The homeland and the stranger

The book "Heideggers roots" that I am reading is very interesting, and the dissertation that I found on the Internet, about Heidegger, Levinas and Derrida and the homeland, is also very good.

I always thought that Heidegger was a standard fascist/racist like most Nazi's / National Socialists, but the author of the book says he is not like that. The fact that Heidegger considers Jews in Germany to be inferior to Germans is not related to race/blood but only to the fact that Germans live on their original ground/soil/home, while the Jewish diaspora is homeless/rootless according to Heidegger.
Heidegger thinks that modern Germans/Europeans have lost the contact with their roots. He thinks that modern urbanized individualized people live too superphysical lives and that hey have lost the contact with their ancestors and their history. Without knowing your history you can't achieve the destiny that was meant for your Volk (people). He says that a people should go back to the nature, to their original auchtochtone roots, to the ground where their ancestors have lived for centuries and centuries. He doesn't like the individualised, abstract, superphysical life in the big cities, het idealizes the life of a farmer who lives close to the ground and with his animals, who knows the real life. Heidegger had a mountain hut himself, close to Freiburg where his university was located. He spent months there on his own, philosophizing and looking at how the farmers lived their hard autochtone/original lives in harmony with the nature, the way it has always been.

While I was walking in the mountains around Madikeri and while I slept in simple huts, I could imagine how Heidegger liked to let his philosophical thoughts flow freely in the peace and quietness of the mountains. Some parts of what Heigger writes I find beautiful, especially that he doesn't like the social pressure in the city where the collective norms for accepted and not accepted behaviour are so forceful and violent. People only behave how others expect them to behave, they forget who they really are.

But on the other hand it is dangerous to think that a people who doesn't live at its original ground is rootless and inferior. Heideggers model of autochtony is excluding, it excludes what is not original. It's not so bad as to consider the Jews as an inferior race wherever they live, but still it is dangerous. When a Jewish and a German student applied for a university position, Heidegger strongly recommended the German student, just because of being German and so by definition being rooted instead of rootless. On these grounds Heidegger supported Hitlerism / National Socialism.

For Heidegger the stranger is someone who shouldn't be given any rights, someone who doesn't count for full. Strangers are dangerous for a society, they bring non-original values and habits, they bring change to the culture of the original people. This means that they, the autochtones, will finaly loose themselves, they loose the contact with their original roots and mix their old culture with the new foreign cultures.

But why should there be this fear of the unkown? Why would the original culture be better than a more modern one or a foreign one? Why do people have to live on the ground of their ancestors? It can be boring to live always at the same place, why wouldn't you like to discover other places? Why does Heidegger have to stay in the mountains near Freiburg, why couldn't he just as well have a hut in the Indian mountains?

You take your roots with you where ever you go. You don't loose your values and views when you cross a country border. This you can see with Jewish diaspora even more clearly than with most other cultures/religions. No matter how many generations a group of Jews has lived in Russia or Brazil or where evere, many Jews still clearly live as Jews, not in the first place as Russians/Brazillians. You take your culture with you as a mobile phone, but then one that you can't leave behind, one that has grown into your body. The way others notice most clearly that you are not from here, is through language. Your different language or different accent shows that you came from somewhere else (if it can't be seen through the colour of your skin or the way you dress). You can learn other languages and you can dress acording to the local style, but your accent you will keep for a long time. Language/communication is what forms the bridge between cultures, between strangers and the people who are at home. You first have to learn to speak the same language before you can understand each other. Language enables an exchange, it enables communication between locals and strangers, without the necessity that the stranger completely assimilates to the local culture, or that the cultures mixes and make something new. Two totally different people can talk with each other and understand each other without having to give up their own culture. They can exchange views without having to change their own views (is what Levinas says). That's why language is so important in (intercultural) contact.

