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A Demonstration of Catalan Nationalists.  Photo: Courtesy of Sergil.

Identity Awakening.  I like that term.

It’s a term that geopolitical analysts and commentators have improvised to account for how globalization has produced a sort of paradoxical effect.

“Everywhere we see regionalism, nationalism as well as religious devotion growing in intensity, sometimes morphing into intolerance. It’s the great paradox of globalization: Far from erasing the peoples’ identitarian and cultural claims, it reinforces them,” writes Li Figaro’s Renaud Giraud.

Technology in the form of digitalization has played a role, too. This takes me back to the writings of the recently deceased Alvin Toffler, a futurist who wrote extensively about the the implications of digital technology, especially in terms of how it would transform society, culture, politics and the economy.

Toffler perceived demassification as one very palpable effect of digital technology.  Mass media would no longer be, well, a mass phenomenon.  There would be no more news anchormen of the stature, not to mention, with the temerity, of Walter Cronkite ending newscasts with the hyper-confident pronouncement:  “That’s the way it is…”

As bandwidth expanded, Toffler predicted that media would scale down to accommodate smaller, more defined audiences.

Remarkably, though, this demassification is not only affecting media but also entire nations.

Demassification seems to have played a major role in the “identity awakenings” occurring throughout the world, particularly in Europe.  It even appears that identity awakenings soon will be playing out in America.  Judging from what’s occurring in California, Texas, Vermont,and Cascadia, they already are.

And why shouldn’t they?  If the Toffler’s musings drove home one realization to me, it’s that national identities based on strong, highly centralized governments are a relic associated with 20th century industrialism, just as mass media are – were.

While I am a great sympathizer with and proponent of identity awakenings, I’m no rigid ideologue.  We are urgently in need of decentrism in America, but  we also depend on a common American market and a common defense, much as Europeans require a common continental market and defense apparatus. But to demand that continents as culturally diverse as America and Europe march in cultural and even political lockstep? It’s madness, as more and more people are coming to realize.

Sooner or later, our institutions will reflect that new reality.  Let’s hope that this occurs as a result of peaceful evolution.