身份认证与文化冲突 – Proof of identity and cultural conflict

现代社会使人类发生了大规模的文化身份认证和认同危机,使你顾左右而言他,无所适从。思考和解决这一问题,很有现代性的意义。
我们生活在中国以外的持有他国国籍之华人,如果想要“回到”中国去探亲、旅行、做生意等等,则首先要到中国驻某地的领事馆签证,因为你没有“中国身份”。假如你涉及在中国的法律事务例如财产继承之类的,则你首先需要进行“身份认证”:先通过国际律师公证,再经过所持国籍之国家对外办事处公证,最后再到中国使馆公证,才可以确认“今天的你”,就是“以前在中国的你”。中国使馆是没有资格和不屑于对你直接认证的,因为你不属于“中国公民”,它没权管你,也不愿意管你,中国要管的子民已经太多了。中国使馆仅仅是对你所持国籍之对外办事处的公证文件进行法律公证而已。
于是乎你惊呼:身份认证这样子复杂诶!我原来就是中国人啊!——你以为!你的中国身份已经放弃了,丢失了,你不是中国人。——但我本质上是中国人啊,不,我的血统基因皮肤眼睛身段语言信仰都是中国人哪!——好,生物解剖学上你是中国人,文化上你是中国人,严格说是华人,但是国籍上你不是中国人,你的任何身份都不是中国人。自古中国人就有“严于夏夷之辨”,“非我族类,其心必异”,不是我们的朋友,就是我们的敌人,不管历史上的关系如何!台湾、韩国、日本、越南也有文化中国的基因呢,话不投机还不是照样要打!所以,先生,由于你的身份不清晰,那么你在中国的一切财产、权利、利益甚至立足资格也将会不予存在。
随便就可以给你举出“身份认证危机”的典型例子。2004年有一部美国电影叫做《The Terminal》(终点站),说的是来自东欧一个小国的维克多·纳沃斯基(汤姆·汉克斯饰演),当初为了要躲避战火而离开祖国,谁想到就在他前往美国的空中飞行过程中,他的家乡陷入了一场突如其来的 政变,前政府的所有外交关系全部废除,所有前政府颁发的外交护照全部作废。进退两难的维克多只能带着他那本来自一个不存在的国家的护照滞留在纽约肯尼迪国际机场。因为不被允许踏入美国国土半步,又不能退回到原来的祖国,他只能一直呆在机场的休息室里, 等待着祖国战争结束的那一天。 在机场滞留的日子里,没有身份的维克多一直在忍受着机场官员弗兰克·迪克逊的折磨,迪克逊把维克多视为晦气的象征,认为他是一个大麻烦, 难以控制又想拼命解决。维克多苦哇!这真是写尽了“妾身未分明,何以拜姑嫜”的尴尬境遇。(杜甫《新婚别》)杜甫在该诗开篇引喻道:“菟絲附蓬麻,引蔓故不長。”菟絲、女蘿,藤蔓性植物,實為一物,《碑雅》诠释是:“在木為女蘿,在草為菟絲。”明明是同樣的事物,攀附在不同的樹木上就有不同的名稱,“與君為新婚,菟絲附女蘿”,藤蔓本應攀喬木,代表找到好歸宿,結果攀附在女蘿之上,一樣柔弱,沒有好下場。杜甫化用此句,蓬麻亦是柔弱的植物,比喻女子嫁給這個丈夫,沒有好結果。你没有经历过丧失身份之尴尬处境,你将不知道“身份认证”之重要性。
其实真正的身份认证危机不在于国籍,而在于“文化身份”。 “国籍的身份认证”在全球化的今天,却已经仅仅只是一个简单的问题,对于当代人来说,“文化的身份认证和认同”更重要,也更困难,且将引致严重的文化冲突。
某天我问一位朋友C :“你是哪里人?”——“你是什么意思?”——“你来自哪里?”——“上海。”——“那你是上海人吗?”——“不是!我是湖南人。”——“可否说一说你的来龙去脉?”——“我出生在湖南,长到18岁,在北京读书6年,然后在上海工作近30年,最后来到悉尼9年。”——“那么你不承认你是上海人了?你在那里工作和生活了30年,时间最长,拿着上海的身份证,你的事业是在上海成功的,还娶了个上海女人做老婆,生了3个上海子女,你说你还不是上海人?”——“不是,我是湖南人!古语说了:‘江山易改,本性难移’,我的本质就是湖南人!”——“你是不是对上海人有成见?当你在上海和上海人在一起的时候,你也旗帜鲜明地说你是湖南人?”——“是的!我从来光明正大地说我是湖南人,我不是上海人。上海人人品真的不好,斤斤计较,小气,太精明。虽然我的老婆也是上海人,但是她那种勤俭持家的品性还是很好的,她跟一般的上海人不一样。”我忍不住哈哈大笑,说道,好了好了,湖南人,如果我现在说你是悉尼人,你承认吗?——“这,这,也是,也不是,这真不好说…”大家一笑而过。
