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  #41  
Old 18.05.2011, 06:35
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

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Culture changes all the time - things are lost, things are gained, people die and people emigrate, people are born and people immigrate. What makes Switzerland Swiss will continue to change just as it has changed since those chaps made their pledge on the Ruetli meadow back in 1291. Yet Switzerland is still Swiss, and is likely to continue being Swiss for a long time to come.

Is Swissness really dependent on a fixed cultural identity, to be preserved at all costs against foreign intrusion and influence?

What do you think? (Comments welcome from born-Swiss, new-Swiss, foreigners and Englishmen alike)
I haven't read any post in this thread except the OP, so apologies for any repetition. However, I think the focus on cultural identity is a natural reaction to an influx of immigrants. Immigration by its nature forces change, and people by their nature resist change. Besides, keeping things "Swiss" (or American, Latvian, or what have you) keeps it easier for the locals to have an advantage over the immigrants and therefore is in their best interest.

That said, I'm kind of glad for it. In this Internet-connected world, I'd hate to see everything homogenized so that there were no major differences no matter where I went!
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  #42  
Old 18.05.2011, 09:21
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

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The one nationality I have that encompasses my entire nuclear family (kids, step kids, girlfriend, etc) is that all are Swiss.

But there is no SWISS identity!

Ticino is Ticino, ZH is ZH, and SG (the only Swiss canton named after an Irish dude, as am I) are each their own thing.
Ahh..but still the white cross on red field waves from porches in the largest cities and smallest dorfs--often much more obviously than any regional flag. This demonstrates a pride in identifying oneself as Swiss, accepting regional curiosities as part of a national character.

German homes are much less likely to wave their flags. German regions also have strong cultural identities and have only barely embraced a national "identity" after devastating episodes (WW2 and the Cold War division.) Are the 80+ million Germans more German, than the 5 million Swiss are Swiss? (5 million because the other 2.5 million give or take are foreign) I don't know..but I see the Swiss as much more prickly and resilient in a national identity than the Germans, if only for German insecurity.

I think cultural identity is important because it allows an individual to extend his or her pride or standing beyond the limits of the self. Even the minimum wage Swiss worker can identify (if he or she so chooses) with almost 800 years of national history. And regional specificities matter more within Switzerland (or parts of Austria, Germany) than other places in the globalized world..there a person is simply Swiss.
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  #43  
Old 18.05.2011, 09:47
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

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Thank goodness that you can, at least, vacuum on Sundays (and presumably use the loo afer 10pm too)
No problem to do either in Ticino, though personally I only do vacuuming or laundry after noon on Sundays.

Tom
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  #44  
Old 18.05.2011, 09:52
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

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Ahh..but still the white cross on red field waves from porches in the largest cities and smallest dorfs--often much more obviously than any regional flag. This demonstrates a pride in identifying oneself as Swiss, accepting regional curiosities as part of a national character.

German homes are much less likely to wave their flags. German regions also have strong cultural identities and have only barely embraced a national "identity" after devastating episodes (WW2 and the Cold War division.) Are the 80+ million Germans more German, than the 5 million Swiss are Swiss? (5 million because the other 2.5 million give or take are foreign) I don't know..but I see the Swiss as much more prickly and resilient in a national identity than the Germans, if only for German insecurity.

I think cultural identity is important because it allows an individual to extend his or her pride or standing beyond the limits of the self. Even the minimum wage Swiss worker can identify (if he or she so chooses) with almost 800 years of national history. And regional specificities matter more within Switzerland (or parts of Austria, Germany) than other places in the globalized world..there a person is simply Swiss.
The exact same can be said of the US, France, or Italy.

Tom
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Old 18.05.2011, 10:02
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

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Yes agree, it's interesting. And yet to see this sameness creeping all over British cities is quite striking. many British people see immigration as 'the' threat but for me, this sameness uniformity seems much more undermining of local culture. You can go to most large City centres in the UK, and you'd be hard pressed to find more than a handful of individual shops and cafés/restos - and increasingly even, pubs all parts of large chains selling the same c***p food and beer. I'd certainly say that I am glad this is not happening so fast here in CH. Do you want all Swiss cities to have a McDo, a KFC, a couple of Costas and Starbucks, a Café Rouge, a Carlluccios, a Real Bburger Company, a Pizzahut, a chain Sushi, chain mexican, a few Weatherspoon pubs, M&S, Tesco, chain chemists, chain jewellers, chain boutiques, chain bakeries, chain .... I'd hate it.
Are you serious ? Switzerland is actually the first country where I noticed this thing you claim is not there, this 'sameness uniformity'.

