The philosophical novelist and essayist Michel Tournier, who died in January, believed that nearly all human conflicts could be traced to the tensions between rootless and rooted peoples. He offers many examples in an essay called “Nomad and Sedentary” in his book “The Mirror of Ideas”: the fratricide in Genesis involving the sedentary farmer Cain’s murder of his nomadic brother Abel, a shepherd; the invention of barbed wire in America in the 1800s, which marked the sedentarization of pioneers and bloodshed over the rightful ownership of land; the conflicts between the nomadic Tuareg and the settled Saharan peoples; and the Nazis’ demonization of the Jews, imagined as rootless and thus unrighteous transients.
... Today, people across the world face an array of uprooting and alienating forces: the Syrian refugee crisis, Islamist terrorism, immigration, the identity-dissolving tendency of the European Union, global competition, capitalist uniformization and immersive, digital loneliness. Not coincidentally, each of these has been answered in its own way with an appeal to rootedness or, rather, re-enrootment. One hears in Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen’s speeches the same longing for a rerooting of their national cultures. A celebration of roots is a central motivation for those who wish to keep Confederate symbols and emblems of a specific white heritage in the public space. Paradoxically, this longing can also be heard in calls for the recuperation of minority histories, of suppressed voices and of the dignity of history’s victims.
While patriotic nationalism is usually imagined as the polar opposite of diversity-focused multiculturalism, the proponents of each actually have very similar motivations and desires. Each group hopes to preserve or recuperate a sense of rootedness in something. Given the great confusion about how to celebrate one’s own roots without insulting someone else’s, this struggle will certainly continue in the coming decades.
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?Source