C自己实在是非常矛盾的,他的固执完全来自于对自己湖南血统的骄傲和忠诚文化之根的感情,却不能与和他共同生活工作了30年的上海人有文化认同。关于“身份认证”问题,如果从行政管理所属关系来说,那是以生活居住地的身份证登记为准的。然而说到“文化身份”,则是一个非常复杂、非常模糊、非常多重的难题。你以什么标准来确认呢?家庭血统?童年经验?受教育背景?工作生活?时间长短?性格习惯?主要的价值观倾向?没有一个可以有最终确认权。C因为不喜欢上海人,就执着地认定自己“本性难移”,难道他在湖南的18年就能够敌得过在上海的30年?美国人说:“做什么事成什么人”,佛洛伊德说:“童年经验影响人的一生”,社会学家说:“家庭环境和教育背景的影响在你的生命会打上深刻的烙印”,生物学家说:“基因遗传对于个人的文化本质有决定性的作用”,都对,也不全对,无一是衷。所以,文化的身份认证是多重角度的,是层累生成的,是复杂而模糊的结构体。而且具体到每一个人身上,即使是同样的家庭,同样的血统,同样的教育背景,同样的生活工作经历,也会在不同的人身上有完全不一致的结构。C既是湖南人,也是上海人,现在还是一个悉尼人。就这么不可单一确认。
C的人生经历和文化身份实际上是很有代表性的,算不得说他错。毛刘周朱陈林邓,虽然少小离家老大不再回,纵横五湖四海,比C要复杂得多了,然而乡音未改,直到死甚至在历史上依然永远保持着楚人浙派川蜀种子的文化地望。在古老中国世俗的习惯观念里,祖先父母家庭所在的家乡就是“本源”的根,韩愈被称为“韩昌黎”,因为河南昌黎是韩氏的郡望;柳宗元被叫做“柳河东”,河东(今山西永济)即是其柳氏的地望。“地望”之根和后来地域文化之间的关系结构,中国文化地理学还没有很好地解决这类问题。
在古代传统社会单一的身份认证相对非常稳定的时代里,人很容易在文化情感上认死理。由此产生出忠于祖先和爱国信仰的死硬派。然而中国人向来不善于进行逻辑明辨严于分析的思维,也不愿意实事求是做出真实的回答。所以总是在文化身份问题上有许多自相矛盾而不敢正面面对的态度,特别是在“政治正确”和“道德高尚”的严酷难题面前。屈原的死结直到今天还是绕不过去,所以我的朋友C只能毫不迟疑地咬定牙关说自己是湖南人。中国人就是这么有趣,一方面要盛赞屈原,另一方面更要崇拜秦始皇;不但要歌颂朱元璋,还要以康乾盛世为荣。只要能够不断地偷换概念,把中原转换成中国,把汉族改变成华夏,就可以包容万有,皆大欢喜,熙熙而乐。但是绕不过去的是,人类总是免不了要改变社会身份的,人有追求生存幸福的自然权利,社会身份改变了,文化身份就不得不随着改变,否则所谓的忠诚就不合理性。别说现代社会了,即使在春秋战国时代,在一个大中国统一大势的过程中,朝秦暮楚的人比比皆是,楚材晋用,南种北植,所在皆有。所以屈原的“离骚”只是逆时代的自寻烦恼,至少也是在那样的时代里文化冲突的文学反应。
我们今天的文化身份之难题,丝毫不低于屈原的处境:我们这些外国侨民或者入籍西方国家的华人,是不是也是“朝秦暮楚”、“楚材晋用”的苏秦、张仪呢?就是说,当中国和我们现在的所居住国发生冲突时,我们该忠于中国呢,还是该忠于美国或者澳大利亚?中国的Sibling 一定会对我们庄重严峻地下一道文化律令:你还是中国人吗?——对不起,我现在持有美国国籍,我已经不是中国人了。——那你的身体里不是流淌着华夏血统吗?——但是我现在享受着美国的好处啊,我总不能身在曹营心在汉吧?这不是“吃碗面反碗底”么?无论怎么说,我们已经处在没有一个明确价值标准的道德多重境地了。
其实当前全球化的国度空间造成的文化身份认证之困难,转换成中国历史视角,则是改朝换代时的文化身份的困惑。从目前可见的历史资料统计,汉民族遭遇过多次异族入侵,每一次入侵都激起激烈的反抗,而越往近代推移,越容易把民族主义的气节只收缩为历史文化的认同与坚守。但我们不得不看到,对异族入主中原的集体抗争,没有一个能坚持到一个世代以上的。即以反抗之持续这一特殊角度比较,中国可能还比不上一个弱小波兰。有五千年历史文化的中国,一国三政,汉奸数量之多,大概只有地球上另一个同样以历史文化自负的法兰西可以比拟。如此难堪的当代记录,应该迫人深入一步想,这是一个道德机制问题?还是将民族主义定位于文化认同很难避免的内在矛盾?
古往今来全人类移民之多,无法统计。所有移民都必定经历过一个渐变的文化身份认证过程。中国古代的情形是这样的:当朝代更替之际,所有人都必须从政治身份到文化身份完成“认证”过程,大家都是“移民”。从政治移民到文化遗民,再从文化遗民到政治新民,多半在遗民的第一代后半期发生, 至迟也难拖过第二代。一跃而为文化清流,这是螺旋的左半圈;二跃而为政治犬儒,这是螺旋的右半圈;如此超越再超越,画完一个圆,也就落到地面实现了从文化到政治的软着陆,完成一代士人对新王朝的强权认同。文化自矜与政治犬儒之间,可能只隔着一张纸——就看新强权承认不承认他那一点历史文化。由此,文化遗民也就在一代人甚至不到一代人的时间里,完成从文化自矜到承认新朝的转折。至于用什么样的理由来平复内心的自责,则因人而异。如黄宗羲为儿子向新朝大学士徐元文谋职,致信后者曰:“昔闻首阳二老,托孤于尚父,遂得三年食薇,颜色不坏。今吾遣子从公,可以置我矣。 ”甚至如史可法这样的抗清英雄,都留下有这样悲愤的遗言:“我为国而死,我儿当为家而活。”现代史中如周作人下水认同北平日人统治,也未必没有这样的心理理由。文化自矜者转折为政治认同,并不少见,从历史到现实,充塞于途。至于是三年食薇,还是当年即止,反而并不重要。 (以上参考朱学勤《从明儒困境看文化民族主义的内在矛盾》一文)