If you want to go to a shopping center there's basically two choises, Migros or Coop theme centers.
Migros: Zugerland, Brunaupark, Glattcenter etc etc
Coop: Sihlcity, the one in Affoltern am Albis, Tenero (I don't know any more as with my salary I'm more of a Migros person myself )

And in every centre you have the same shops: Migros is combined with sportxx, globus and some sort of bookstore (forgot the name) while coop combines with Interdiscount and dosenbach.

And the worst bit: there's nothing else !
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Old 18.05.2011, 10:12
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

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Is Swissness really dependent on a fixed cultural identity, to be preserved at all costs against foreign intrusion and influence?
Of course not. Nothing is fixed. Change is constant. But ethnic, national and cultural identity lives on. It doesn't die. Only what defines it is different.

Does it matter? All the rhetoric about erosion of identity seems to prove it still does. Being a "Citizen of Europe" or "Citizen of the World" doesn't fill the need for most people. Belonging needs to be on a human scale.

Why does it matter? Because humans are essentially tribal, social animals who need to belong. Differences put us on the outside. Things that go into making up identity like shared history, language, spirituality, cuisine, literature are what form bonds and put us on the inside. Wherever people congregate they will form a tribe and create an identity to differentiate themselves from others - like fans of different football clubs.

By the way, my wife would strongly disagree that Celtic identity is dead. In terms of identity, she thinks of herself as a celt first and a UK citizen second. How does the legacy of celtic culture live on in places like Scotland, Wales and Ireland? Strong sense of clan like extended family, celtic music, celtic language, dance, literature, celtic sports, spirituality, whisky/whiskey to name a few.
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  #47  
Old 19.05.2011, 00:15
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

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Well, I only have a loose understanding of Swiss history, but as I recall that when different Swiss groups were fighting each other (for the French and the Italians) that they finally figured it wasn't a good idea.

Marignano anyone?

" It resulted in a victory for French forces. It was one of the most savage and (for the Swiss) decisive battles of the age."

Tom
Right AND Wrong ! It was not "different Swiss groups" as no Swiss Canton was involved The point is that Swiss mercenaries were serving on both sides. And NO, it was not "decisive" for the Swiss at all, in political or strategic terms. But there was an awakening about the problem of having mercenaries on both sides of a conflict. The mercenaries thing for centuries was real BIG BIG business here in Switzerland, so that until the SCANDAL of Marignano, nobody cared to much about it.

If you now refer to "groups" you again are wrong&right at the same time ! Because many Swiss Cantons hired out full troop units from officers down to normal soldiers to interest customers, BUT did not hesitate to hire out one troop unit to country A and another one to country B
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Old 19.05.2011, 00:20
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

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Off topic, but I couldn't resist correcting you, Wolli, since you are generally the font of all wisdom -- or am I correcting your relatives?


... since the only US state that isn't on the mainland is Hawaii, and Texas is a touch bigger than that.

Your relatives actually referred to Texas as a State? Well, seems they are modest and unassuming after all, for Texans!
A) they meant the REPUBLIC of Texas but were realistic enough to speak about THE State ! And while they meant the REAL 48, they always, really absolutely always spoke about the "LAAARGEST STATE IN MAINLAAAND USA" You even in TX have this on countless souvenirs etc

B) Alaska is on the continent, but definitely is NOT in "Mainland" .....

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Old 19.05.2011, 00:32
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

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Are the 80+ million Germans more German, than the 5 million Swiss are Swiss? (5 million because the other 2.5 million give or take are foreign) I don't know..but I see the Swiss as much more prickly and resilient in a national identity than the Germans, if only for German insecurity.
A) Yes, most Germans (exceptions like the Bavarians permitted) are far more Germans than Swiss are Swiss. Usually Germans are A) Germans, B) citizens of their Bundesland and C) citizens of their city/town/village. Swiss are A) citizens of the Canton, B) citizen of their city/town/village, and C) citizen of the union. And THIS is even official. If you try to become "Swiss" you in fact become citizen of a particular Canton and in that function automatically a citizen-member of the Union.

