This morning, I kicked off my day watching online videos of patriotic Lebanese music and scenic images of my home country. While doing so, I had to chuckle at my seemingly cliché reaction to residing overseas for more than a month.
Nevertheless, after reconnecting with my roots, I felt refreshed and ‘reminded’ of a major aspect of my ‘Self’. You see, after having been immersed in a different nation and culture for weeks, I had woken up for the first time, with a nagging feeling that something was missing. There was some kind of void that needed to be filled. In professor Hayden’s words, “Nationalism is a feeling that you can’t shake. It is at the center of your identity.” And I was the living, acting proof of those words.
Another point that is highlighted through my experience is the fundamental importance of mass media’s role in cultivating and nourishing a ‘nationalistic’ feeling among people. After all, had the mere act of watching those videos this morning, not invoked and re-confirmed my pride for my country? All it took was a few minutes worth of symbols, sounds and image bombardment from home, to somewhat fill the void. If we take a step back and observe just how much mass media and nationalism are intertwined, we must agree with the scholar Karim H Karim’s claim that nations are an ‘imagined community’, willed into existence by belief and action.
To elaborate his point further, Karim brings up Anthony Smith, another leading scholar on the concept of the nation,
“Contemporary states often maintain themselves with an adherence to a distinctive mythology, symbolism and culture associated with an ancient homeland. In order to do this they often have to mobilize masses to believe in the authenticity of this symbolism through educational and mass communication systems.”
This phenomenon is especially obvious in light of the fact that, an entire media industry especially targeted at diasporic populations across the world, exists, to remind people of their true homes and ideals, lest they forget, in the process of assimilating and living in a new place. The Lebanese LBC International, the Hispanic US network Univision, and Zee TV, India’s global network, are just a few examples of outlets who customize their message for expatriates, similar to myself, starving for a connection with their roots and simultaneously… with their identity.