While Heidegger sympathizes with autochtone people, Levinas and Derrida sympathize with the stranger. A stranger is vulnerable, he is far away from home where everything is familiar, he doesn't know the way, he doesn't know the language, he doesn't know the local rules. He can easily get lost. He doesn't have his family to support him, maybe he doesn't have a job and no food. So the stranger should be received with unconditional hospitality. I have a debt towards the stranger, I am responsible for him, I should help him. He does an appeal to me, he needs my help. I am the one who can help him because I am secure in my homeland, my own house, full of food. I should share with the stranger what I possess.

The stranger isn't rootless or inferior, he is only fragile and that is why his request to me is strong, and why my responsibility for him is big, in fact infinitely, I must do for him what I can.

I can be at home anywhere. That I grew up in the Netherlands doesn't mean that I can only feel at home there. I am influenced by the Dutch culture of course, but I also have my own personal character. Maybe with these characteristics I like some other cultures better than the Dutch culture. When I arrived in Senegal I immediately felt at home there. I always like to go back there, I always miss Senegal. Probably I am more rooted there than in Holland, although my ancestors have never lived there as far as I know.

Here's another U2 quote, my favourite one:
It's not why you're running
It's where you are going
It's not what you're dreaming
But what you're gonna do
It's not where you're born
It's where you belong
It's not how weak
But what will make you strong

Hi Esther,

I hope you realize that what you say here is very much like what Thomas Sowell always points out [:)]:

"You take your roots with you where ever you go. You don't loose your values and views when you cross a country border. This you can see with Jewish Diaspora even more clearly than with most other cultures/religions. No matter how many generations a group of Jews has lived in Russia or Brazil or where ever, many Jews still clearly live as Jews, not in the first place as Russians/Brazilians. You take your culture with you as a mobile phone, but then one that you can't leave behind, one that has grown into your body."

People take their CULTURE with them and it will last for many generations and indefinitely, if there is a community, even a small one, with shared values.

That means that good AND bad habits get transplanted. Some things may work or be tolerable in a certain setting, but they become totally intolerable in another. It also happens that a given community is internally "nice", but hostile to the host culture, in which case they will obviously cause a lot of friction.

The point is not that the immigrant is weak - he may or may not be, but his success or failure will always depend on his ability to integrated into or interface with the host culture. He may retain his own values if they are not in open conflict with the host culture, but if they are, he must shed them or face the consequences.

Most migrants do integrate fairly well, but those from certain cultures refuse to do so by all means, often based on excessive or unwarranted pride (the lower the achievement, the greater the pride).

I'm still surprised when I see how many people object to the simple fact that some cultures are inherently violent, just as others are particularly peaceful or hard working or good traders etc.

Propensity for violence is a cultural trait as any other, yet one may say that Buddhism based cultures are very friendly, but one may not state the obvious fact that for example Albanians are generally violent.

Rejection of Albanians is not based on their being "foreign", but on their being inclined to violence. There is nothing "xenophobic" about this. It is a simple matter of wanting to live in peace and safety. One of the major problems about a culture of violenc is that it spreads.

Violence "inspires" young people more than "boring" peaceful values. Hence it is very difficult to integrate people from a culture of violence. They don't want to integrate, as they feel superior and stronger. Contrary to the general assumption that they "leash out" against rejection, the truth is that they love exercicing power.

Rejection follows confrontation, not the other way around. In Switzerland, the communities that have the largest number of immigrants from ex-Yugoslavia are also the ones most oppose further immigration from there.

If rejection was based on a preconceived stereotype, rejection rates should be quite equally distributed and even lower for those who are in close contact with a group of foreigners, as they are able to verify the stereotype. It's even more striking when no stereotype existed before the contact between cultures was made.

Sowell notes that certain "stereotypes" were incredibly similar in very distant areas of the world, even in days before telecommunication equipment. The perception of Germans in Brazil and Russia around 1800 was almost identical. That can only be explained by the fact that Germans really did conform to the stereotype.

