Immigration and Identity (S1E3)

Millions of people are on the move, leaving the Middle East and North Africa for Europe. Refugees? Migrants? Immigrants? Invaders? Depends on your point of view. Germany, and Europe, face a big issue: immigration and identity.

Immigration and Identity in Germany

This issue is a political hot button issue, but we aren’t interested in political points. If you’re looking for reinforcement for a preconceived notion, you are entirely in the wrong place.

We parse Germany’s particular need for immigrants, as the birthrate will not support social security for its rapidly aging population. This pragmatic worry, more than any social justice concern, may be what is behind Angela Merkel’s open borders.

The real problem facing Germany, we suggest, is its inability to absorb its immigrants. The fresh arrivals aren’t becoming German – and that’s because Germany doesn’t really know what it means to be German either. Immigration and identity are supposed to be linked. What we are watching may just be the result of what happens when immigration and identity are no longer connected at all. 

The Role of Narrative

From there, we turn to look at the role of narrative in immigration and identity. and in particular how culture creates a place as much as place creates a culture. Narrative is what we fit our lives into, what gives us a sense of context, and what orders the random events of history to us. When a national narrative breaks down, the culture is soon to follow. Furthermore, values come from narratives, too. What we value is defined by the sense of progress that we have. More importantly, any sense of “becoming,” seen as growth, or achievement, or struggle, disappears where values and narratives are lost. 

The Economist article mentioned is available here.

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