We can be Cosmopolitan and give importance to origins | Sarah Gouia | TEDxEcoleHôtelièreLausanne

We can be Cosmopolitan and give importance to origins | Sarah Gouia | TEDxEcoleHôtelièreLausanne


Translator: Yuliana Hernández Villa
Reviewer: Robert Tucker Hi, everyone. I’m Sarah Gouia. As you already know,
I have three different nationalities. I was born in France,
raised in Paris, so I’m French. My father is Tunisian, and my mother is
from Costa Rica, Central America. So you can easily guess why I’m so passionate
about this topic on origins. But what I’ve been
even more passionate about while I was growing up, was to resolve
this eternal internal debate. Feeling very cosmopolitan,
very international, certainly because of the diversity
of my own origins, but also understanding the claims that cultural origins
matter a lot in our identity, that actually the people that sometimes
are called ‘patriotic’, ‘nationalists’, in a very pejorative way, negative way, I could understand them as well. So I grew up portraying myself
as the classic citizen of the world and, at the same time, understanding why, for some people, it was so important to keep alive
their traditions and their culture. But I think I’ve come up
[with] a solution to that debate, and that’s what I want
to argue with you today. Actually, there’s no debate,
there is no contradiction. There is no contradiction between feeling very patriotic, and at the same time understanding that we are all part
of a broader community made of human beings
that are all entitled to human rights. There is nothing contradictory between feeling that your origins matter, and, at the same time,
that you can enrich your own identity by travelling, living abroad, meeting new people,
experiencing new cultures. There is nothing contradictory between being part of a community, and enjoying being part of this community, and, at the same time, having a very complex
and particular identity. But before explaining a bit more
why it is so important to say that today, I want to first define
what I mean by origins. I’m going to define origins
in two different ways. Territorially first. This is where you were born,
or where you grew up. So it could be a region,
a village, a country. And then there’s social origins: your family, your economic social background, your friends sometimes, the people you grew up with, all those people that were with you
while you were growing up. So, there’s social origins,
and there are territorial origins. But in this talk I’ll probably focus
a bit more on country origins, and on culture origins as social origins, because I believe most of our problems
in our modern world revolve around those two notions. So, why is it so important to argue there is no contradiction
between the two feelings I had? Well, I believe first that I kind of want
reconciliation between two groups that I’m definitely going to caricature
for the purpose of this talk: the cosmopolitans and the nationalists. The nationalists are the ones that see the importance
of our culture origins, the importance of our traditions, and how we’ve been raised,
where we’ve been raised, but are afraid of globalisation. The cosmopolitans, on the other side, are the ones that don’t feel
that cultural origins determine much. They focus much more on the individual, but they’re sometimes a bit blind
to how difficult it is to peacefully coexist with people
that have different cultural origins and come from different places. I believe one way
to reconcile those two people, those two groups of people, is to make a very important distinction –
between origins and identity. But before saying a bit more on that, I want to say first
why I want to reconcile them a lot, and it is because I don’t want
the xenophobia from the nationalist ones, and I don’t want blindness
on the cosmopolitan side. So, why the distinction
between origins and identity is important to reconcile
those two groups of people. Well, because, actually, we can link
those two concepts of origins and identity to two basic feelings we all have. We want to be part of the group,
and we want to be different. We want to be so much
a member of any group, community, feel part of something – at the same time,
we want to be unique, we want to be different, we want to be:
‘Oh, I’m this person that no one is.’ And I think everyone has those two basic,
fundamental human feelings. And actually origins and identity
are a bit the same. Origins is about the fixed reality
in your early life, you can’t change it, it’s fixed. Identity, on the other hand, is very much about the evolution
of your own personality, so it is very much about perpetual change. Origins is about your first
sentimental belonging to a certain family, country, etc. Identity, on the other side, is very much
about being independent from anyone else, being very different. So, you can see that origins relate much more
to this feeling of sociability, of being part of the group, and identity is much more
about being different, about being independent from everyone, about the fact that you are unique. I’ll [now use] my own example
to define those two concepts, to make it a bit clearer. So, if I think about my own origins,
territorially, I grew up in France, and that definitely influenced me a lot. It’s the first time I understood
how society was working: I could definitely notice and witness
the norms of my society, the values of French society –
I internalised the culture. My very first thoughts and ideas were framed thanks to the French language. My social origins, my father being Tunisian,
my mum being Costa Rican, they pass on to me, as well, their culture origins,
their vision of the world, the music they listen to,
their ideas, their values – all this make up my origin. But if I think about my own identity,
it’s so different; it’s very much more complex. Yes, indeed, my origins do have