关于文化身份矛盾冲突之不容回避的空间和时间问题需要做一个假设,我们可以用这样的案例来看:假定你的祖父是一个移民美国的华人,你的祖母是一个在美国的犹太人,于是你的父亲就成了一个美国籍的华—犹混血儿。后来你的父亲到了欧洲,和一个在法国的美女结了婚,生下了你,你成了一个华—犹—法血缘传承的三合一混血儿。然后你到了日本,你爱上了一个日本姑娘,那么你的儿女就成了华—犹—法—日的四重混血儿。这时候你该告诉你的子女,他们是什么文化身份呢?他们可能有的定居在日本,有的定居在法国,有的定居在中国,有的定居在以色列,这四个同胞姐妹聚在一起,他们该怎样统一文化身份呢?有必要做一个文化身份的认同吗?可以吗?
我在这里不惮颇费词章的说移民和混血儿的文化身份认证问题,关键是要引出“文化认同”和“价值认同”的重要观念。也想借助此一逻辑分析,搞清楚爱国和文化民族主义的困境难题。“爱国”号称主义,看似是一种思想,其实主要是一种有理性的感情。其中有三重感情的和理性的理由:一,我在此一地一国从小生长,历时久长,非常熟悉亲切,那里有我的祖先父母兄弟姐妹乡亲朋友,有主观上觉得美丽的山水树木,此地对我有养育之恩,所以感情深厚;二,我和这里的公民有共同维系的利益关系,唇齿相依,一亡俱亡,一兴俱兴,所以我必须忠诚于它且爱它;三,我主观上认为我生活的地方是一个美好的地方,是一个值得我爱的地方,她给我一个合理而善良,文明而发展的制度、风俗、福利,还有伟大的文化传统,她对我很好,所以我也应当对她好。基于以上三个理由,我因此爱她。
但是上述三个理由假如有一个甚且两个、三个都不具备不充分,甚至使我很不满意,因此我要移民到另一个文明之国。这个移民国除了她的文化是我所不熟悉不亲切的(但是我会逐渐对它熟悉和感到亲切),而其他条件都优于我的母国,那我将何以自处?我是否需要用以上三个爱国的理由对她确立认同的文化感情呢?答案是:你答对啦!
面对现代社会纷繁复杂的文化认同问题,解决难题比较恰当的思想资源就是德国政治学者哈贝玛斯的“宪政爱国主义”。它的意思是指每一个具有公民身份的人只要去爱一个具有宪政体系的确立公民个人权利的现代国家制度,就是合乎理性的,而不能依据民族主义感情和传统文化之根。哈贝玛斯在现代国家统一问题上的基本观点是:民族和传统文化所形成的共同体是前政治性的共同体,它的成员的身份不是公民,而是民族或文化群体成员。现代意义上的政治共同体与民族 或者传统文化共同体不同,它的维持框架不是自然的血缘或文化亲情,而是刻意构建,因此也是“非自然”的社会公约。这个社会公约就是宪法。社会成员由宪法获 得政治共同体成员的公民身份,承担起公民身份也就意味着把与此不同类的民族或文化身份搁置起来。社会成员对国家的忠诚和热爱应当是一种政治性的归属感,是他在以宪法为象征的政治共同体内的成员身份的表现,哈贝马斯称其为“宪政爱国主义”。哈贝马斯提出宪法爱国主义,主要是为了破解民族的狭隘情结,为人们的共同生活造就一个开放包容的共同体。哈贝马斯坚持以民主共同政治文化,而不是民族性为国家统一的基础的思想为此一问题提供了很好的出路。在全球化的今天,存在多元 文化差异的人类共同体是不能以民族认同来维系的。民族主义缺乏价值规范的基础。哈贝马斯说:“在多元化的社会中,宪法代表一种形式的共识。公民们在处理集体生活时需要有这样的原则,这些原则因为符合了所有人的利益,因而可以得到所有人的理性赞同。这样一种社群关系是建立在相互承认的基础上的,每个人都可以期待别人待他如自由和平等之人。” 一个人在宪法共和国中的公民身份(共和精神)和他对一个文化群体的亲近感(民族感情)之间所存在的关系,并不具有严格的概念纽结。这一关系只是历史的偶然,人们并不非要有相同的民族背景才能在一起共同提倡和维护普遍的公民权利。对于现代人来说,要紧的不是学会在民族文化中生活,而是在政治文化中生活;要紧的不是去寻根或寻回与他人同根的感情,而是学会如何批判地查视自己的利益以便进入理性的协商程序。这便是具有形式普遍性的民主政治文化。
Source: my1510, February 25, 2012.