B) In contrast to Switzerland, the Germans, while having the ugly legacy of Nazi Germany well in their "national" mind, have ONE national language to identify with, and in general are either as much or even far more nationalist than anyone in Switzerland. But again, most Germans do NOT want to get into the traps of NSDAP-Germany, and so, many things regarded as normal in Switzerland, France, UK and the USA are carefully avoided

C) Germany, in spite of a federalist past and a federalist present, has had long times of CENTRALIST rule, either in the whole of the country (Nazi Germany) or in a part (GDR) behind them, and so, many Germans in their feelings are NOT federalist-minded but centralist-minded.
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Old 19.05.2011, 00:39
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

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A) they meant the REPUBLIC of Texas
And I live in the REPUBLIC of Ticino!

(official name is "Repubblica e Cantone Ticino")

Tom
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Old 19.05.2011, 00:50
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

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And I live in the REPUBLIC of Ticino!

(official name is "Repubblica e Cantone Ticino")

Tom
Sorry to disappoint you, but only TWO Swiss Cantons are "Canton et République de ..." ! Your chance to guess WHO they are
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Old 19.05.2011, 00:53
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

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Sorry to disappoint you, but only TWO Swiss Cantons are "Canton et République de ..." ! Your chance to guess WHO they are
Well, as it's on the web page and everything else, one is CLEARLY Ticino!

Tom
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Old 19.05.2011, 00:59
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

I consider myself to be a very funny guy...at times, I utter jokes & laugh at them alone regardless of what emotions they evoke in others...now that's my identity and when I have kids, I want them to be funny too so we can all be one funny family... so let's all make laughter our real identity & have a good laugh at this ridiculous and depressing world we live in today... I guarantee you that the world will be a better & safer place!
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Old 19.05.2011, 01:45
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

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Well, as it's on the web page and everything else, one is CLEARLY Ticino!

Tom
Well, the two I had in mind are Geneva and Neuenburg/Neuchâtel. When Geneva joined the Confederation, nobody could guarantee them that this confederation would last for more than half a century. The REPUBLIC title gave them the option, in case of a collapse of CH, to declare independence immediately. In case of NE, which already had become a Canton while still being a Prussian principality, the REPUBLIC was politically be important when they got rid of Prussian rule. The reason for Ticino of course was (is) much the same. As TI needed possibly a retreat possibility in chance something went wrong "up there"
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Old 19.05.2011, 03:18
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

Cultural identity.. Swiss culture.. I really disagree with the notion that just because it's diverse in many ways it doesn't exist. I also don't think culture is something that flourishes only in the absence of Starbucks and McDonalds, I actually think it has nothing to do with shops or other external things.
The Swiss might, for example, be very open to foreign influences and therefore embrace these big chains. Or they might be very egalitarian and therefore favour the better establishment, foreign or Swiss. Or they might dislike foreign influences and just like the concept of a large Frappucino to go and no Swiss café offers them. All just speculation of course, what I'm trying to say is that visible artifacts are basically just the tip of the iceberg, you need to understand underlying values and cultural preferences to interpret them.

So what is the Swiss cultural identity? As others have mentioned, the term is very multidimensional and not easy to define, but still very present in every day life.
I think it can best be described in terms of common values: egalitarian, not elitist. democratic and slow, no decisive leadership. solid and conservative, not visionary and progressive. stability and certainty over risk and change. order, not chaos. planned, not spontaneous. I could go on for a long time, but your reaction will naturally be:
"But the xx are like that too!" or "All the Swiss I know aren't like this" or "In Geneva they don't .... " etc etc..
Valid refute and yet everything Switzerland is today, in terms of society, politics, economy are cultural artifacts of these Swiss values, and there is still, despite all the diversity an undeniable commonness from Geneva to Lugano to Basel and Zürich.
And it's this common understanding of how things should work, how to behave and so on that some Swiss fear is being weakened by the many who disagree due to different cultural expectations. Very similar to all over Europe, some Swiss people react to what they perceive as imposed diversity. Cultural exchange can only flourish if the locals embrace and welcome the newcomers, and this democratic endorsement of immigration is in my opinion extremely important to continue what is, after all, the great success story of immigration to Switzerland. No matter how international you lot all are in your outlook, we have an extremely high rate of immigration and naturalization, which will inevitably lead to anxieties if things are still run their way. Internationalization does not lead to a weakening of local identities, sometimes even the opposite is the case, as long as you don't know how others are you presume they could be somewhat similar, only when you travel elsewhere or other cultures migrate to your place do you notice how different people are.

