Is Barbados a nation or a country or both? It might seem like a silly question but it’s not. A nation is defined by things like culture, history, ethnicity and identity as well as land. A country is defined primarily by geographical borders. You can theoretically have a country with several nations in it. And a nation can stretch beyond geographical boundaries.
You can be Barbadian outside of geographical (the land mass that is?) (correct)Barbados. The culture and identity of Barbadians survives when Bajans migrate. Barbadians who (yes) leave are still culturally Barbadian when they come back. Often, even the children of Barbadians who have migrated embrace their Barbadian identity. When national culture and identity can survive and thrive outside of the confines of national geographical borders, then you have a strong national identity.
A country that has a weak national culture is like a person with a weak immune system. It is vulnerable to attack from invading culture. It has no protection because the white blood cells which should respond to invasion are not committed to the task. The people, the life blood of a nation, have to be invested in the survival and success of that nation and the survival and flourishing of its culture and identity.
The whole idea of nationalism has some baggage. For many it brings to mind images of minority groups being assaulted in the streets, immigrants being mistreated, closed mindedness and a stagnation of thought. Nationalism is seen as closely linked to racial prejudice, xenophobia and classism. Our challenge is to build a national culture that is not elitist or against cultural growth and expansion.
Building national identity
The concept of national identity has also lost currency today with the rise of the idea of globalism. Many aspire to free themselves from the geographic and cultural boundaries and become global, cosmopolitan citizens. To invoke national identity for some people is to invite them to gather in a cultural prison, segregated from global society. Our challenge is to build a national culture and identity that is at the same time global in scope.
Here is a (yes) very important challenge to consider in building an inclusive national identity: There is an abundance of nationals who do not see this nation as supportive of them and their particular identity. There are members of Barbadian society who see themselves as rejected by the nation and so, they (yes) exist on its fringes. Some members of this nation may find it hard to identify with or to feel good about what?? (this nation, hence the repetition), since they can’t get regular water or proper infrastructure. How do you get persons to identify with the nation when they don’t feel provided for by the nation?
These are all challenges that every nation may possibly face. But there is a unique challenge that faces nations like Barbados. Nations emerging from slavery and colonization have remnants of those systems woven into the fabric of their culture. How do you pull out the deep threads of oppression without unravelling the whole cultural cloth?
This is a question that, in our aversion to dealing with hard questions of history, class and race, we have stubbornly? (yes) avoided. We can’t continue to do that if we want to transform Barbados and live as free and equal citizens of a strong nation.