Contemporary society has created a vast crisis over proof and recognition of cultural identity within human society. Most prefer to skirt around this crisis, as they have no idea how it should be tackled. The contemplation and resolution of this issue, however, holds a very modern significance.

remove this Ethnic Chinese who live outside China and are nationals of other countries, should they desire to ‘return’ to China to visit family, travel, do business etc, must first go to their local Chinese consulate to acquire a visa, as they do not have a ‘Chinese identity’. If, for example, you were involved in Chinese legal matters concerning the inheritance of property, you would first have to put forward ‘proof of identity’: first, by means of notarization by an international lawyer, then through the foreign affairs office of the country you are a national of, and then this must be recognised by the Chinese consulate. Only then can it be confirmed that the ‘you of today’ is one and the same as ‘the former Chinese you’. The Chinese consulate neither has the qualifications, nor feels it worthwhile to directly authenticate your claims. You are not classified as a ‘Chinese citizen’ and so it has no authority to deal with you, and no wish to deal with you either, as China already has too many people to deal with. The Chinese consulate merely carries out legal acknowledgement of the notarization documents provided by the foreign office of the country in which you hold citizenship, and nothing more.

Thus, you cry out in alarm, ‘Proving identity is so complicated! But I am Chinese!’ – -‘So you think! Your Chinese identity has already been renounced, lost, and so you are not Chinese.’ – – ‘But in essence, I am Chinese; no, not just in essence even, my blood, genes, skin, physique, language, beliefs are all Chinese!’ – ‘Ok, so physically you are Chinese, culturally, you are Chinese. But strictly speaking this just makes you ethnically Chinese, as your nationality is not Chinese, and so you are not, in any sense, Chinese. From ancient times, Chinese people have said we were ‘clearly set apart from barbarians’, that ‘if you aren’t of my race, your heart must be other’, that if you are not my friend, you are my enemy, no matter how relations were in the past! Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Vietnam also have Chinese cultural genealogies, but if they don’t sing the same tune, we’ll still come to blows! So, Mister, as your identity is unclear, in China all your property, all your rights, all your interests and even your basic qualifications can be denied.’

