I submit for your dissection a post that should have happened 3 months ago, but which I recently discovered, unpublished. Like a hidden gem, an artifact. The Basement Tapes. Hah! Re-reading the words, they don’t seem to have gone stale. In fact, the thoughts about tribalism seem to have been amplified with the events of the summer shortly after I left. I hope you enjoy my musings, old though they may be.
I’m on my way to Israel for Hannah and Sydney’s Bnot Mitzvah. Not too long ago, I woke up, having slept most of the way from Toronto. In fact, I missed just about the entire Atlantic crossing, which is too bad, since I wanted to see if I could see the aurora. I even picked a seat on the left window, the north side or the plane. It was a long-shot anyway- I’m sure there was nothing to see.
Anyway, we’re now flying over Brittany, the map indicating Lorient in the near distance, with Nantes our next crossover point. I’ve long wanted to visit Brittany, especially Lorient for the Festival Interceltique, the world’s largest Celtic music festival. Someday, hopefully. As we cross through northwestern France, I turn on Nolwenn Leroy, the French-Bretonne singer, and listen to Tri Martholod, a Breton song that means, three sailors. Next, Bro Gorsh va Radou: the unofficial anthem of Breizh (the Breton word for Brittany). What better time to listen to Breton songs!
And of course, my mind starts wandering away into the ether. Just thinking about tribalism and tribal conflict. Not too long ago, I was watching Youtube as Nolwenn sang Bro Gorsh at the Stade de France before the final of the French cup soccer match contested by two teams from Brittany. The crowd sang in unison, waving Breton flags, their faces painted with the Breton colors. It was an expression of “nationalism”, the of pride in their origins. Until the early 80s, local languages- Breton, Basque, Provencal, Langue d’Oc, couldn’t be taught in schools in France, so as not to separate the state (l’etat) into fragmented nationalities. But tribalism won out, and now there are many regional languages being revived in France.
For some reason, I’ve had many recent conversations about the tribal nature of people as a species. Not just concerning France, but everywhere- Israel, Ireland, France, Rwanda, South Africa, etc. etc. On my stopover in Toronto, I watched a World Cup match, and at the beginning, the crowd roared their anthems. Then, the teams went at each other, a peaceful proxy asserting national identity. Anthems and flags- is that really how we define ourselves?
Actually, as I sit on the Canadian flag carrier, I wondered about the US and Canada. Only a line on the map separates us. Or is it something deeper. Does that border divide us into distinct peoples, or did we become that way by virtue of having a border there? Chicken and egg?
And now heading to Israel, whose neighborhood is such a graphic example of that tribalism. Oy, it’s too much to contemplate. And we’re only over central France.