As foreigners living in foreign lands, we are often asked to choose between identities, despite the terminology itself being skewed if not altogether faulty. On one end, the very contemporary term immigrant: implying, almost defacto, a desire for integration, as a key factor for success in the host country. On the other, the romanticized if passé term émigré: an evocation of whitened knuckles, gripping an increasingly fossilized sense of home. Either way, we lose.
Instead, we look to precedents. Some people have to blur, even betray, one identity to fight for another. In music, this person would perhaps be Bob Dylan or David Bowie. In Slavs and Tatars territory, it would be Jamal al-din Al-Afghani, Vladimir Nabokov, Attila the Hun or Aleksander (Eskander) Herzen, amongst others.
We often sit around dinner tables and argue over which nations we like the best and which the least. The responses of dinner guests vary widely but never fail to reveal a person’s politics and passions. A recurring trope–what has Australia really contributed to the world?–is often met by an equally clichéd turn to Anti-Americanism. Regardless, we continue to excavate the intuitive, instinctive likes and dislikes often found in children (but often smothered in adults), and pummel them with the very adulterated world of politics and culture. It is akin to putting Nature and Nurture in a blender and making a smoothie called Know Thine Enemy, Really.
While we debate the relevance of one people over another, we would do well to think of Lev Gumilev, whose theory of ethnogenesis entailed a rather moving, poetic, if not very scientific, notion of passionarity. According to Gumilev, passionarity represented each ethnicity’s power source or vital energy. This energy would undergo an evolution through various stages: rise, development, climax, inertia, convolution and memorial. Russia’s uniquely European and Asian position, not to mention its tumultuous history, was proof of its high passionarity. For Gumilev, Europe is in a state of inertia, or introduction to obscuration, and the Arab world is on the rise.
The Iranians would perhaps recognize this trope under another name–garbzadeghi (literally translated as westoxication)–perhaps one of the most important leitmotifs of the Iranian revolution and the creation of a theocracy in its wake. Garbzadeghi literally means ‘struck by the west’, and refers to what some believe is the corrosive effect Western culture has on the foundations of Iranian and Muslim culture.
As with many thorny ideas, Gumilev’s Euasianism has been hijacked: the Eurasia party today advances a worrisome breed of Russian nationalism. Today, we misquote Bono: ‘
Charles Manson Alexander Dugin stole this song from The Beatles Lev Gumilev, we’re stealing it back.’