an importance on who I am, yeah, I do dress
in very Parisian trends sometimes; yes, I do love Arabic songs; yeah, I do speak in Spanish
when I’m drunk. Yeah, I have all those feelings
and influences coming from my origins, but that’s not just who I am,
I can’t restrict myself to that. I’m definitely also a woman,
I’m talkative, I’m perfectionist – I’m a very stressed person
in my school, my career, etc. There’s many other things
that make up my own personality. I love politics, I love history,
things like that, make up myself, but today [that] might change,
[or] in a few days later, or after some years. But also, not only the cultures
of my origins influence me, the other cultures
I’m going to experience later also influence me a lot. For example, it’s been two years now
that I’ve been studying at Cambridge, and I’m still very much feeling
the influence of British culture: I do have tea very much at four
every time with my friends; I say ‘lovely’ a lot; I try to copy Emma Watson’s
accent quite a lot. There’s definitely a lot of influence
coming from British culture. So, my self can’t be restricted
to only my origins. So, why is it so important to reconcile
the cosmopolitans and the nationalists? Because what I would say
to the cosmopolitans is: Don’t be blind to the influence
of our origins and our identity – don’t be blind because sometimes, especially when you feel threatened
or discriminated against, those origins take up a very
important place in your own identity. When I’m in France, I sometimes
feel very much more Tunisian. Why? Because sometimes, in some
discussions or listening to the news, there is sometimes some confusion
between certain terms, like: Muslims, North Africans,
immigrants, refugees. They are all taken as synonyms, and I feel a bit insulted by that. But why do I feel insulted? Why do I feel threatened? Why do I feel more Tunisian? Why do I have this tribal sense
of belonging to that community? I haven’t been to Tunisia for a while,
my Arabic is not good, and I’m not Muslim either. Why do I feel so hurt by those words? Because I do feel threatened
in my own origins. When I’m in England,
I don’t feel rejected as French, but I do feel the influence
of my French culture. It’s actually the first time I realised
how much France had influenced me: in my way of studying,
in my way of experiencing friendships, all of those. So origins are important. We can’t say they’re not important; they are important in our lives. And we should understand that because people are moving
from one country to another and coming because of globalisation, we will be surrounded
by people coming from different origins, and we have to respect that sometimes
they might be a bit threatened because of the differences, and if we discriminate them,
they’ll definitely feel very insulted, and their origins will take
so much more importance in their identity. The nationalists, listening
to everything I’ve just said, would be: ‘Hold on! Actually, well,
we agree with you. We definitely feel very threatened
by immigrants coming to our countries.’ I disagree with that because, yeah, they feel threatened,
but not in their origins: they feel threatened in the idea
of their collective identity, and that’s where the distinction again,
between origins and identities, is important. They feel threatened because what they do
to make up this collective identity is they take characteristics,
symbols that we all have from our origins, and they believe that everyone
has the same characteristics, or would pick the same symbols. That’s not true. Example again – In France, they talk a lot
about Joan of Arc, the nationalists. I don’t have anything to do with her, I literally don’t feel anything when someone talks to me
about Joan of Arc. I think that France
is much more about Voltaire: dark humour, fighting for a cause
all the time, loving debates. But that’s also
my only way of perceiving this, it’s my personal way
of perceiving my own origins. Everyone perceives their origins
in very different ways. And this is very much
the problem with nationalists. What they feel threatened
is not their origins; it’s their collective identity. And this collective identity
doesn’t exist. There is no identity for everyone of us;
we’re all so different. Yes, we are all influenced by our origins, and, yes, definitely the cosmopolitans
should be much more aware of how much our origins
make up things in our identity, how sometimes
we feel passionate about them, but they don’t make our identity, we don’t restrict ourselves to just that. No one should tell you who you should be
because of where you come from, because of which family you grew up in, or because you come
from this social economic background. Identity is absolutely personal, it’s the particular association
of characteristics that make you yourself. So, there we see, that, actually, if cosmopolitans
understood this distinction well, and if nationalists
understood this distinction as well, between origins and identity, well, they could definitely
reconcile on many issues. So, it’s true, we can be both cosmopolitans
and hold our origins as important. It’s not contradictory. We only have to acknowledge
that we definitely have both a very tribal sense
of wanting to be part of the group, and sometimes copy
the people from the group, and that we all want to be
very different as well, and we should live
with both of those feelings – they’re not bad, they’re great feelings – but to the extent of not hurting others, whoever they are,
and wherever they come from. Thank you. (Applause)

One thought on “We can be Cosmopolitan and give importance to origins | Sarah Gouia | TEDxEcoleHôtelièreLausanne

  1. there is a contradiction. globalism is on its way OUT. Its about nothing more than cheap labour and oligarch corruption.

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