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Struggle With Problems of Cultural Identity

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Many countries throughout Europe have struggled with cultural identity issues and America could learn a lot from these issues and what the best solutions are to dealing with them. Cultural identity is typically the set of characteristics that either an individual or a group of people define themselves as. Typically cultural identity is a part of one’s social identity that mirrors in one’s self-perception and self-definition within a group, feeling as if they belong to that specific group (Eugine Tartakovsky). When more than one identity group is attempting to live together under one government this can often cause problems among the groups. Different groups are often not as accepting of one another. This leads to more established groups in a particular country to often have a difficult time accepting new immigrant groups into their country. Sometimes conflict arises within one country who once had a national identity but are starting to break apart into different identity groups. This can often drive groups to create separatist movements or lead groups to immigrate to a different country. All across Europe, these conflicts have been and are currently arising. In Scotland, Spain, and separatist movements and issues with integration of different communities.

In Scotland, the government is dealing with a major separatist movement. Half of Scotland population wants independence from the United Kingdom and to be a sovereign state. In Catalonia, there is a similar situation caused by a conflict of identity. A portion of Spain’s population, known as Catalonia, wishes to be independent from the rest of the state and be their own sovereign state. Whereas is experiencing immigration issues that relate back to cultural identity issues. All three of these countries in Europe are dealing with cultural identity-related issues. The United States could learn a lot from each of these different cases, specifically what not to do to deal with cultural identity issues. Scotland’s government has been experiencing a separatist movement since post World War II. Half of Scotland’s population is in favor of separating and the other half wishes to remain a part of the United Kingdom. After the wake of World War II, Scotland was experiencing a postwar economic downfall.

The war had devastating effects on Scotland and the United Kingdom’s economy, causing many of Scotland’s citizens to protest and desire independence from the United Kingdom. There are many major factors leading the separatist movement, with the biggest one being economics (Christopher Borgen). They felt as though Scotland’s economy was suffering due to the United Kingdom’s policies, which made them want greater autonomy to deal with economic policies that affected them directly, themselves. Leading to the creation of the Scottish National Party. The Scottish National Party is a political party that advocates on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom. They argue that Scotland’s geographical separation from the rest of the United Kingdom causes relative deprivation and they feel as though the United Kingdom is not paying attention to their specific wants and needs. Those who want independence for Scotland feel ad though they have a different cultural identity than the rest of the United Kingdom, and want greater autonomy and control of their own government in order to satisfy their cultural identity needs and wants. For years, the Scottish National Party and its strong group of supporters fought for an independent state.

This ultimately lead to the 2014 referendum where there was a vote as to if Scotland would become a separate independent sovereign state. The referendum vote resulted with 44.7% of voters voting in favor of independence from the United Kingdom and 55% of voters voting against independence. Although Scotland did not gain independence, the separatist movement continues today where there is talk of a second referendum vote that will take place in the near future. Scotland’s government is under pressure and unsure of what to do in order to satisfy both sides of the movement. The United States can learn a substantial amount from Scotland’s cultural identity issue. When citizens begin to feel separated from their government something should be done about it. In the case of Scotland, after World War II the Scottish government should have done more to make sure that the rest of the United Kingdom’s government was paying attention to them and their citizens and how new policy would affect them. The United States should learn from this that they need to attempt to please as much as the population as they can and not ignore the minorities voice.

Making an effort to include each and every different cultural identity group and understanding their wants and needs. This might be a difficult task, but listening to each identity groups wants and needs and not ignoring one or the other could be an effective way of keeping peace among their citizens. Strength in the identity of the group and feelings of relative deprivation lead to separatist political beliefs (Abrams & Grant). Scotland should have stepped in before the identity of the group and separatist beliefs strengthened. Similar to the situation that has been unfolding for years in Scotland, Spain is going through a separatist movement within their own state as well. As Savannah Granata and William Krull explained in their presentations, some of the population of Spain, known as Catalonia, feels as though their cultural identity has been stripped and they have been protesting for independence from the state. These citizens that want independence and to become their own sovereign state, feel as though they have been unjustly treated by the government of Spain.  The citizens of Catalonia, claim that they have a different cultural identity compared to the rest of the state. They speak their own language known as Catalonian, have special traditions, and overall do not share the same culture as the rest of Spain.

There have been violent protests between these citizens and the Spanish government as well as a denied referendum in 2017 that was noted as illegal. As Savannah pointed out, if all of Spain’s population were to vote on giving Catalonia independence, they would most likely be granted it. The major problem is that many Catalonian citizens are afraid to vote due to the fear of prosecution for the way they vote. Which results in fewer people going out to vote. Catalonia feels as though the government of Spain does not represent them and they wish to establish their or sovereign state and government. It appears as though Spain is attempting assimilation and wants Catalonia to assimilate to the rest of Spain’s culture, instead of granting them independence. Similar to the advice and lessons that the United States can learn from Scotland, they can learn very comparable things from the cultural identity issue that is going on in Spain. The United States should look at Catalonia and the violence that is coming from this issue and understand that the way these people are being treated is not right. Spain’s government should not have let this situation get this bad and needed to work with the Catalonian citizens long before the violence broke out.

When the citizens of Catalonia began to feel culturally, and politically different from the rest of Spain, the government should have stepped in and addressed these grievances instead of letting the situation get worse and allowing the protests to grow. The United States in the future should attempt to compromise with its citizens more and make sure that their voices, wants and needs are taken care of to avoid an issue like Spain’s. The government of Spain has been noted to act in an authoritarian matter, ignoring the right of freedom of speech, freedom to assemble and freedom to demonstrate and harming its citizens when they express these rights (OpenDemocracy). The United States should learn from this that violating and harming citizens when they are not violating the law is not the correct approach to dealing with these situations. Governments all across the worls need to take multiculturalism approachs to deal with cultural identity issues. There is no clear solution as to how to deal with cultural identity issues within a state.

The United States can learn a substantial amount about how to deal with these situations and how not to deal with them from looking at Europe. In the cases of Scotland, Spain, and there is a high amount of what not to do to deal with identity issues. Scotland’s government needed to step up on their citizen’s behalf to the United Kingdom and show them that some policy is affecting them negatively. Spain’s government should have compromised with Catalonia instead of dismissing and ignoring them. Government needed. Overall the United States should take away from these three situations and the many other issues going on all across Europe, that a multiculturalism, compromising approach is best and stepping in before major issues occur is another important factor. Multiculturalism is the when multiple cultures exist together it is the process of ensuring they can coexist together (Nuraans Davids). Combining different aspects from all across Europe that have worked in cultural identity issues is a good solution for the United States to promote coexistance.

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