I’ve been looking around myself thinking about models of how to behave as a Chinese-American child of academic parents living in the age of globalization. This forms a duality. There is the water model and the land model. The water/internationalist model seeks to be a “citizen of the world” who is detached from the nation-state. “Being Chinese” is part of your heritage but it isn’t something that you embrace specifically. The land/multinationalist model seeks to reconcile the desires of the nation-state but instead of running away from nationalism and history, one embraces it.
The internationalist sees the nation-state and history as a parochial relic. The multinationalist embraces the nation-state and history as a sorts of identity. The internationalist waves no flag. The multinationalist tries to wave many. The model for the internationalist is influenced by Cecil Rhodes and the British Empire. The multinationalist gets inspiration from Fredrich List and the process of German unification.
The difference between the land and water, is that land remembers whereas water does not. Drop a seed onto land, it turns into a tree. Drop a seed into water, and it disappears and is forgotten. The internationalist tries to forget, whereas the multinationalist tries to remember.
Memory is difficult, because in embracing the past one remembers the tragedies and conflicts of times past. But for me the loss of memory is even more difficult, because with memory, with all of the tragedies and difficulties of the past, I know who I am, and I have hope that I will be remembered. Loss of memory brings freedom, but without memory, who am I?
This is why I’ve ended up a multinationalist with facing the future with the scars and tragedies of the past, managing, coping, but not forgetting. But memory has its costs, and sometimes I stand on the land and stare at the water, and wonder if I would be better off forgeting. Pain creates resentment, and resentment is dangerous. In the late 19th century, Germany resented Britain and this created a horrific war and horrific consequences.
But I’m a multinationalist, one you set out on a path, external events take over, and freedom of action decreases.
In every life, there are a few decisions that have extreme ramifications that one does not forsee, the path that I’ve taken was set on the evening February 13, 1991 when I made a very simple decision that bound me to the land instead of sweeping me into the water.
I remember. Do you?