I’ll give you a classic example of a ‘proof of identity crisis’. In 2004 the film, ‘The Terminal’ was released, which tells the tale of Victor Navorski (Tom Hanks), a man from a small Eastern European country. To escape conflict, he fled his home country. Whilst he was in the air on his way to America, there was a coup d’etat in his home country. All diplomatic relations with the former government were abolished in one stroke, and all passports issued by the former government became invalid. With no way out of his dilemma, Victor, bearing his passport issued by a non-existent country, was detained in New York Kennedy International Airport. As he was not permitted to set foot on American soil, and yet also could not return to his country of origin, he could only stay in the airport lounges and wait for the war to end. In the days he spent within the airport, the identity-less Victor constantly endured the persecution of airport official Frank Dickson. Dickson saw Victor as a symbol of bad luck and considered him to be trouble, uncontrollable and did his utmost to get rid of him. Victor’s sufferings were great! His awkward plight is comparable to that laid out in these lines: ‘My own status is not clear, How can I greet my parents-in-law?’ ( Du Fu, Newly Wed Parting). The metaphor Du Fu employs at the start of this poem deserves elucidation: ‘Chinese vines climb up low hemp, but their creeping tendrils cannot stretch very far’. Chinese vines and an old man’s beard are both vine-like plants, and are in fact the same plant. The Beiya encyclopedia says that ‘In trees the plant is known as old man’s beard, in grass it is Chinese vines.’ It is basically the same plant, merely given different appellations when it climbs on differing trees. ‘To be a bride to a soldier is like a Chinese vine climbing up low hemp.’ Vine-like plants should climb on tall trees, and here this represents a bride finding a good home. However, the weak and delicate old man’s beard is not a good destination for a climbing plant. Du Fu uses this phrase – hemp also being a weak plant – as a metaphor for a woman married off to a husband unable to support her. If you have not experienced the awkwardness entailed by a loss of identity, and thus you do not understand the importance of ‘proof of identity’.

Yet in fact, a true proof of identity crisis does not occur within one’s nationality, but within one’s ‘cultural identity.’ In the globalised world of today ‘proof of national identity’ is now seen as a simple problem, easily resolved. To contemporary people, ‘proof and acknowledgement of cultural identity’ is more important, more challenging, and, moreover, can lead to serious cultural clashes.

One day I asked my friend C, ‘Where are you from?’ – – ‘What do you mean?’ – – ‘Where do you come from?’ – – ‘Shanghai’ – – ‘So you are Shanghainese?’ – – ‘No! I’m from Hunan.’ – – ‘Could you explain to me where you have lived?’ – – ‘I was born in Hunan, grew up there until I reached 18, studied for 6 years in Beijing, then worked in Shanghai for thirty years and last have spent 9 years in Sydney.’ – – ‘But you don’t admit yourself to be Shanghainese? You lived and worked there for thirty years, the longest length of time, you hold a Shanghai identity card, your business was successful in Shanghai, you married a Shanghai wife, had three Shanghai kids, but you say you are still not Shanghainese?’ – – ‘I’m not! I’m from Hunan! As the proverb says ‘The mountains and rivers may change, but a man cannot change his essential nature’, and in essence, I am from Hunan!’ – – ‘Are you prejudiced against Shanghainese? When you were in Shanghai, and with Shanghainese, did you then also openly fly your Hunanese flag?’ – -‘Of course! I’ve always said, plainly and simply, that I am from Hunan, that I am not Shanghainese. Shanghainese are an unprincipled bunch, they haggle over every ounce, they are petty and too shrewd for their own good. Although my wife is Shanghainese, she is very hardworking, frugal and quite different from one of your run of the mill Shanghainese.’ I couldn’t stop myself from laughing, saying, ‘Ok, ok, Hunan man, so if I said now you were from Sydney, would you admit to it?’ – – ‘That, that, also, also isn’t, that’s really hard to say…’ We all laughed and moved on.

