and we must raise our birth rate. There are many things that we should do before accepting immigrants.”