I saw an interview of Salman Rushdie, in which some caller asked him about his reasons to live in US. He answered, “Do I live in US? I didn’t know that. I live in New York.” He subsequently explained that he does not identify him self with the nation state, an intangible idea, but with the city, which he can feel tangibly.
After living 5+ years in various cities in Europe, I share his feelings about living in a city rather than in a nation state. I can feel the city. I can walk across it. I see neighborhoods. I recognize shop keepers. I feel that I know the city but not the nation state. The city is my home not the nation state.
In India, it was opposite. I had distinct feeling about being in India, which was pushed into my conscience by patriotic songs and propagandized education. But, once I step out of the mother country. I do not have that emotional attachment with any other nation state. When I move to a foreign nation state, the attachments that I form are with the streets on which I walk to my workplace, the shops where I buy bread, and the passersby to whom I say hi. The city becomes the home. I do not know if this feeling is shared by many people who move every other year. But, it is an interesting idea. This feeling saves one from the dreadful nationalism.
The current conception of an identity implies that citijan(city person) can not be a unit of identity for modern society. Since world is globalized and people are increasingly interdependent, city identity is too fragmentary. We need to rethink the notion of identity and tone down some emotional aspect of an identity. I think that the concept of nation states are getting more and more at odds with the social and technological world in which we are living. May be the city identity can serve our need to feel part of some thing greater and derive a social support system. Emotional element can be removed from the nation state and it will reduce into an administrative body such as UN.
* citijan == city+jan == city person