C himself was extremely conflicted, as his stubborn feelings of pride in his Hunan lineage and loyalty to his cultural roots could not be reconciled with his 30 years of life and work within a Shanghainese culture. As regards the problem of ‘proof of identity’, if this is viewed from the perspective of his governmental administrative affiliation, then it is his current registered living address that is used as determinant. However, if speaking of ‘cultural identity’, this is an extremely complex, extremely ambiguous and multifaceted issue. What standard can you use as a final confirmation of identity? Family lineage? Early life experience? Educational background? Working life? Length of time spent? Characteristic habits? The orientation of one’s primary system of values? There is not one of these that has the power to act as an ultimate determinant of cultural identity. As C does not like Shanghainese, he persistently maintains that he ‘cannot change his essential nature’, yet surely his 18 years in Hunan cannot match his 30 years in Shanghai? Americans say ‘You are what you do’, Freud claimed ‘Childhood experience influences an individual’s whole life’. Sociologists argue that ‘The influence of family environment and educational background brands itself deeply onto the course of your life’. Biologists believe ‘Genetic inheritance has a decisive effect on an individual’s cultural make-up’. All are correct, and yet all are incorrect, as none of these reach the heart of the matter. Thus, proof of cultural identity is a multifaceted, many-layered, complex, ambiguous structure. Furthermore, when looking at specific individual cases, even if they have the same family, same lineage, same educational background, the same life and work experience, different people can have entirely different compositions. C is at once Hunanese, Shanghainese, and now also a Sydneysider. As so, it is not possible to use one single determinant of cultural identity.

C’s life experience and cultural identity confusions are in fact highly representative, and it cannot be said he was wrong. The surnames Mao, Liu, Zhou, Zhu, Chen, Lin, and Deng, even if they leave their homes young and return when old, are now scattered across the seven seas. They are yet more complicated than C, but they have not yet lost the accents of their hometowns. Until death and throughout history, they still retain their original cultural outlook, be they from Hubei, Hunan, Zhejiang, Sichuan or wherever else. According to ancient Chinese customs and concepts, the village of your forebears was the foundation of your identity. Han Yu was known as Han Changli, as Changli in Henan province was the origin of the Han family, Liu Zongyuan was called ‘Liu Hedong’, as Hedong (present day Yongji, in Shanxi province) was where the Liu family originated from. The question of the structural relationship between hometown and the regional culture has not yet been adequately resolved by studies of Chinese cultural geography.

In the traditional society of ancient times, as it was a comparatively stable age, people could easily stubbornly stick to a cultural feeling as their sole proof of identity. This produced hardline factions loyal to their ancestors and with strong patriotic beliefs. However, the Chinese were never good at producing strict, logical, analytical thought, and were unwilling to be practical and put forward realistic counters to the arguments of the hardliners. Thus, there were always many self-contradictory attitudes to issues of cultural identity, born of thinkers not brave enough to tackle the issue head-on. This is especially true of approaches to harsh problems regarding ‘proper politics’ and ‘refined morals’. Qu Yuan’s intractable problem has still not been surmounted, and so my friend C can only set his jaw and unwaveringly declare himself to be Hunanese. Chinese are in this way extremely interesting. On one hand, they praise Qu Yuan; on the other, they worship Qin Shihuang. They sing the praises of not only Zhu Yuanzhang, but also of the golden age of the Qing dynasty. So long as they can continuously pilfer ideas and make the central plains (middle and lower regions of the Yellow River) into China, make the Han the Chinese, then all can be forgiven, and all is well. But the issue that cannot be evaded is that humanity inevitably cannot avoid changing their societal status. People have a natural right to pursue both survival and happiness, but in changing societal status, cultural identity must change alongside it, otherwise all concepts of ‘loyalty’ lack a rational foundation. Not just in modern society but even during the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States periods, whilst China was being unified by a great power, those who would ‘serve Qin in the morning and Chu in the evening’ could still be found everywhere. Chu talents worked for Jin, in south and north alike, and everywhere ultimately is the same. Thus, Qu Yuan’s ‘Sorrow at Parting’ is a mournful, self-defeating cry against his times. At the very least, it is the literary reaction to the cultural conflicts of his era.

The hardest part of today’s cultural identity, rather akin to Qu Yuan’s plight, is this: Are we, as ethnic Chinese expatriates and nationals of Western countries, like Su Yin and Zhang Yi ‘serving Qin in the morning and Chu in the evening’? That is to say, should China and the country we now reside in come into conflict, should we be loyal to China, or should we be loyal to America, or Australia? Our Chinese siblings would most certainly solemnly and gravely place a cultural imperative before us: ‘Are you still Chinese?’ – – ‘I’m sorry, I now have American nationality, and so I am not Chinese anymore.’ – – ‘But doesn’t Chinese blood flow in your veins?’ – – ‘But I now enjoy all the advantages of being an American, I can’t forever be in one place and dreaming of another. Isn’t that ‘eating noodles only to complain when the bowl is empty’? No matter what you say, we already reside in multi-faceted circumstances where there are no clear-cut moral standards.’

