On Rootedness

The link below is to a really thought provoking piece on human Rootedness, but I felt it asked several questions and didn’t offer even the sniff of any potential answers that might have been promising avenues of inquiry.

E.g. the following paragraph, which really annoyed me: “The nation, of course, is still a meaningful unit. For centuries, people have died, and continue to die, for their nations. No one, on the other hand, will ever be willing to die for “global,” as a friend of mine wisely put it. In fact, globalism seems to challenge the very possibility of rootedness, at least the kind that once relied on nation-states for its symbolic power. How will people be rooted in the future if global networks replace nations? Through bloodlines? Ideologies? Shared cultural practices? Elective affinities? Will we become comfortable rooting ourselves in rootlessness?”

Once upon a time, our roots, loyalties and identities were tied up in tribes and ethnic groups. The birth of states and nations broadened our horizons and loyalties and did not dissipate our “rootedness” rather gave more of us a common root. Similarly, once upon a time regional loyalties and divisions and common European ancestry along with shared hostility towards the native Americans once defined the experience of the many European settlers and their states that would one day form the United States. The formation of the United States, a confederation of many once independent states under one umbrella, did not destroy the cultural roots and histories of its people, and yet out of the many varied origins of its people, one common identity was forged based on a set of principles and common values, imperfectly enshrined in the constitution.

Why do we think a similar feat couldn’t occur on a broader scale? Across continents? Uniting regions? And, perhaps, with sufficient time and if pursued to its logical conclusion, uniting humanity? This would no more destroy the fabric of varied cultures, languages, histories and identities that define the local experience of all people, but rather weave them together into a single tapestry sewn together by common values and principles enshrined in a human constitution of sorts. Our common root would then be the source of this new rootedness, the oldest common identity.

The questions the author leaves us with are worth pondering in this context:

“A desire for roots and rootedness may be acquiring a new importance in the new global tangle, where certainties are hard to come by. But I wonder sometimes if this root-oriented thinking actually causes many of the problems whose solutions we can’t seem to find. Think of your own roots and how much of your identity relies on them. How many things that trouble or anger you relate in some way, if only peripherally, to this rootedness? If you were to suddenly discover that you were mistaken about your roots, would you trade in your Lederhosen for a kilt? How negotiable is your sense of self? How much do your roots determine your actions? What if you’d been born with someone else’s roots, say, those of your enemy?”

And why is our sense of self so tied to the historical accidents that describe our perceived roots? Aren’t we as individuals and people more than the sum totals of our histories and the circumstances of our birth? Is our current root based thinking not just tribalism and ethnocentricity writ large? Shouldn’t we aspire to identities based on our values as people?

“We must become something we have never been and for which our education and experience and environment have ill-prepared us. We must become bigger than we have been: more courageous, greater in spirit, larger in outlook. We must become members of a new race, overcoming petty prejudice, owing our ultimate allegiance not to nations but to our fellow men within the human community.”
–Emperor Haile Selassie I



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