Sorry for the long rambling but essentially Swiss culture is very complex, multi-layered, diverse and yet quite easy to define: It's the difference to how people and things are when you cross the border. ;-)

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Old 19.05.2011, 07:47
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

Cultural Identity is important for the same reason that a fight reflex is important: its what we flex when we're threatened. The thing is, the world isn't the same place it was in the 16th century. Then if you wanted to challenge someone's cultural identity you had to pick up your gear, clamber on a horse, ride for days possibly... and invade.

Now, you turn on the telly, visit a restaurant, or google and you've got an instant challenge to the established 'tradition' and 'identity' of wherever you are. Its not a problem unique to Switzerland by any means, but (my opinion alone) Switzerland is definitely more resistant to become integrated or homogeneous with the rest of the world. The Swiss are SWISS, and will never call themselves any variation of that. You're Swiss, or not.

Myself, I'm an Indian-Australian. It means I hold Australian citizenship and love the country, but as an Indian person culturally it means I have good food and an over-abundance of religious obligation which my relatives try to force on me. And while I like who I am, I hope that my kids, and the children of my friends are something else altogether- not tied down to an identity as a set of arbitrary geographical borders.

We live in a global world, global identity is more important than a sense of belonging only in one culture.
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Old 19.05.2011, 10:02
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

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We live in a global world....
Thanks to the wonders of gravity

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I hope that my kids, and the children of my friends are.... not tied down to an identity as a set of arbitrary geographical borders.... global identity is more important than a sense of belonging only in one culture.
I know what you mean but in truth this is a far off dream. Don't undervalue the power of your "identity" as defined by your passport - which in turn defines you as belonging to a set of geographical borders.

All the rights, freedoms and protection we enjoy are derived from our nationality.. being the citizen of a particular state or union. However we might prefer to identify ourselves, that's how other people identify us.

National identity - our citizenship - drives everything. It's so basic that we take it for granted. But the term "global citizen" is meaningless. There is no such thing. Stateless people have nowhere to call "home". They have no voice, no social, civil or economic rights, no legal protection and no freedom of movement.

That's no going to change. And States are basically self-interested. They might talk about "global awareness", "global justice" and "global responsibility". They might even pay lip service to it. But only when its in the national self-interest.

In terms of identity, we only live in a global world in the sense that we live on a sphere.
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Old 19.05.2011, 10:09
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

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Today, apart from a couple of dying languages in the rain soaked islands of the North Atlantic and a fondness for plaid amongst a certain kind of sentimental Canadian, the culture of the Celts is dead.
Well I can tell you the celtic culture is still alive with a lot of people of celtic descent in parts of Scotland, especially the Highlands. And btw. the celtic culture in Scotland was not destroyed by the Romans (remember Hadrian's Wall?) but by the English. ( no offense, I know it wasn't you)
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Old 19.05.2011, 10:14
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

Tessin would not be the same if it served rösti and bratwurst as its local dish.
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Old 19.05.2011, 10:22
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Re: Cultural Identity: Why is it so important?

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Is this man any less of a man for not maintaining the culture of his ancestors?
You make an assumption that he is indeed a decendent of the Celts. He may of course not be...

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What do you think?
That few "wo/men on the street" actually know what culture is and can define it.

My experience, if you ask people on the street, is that culture is often closely linked to objects and items, e.g. currency. As an example, I remember many anti-Euro protests focused on "if we loose our currency, we'll lose our culture". I've always felt that if people tie their culture into a piece of paper or a coin, then they've already lost.

There is also a "culture" of the anti. Basically anti anything that is foreign, i.e. xenophobia.

Language is at the front of this battle. Take France as a prime example with their "defender of the language" attitude.

But culture to me is much more than things/objects. Yes these "things and objects" may be an expression of culture, but they are not culture themselves. It is about thought, beliefs, views, morals, ethics and as such very very difficult to put down on a piece of paper in a succinct way.

The great drawback is of course that it is also hard to maintain a culture, as it is not static. Cultures that remain static or set in their ways, die or get left behind.

But that, some might argue, is also its greatest asset.

This brings me back to your ex-Celt. Is he any less of a man for moving with the times?

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We live in a global world, global identity is more important than a sense of belonging only in one culture.
I would challenge that. We live in a global world, and identity is now harder to establish. Think disenfranchised. People don't belong, they don't feel part of where they are, they don't care for where they are...

(Edit, oh, I see Nev made that point already...)
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