The contemporary globalization of national space has created these difficulties surrounding proof of cultural identity. If we look at this issue from a Chinese historical perspective, this is precisely the same confusion over cultural identity that accompanies dynastic change. From current historical materials and statistics, it can be clearly seen that the Han ethnicity have been invaded many times by other peoples and every invasion aroused intense opposition. The closer we get to modern times, the more easy it has been to reduce nationalism to merely an identification with a historical culture. But we have to remember that not one collective movement of resistance to foreign rule over the Chinese plains has persisted more than a generation. From the perspective of the relative persistence of different resistance movements, China cannot even be compared to small, weak Poland. China has five thousand years of civilization, but also is now one country with three governments, and with huge numbers of ‘Chinese traitors’. Perhaps in all the world China can only be compared with France, a country which shares China’s historical and civilization conceits. So our present record is a source of embarrassment, and we should compel people to consider for themselves, is this failure of our moral mechanisms? Or is it an unavoidable internal contradiction caused by the role of nationalism in defining and acknowledging cultural identity?

Throughout history mankind has been full of migrants, their numbers countless. All migrants must have gone through a process of gradual change in their proof of cultural identity. In ancient China, the situation was as follows: When one dynasty replaced another, all people must go through a process that ‘reauthenticates’ everything from their political identity to their cultural identity, thus making everyone a kind of ‘migrant’. Political migrants lose their culture, and then from that loss of culture they become reborn political citizens. With one leap, culture is cleansed; this is a leftwards twist of the screw. With the second leap are created political cynics and this twists the screw still further. Like this, pushing further and further, the circle is made complete. Returning to reality, as each soft blow lands on identity from politics to culture, it further completes the identification of a generation of scholars with the power of a new dynasty. The separation between cultural self-esteem and political cynicism is as thin as a sheet of paper. – – It just depends on whether or not the new power acknowledges a little of their previous historical culture. If they do so, loss of culture can occur within even less than a generation, completing the turn away from previous cultural pride and towards recognition of a new dynasty.The excuses used to pacify the inner guilt accompanying the transtition vary from person to person. Like Huang Zongzi who, seeking a position for his son, sent a letter to a scholar of the new dynasty, Xu Yuanwen, saying: ‘I heard the old tale of the two recluses of Shouyang Mountain, who refused to serve King Wu and so eventually starved to death on the mountain as they refused to eat the produce of his state. However, they sent a son to a well-known scholar and received three years of food in payment, and all was well for a time. Today I dispatch my son to take position as an official, will this be enough for you? Even hero of the anti-Qing resistance Shi Kefa’s last words were full of both tragedy and anger: ‘I die for my country, my son lives for his family.’ Modern writer Zhou Zuoren who also sadly endorsed the Japanese regime in north China also surely had his own ways of justifying it to himself. For those proud of their culture to turn and identify with a new government is not at all uncommon. From history to reality, the road is crowded with them. As for whether they receive three years of food or give up, it doesn’t really matter.(For the above, consult Zhu Xueqin’s essay on ‘The internal contradictions of cultural nationalism from the perspective of the Ming Confucian predicament’.)

As for the problem of the unavoidable clashes of cultural identity and its contradictions, both spatial and temporal, we need a hypothesis to illuminate the issue: Suppose your paternal father was an ethnic Chinese who had emigrated to America, and your paternal grandmother was an American Jew, and so your father was a mixed race Chinese-Jew with American nationality. Afterwards, your father moved to Europe, and married a French woman, who gave birth to you. So you are a person of French-Chinese-Jewish descent, a child with three bloodlines. Later, you move to Japan and fall in love with a Japanese girl, and so your children would be French-Chinese-Jewish-Japanese. So now, what cultural identity should you tell your child they have? Some of it is probably located in Japan, some in France, some in China, some in Israel. How can these four siblings be united into one cultural identity? Must you have a single acknowledged cultural identity? Is it ok not to?