Many stereotypes, far from being wrong or useless, are accumulated knowledge about cultural habits. Obviously, the stereotypes are adapted to make sense within the local culture, but basic perceptions will not vary much.

If western women are perceived as "beer-" (or generally alcohol-) drinking in India, that is actually quite true. The idea that this means they are whores looks true when their behavior is considered according to local Indian standards.

There is an overlap of accurate perception and interpretation, although on closer analysis, according to Indian norms of sexual behavior, most western women really would rate as whores. After all, Indians consider kissing in public as lewd and reprehensible behavior and sex before marriage is something only prostitutes are supposed to do...

Indians correctly see that the example of western women will "corrupt" Indian women, as the sexual habits of the West are much more appealing than the strict norms of India. So for Indians who would wish to uphold their own standards, such an influence is quite nefarious.

Does that make them xenophobes? Not necessarily. They just try to defend their own cultural standards. Should they stop the immigration of Western women or should Western Europe stop immigration by Albanians?

The two situations are very different: the first is a matter of subjective values, while the second concerns actual, physical and economic safety. But for both, the common denominator is that the foreigners are not rejected based on race, but based on behavior, i.e. if the hopeful immigrant wishes to be accepted, he "simply" needs to change his own behavior, which can indeed be difficult.

But no matter what, the change must originate from the immigrant. One cannot expect a host culture to adapt to the norms of immigrants!

All cultures change, but such change is slow and gradual, while immigration is "instantaneous" and will always cause frictions. Those who migrate had better be aware of it. If they join a society which they basically like, the effort of integration will not be overwhelming.

If they migrate to a culture they fundamentally dislike, one can only wonder what they are trying to do there. If their own feelings of hostility towards the host culture persist, they would be well advised to leave. If hostiles try to establish themselves in large numbers, then this is no different from a low intensity military invasion and occupation, which should be met as such by the locals.
It's interesting what you said, Stefan. I don't have time to reply now, I will start my 21 hour journey by train from Bangalore to Bombay in one hour.

I think I will agree with part of what Sowell says but not with everything. Generalizations and prejudices can be dangerous because people are pinned / determined on their background. There are assumptions made about people which may be false. I will come back to this later.

Ps: superphysically should be superficially.
Now I will post a longer reply to Stefans post.

The main problem that I have with your arguments, Stefan, is that you claim your subjective judgements about other cultures to be objective.

When people move to another country they take their culture with them, both the good and bad habits, as you said. But who determines that, why would you know better which habits of newcomers are bad, than they know that themselves?

Indeed, a culture changes slowly usually, so when a new culture comes to another country, the old and the new culture will collide by definition, independent of which culture has which good and which bad habits. In my view the issue is not a soon as possible assimilation of the immigrant to the old culture of the country he moved to. The issue at stake is to find a way in which different groups in a society, both new and old, can live together in a constructive way. For that efforts from both sides are needed. Both old and new groups have to learn skills for intercultural contact. They should be patient and try to understand each other and have a mentally of solving problems together. Both old and new groups should be flexible to the habits of other groups. The adaptation from the new groups should be bigger than the other way around, because the dominant culture in a country will remain the native one, so the immigrants have to adapt more. But it is not a one way street, the only way to have a well-functioning cultural diverse society is when both the immigrants and the natives show enough intercultural competences to be able to live with each other in one society.

I don't think that all cultures are equal. All cultures are different and some are more extreme than others. From an objective perspective it would be possible to compare cultures and to judge that some are better than others. But the problem is that humans never have such an objective perspective, individual views are always coloured by the subjective perspective / the personal cultural background of the owner of these views.

You can personally find that the Albanian culture is violent in its nature, but probably most Albanians themselves won't agree with you, because they may consider different things as violent.

You make the impression that immigrants often have a culture that you don't like. But you don't present it as a personal dislike but as if they are objectively barbarian cultures. So you want immigrants to assimilate soon so that they no longer bother the natives with their barbarian culture.

So I totally disagree with that idea, of course :)
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