Here I have not spared words in order to describe the problems surrounding the cultural identity of immigrants and children of mixed blood. The key points that should be drawn from this are concepts of ‘cultural identification’ and ‘value recognition’. With the help of a little logical analysis, the predicament and problems of patriotism and cultural nationalism become clear. ‘Patriotism’ is viewed as an -ism, and looks as though it is an ideology. In fact, it is primarily a rational emotion. Within it are contained three main feelings that have rational justification: first, I have grown up in one place and one country, with a long history, and am extremely familiar and intimate with it. My forebears, my parents, my brothers, my sisters, my fellow countrymen and my friends are all here, and I have a subjective attachment to the rivers, hills and villages of its landscape. This place has fostered me in kindness, and so I have a deep, profound attachment to it. Secondly, the citizens of this place and I have a relationship of mutual interests and mutual benefits, and are interdependent. We flourish together, and we die together, and so I must be loyal to this place, and I must love this place. Thirdly, I subjectively consider the place where I live to be a beautiful place, a place worthy of my love, she has given me an equitable, generous, civilized and well-developed system, customs, and welfare, furthermore she has given me our great cultural traditions. She has treated me well, and so I should treat her well in return. And so, on these three grounds, I should love her, my country.

‘But the three reasons described above have one, or even two or three ways in which they are not sufficient for me, unfulfilled, and make me feel unsatisfied, and because of this I wish to emigrate to a civilized country. This immigrant country, although I would be unfamiliar with its culture, and feel distanced from it (although I would gradually learn and acquire that feeling of closeness),its living conditions, in all aspects, exceed those of my mother country, and so where should I live? Should I or should I not use these three patriotic reasons to establish and confirm my cultural feelings?’ The answer is – – whatever you answer is right for you!

To confront and resolve the difficult problems surrounding contemporary society’s multi-layered, complex issues of cultural identity, the theories of German political philosopher Jurgen Habermas on ‘constitutional patriotism’ are a valuable intellectual resource. His theories state that as long as each person who holds citizenship is ‘patriotic’ in the name of a modern state system which has a constitutional system founded on principles of citizenship and individual rights, then this is rational. However, ‘patriotism’ cannot be based on nationalistic sentiments or traditional culture. Habermas’s basic viewpoint as regards the problem of integration in contemporary nation states is as follows: the communities formed by ethnic and cultural groups are former political communities; their members are not citizens, but instead are members of ethnic or cultural groups. However, the contemporary meaning of political community and ethnic or cultural community is not the same. Their organising framework does not depend on natural ties of blood or cultural bonds. They are deliberately constructed, and thus such communities are ‘unnatural’ social alliances. This society’s alliance is the constitution. Through the constitution, the members of this society gain membership of the political community and identity as a citizen. Assuming this identity also signifies the setting aside of different ethnic or cultural identities. The loyalty and love members of society hold for their country should be a political loyalty and the constitution should be an emblem and expression of the identity of the members of the political community, and this is what Habermas called ‘constitutional patriotism’. Habermas proposed constitutional patriotism primarily to break the narrow-minded psychology of nationalisms, and create an open-minded, tolerant community for common living. Habermas supported a democratic, collaborative political culture as an alternative to ideologies based on the unification of ethnicities into individual nation-states, and searched for ways to escape this model. In the globalised world of today, the culturally diverse human community cannot maintain this endorsement of ethnic identity. Nationalism is not based on a common system of values. Habermas says:’In a multi-cultural society, a constitutional represents a kind of common knowledge. Citizens, in negotiating the requirements of collective lives, require such principles. As these principles are in the interest of all the people, thus they can gain the rational approval of all the people. Like this, societal relations are built on a commonly recognised foundation, and they can expect everyone to treat them as free and equal individuals.’ Within a constitutional republic the relationship between an individual’s identity as a citizen (republican consciousness) and his identification with a cultural group (ethnic affiliation) does not entail any serious ideological entanglements. This relationship is merely historical accident, people do not require a similar ethnic background before they can unite and work together for the common good. For contemporary people, to learn how to live in a ethnic culture is not important, but to live in a political culture is of the greatest urgency. It is not important to seek your roots or to return to people whose common roots you identify with. Instead, learn how to critique and assess your own interests in order to enter into a process of rational discussion and consultation. This is precisely the form a universal political culture should take.

Source: my1510, February 25, 2012.

2 Comments

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Yireply
September 24, 2012 at 11:16 am

Postmodernism has changed the way we think of identity; theories of postmodernism states that everything is subjected to change, and identity is fluid. If we go according to this theory, anyone choose who they want to be.

shenguireply
September 28, 2012 at 8:01 pm

昔闻首阳二老,托孤于尚父,遂得三年食薇,颜色不坏。今吾遣子从公,可以置我矣 – any ideas?

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