"I prefer the edge: the place where countries, communities, allegiances, affinities, and roots bump uncomfortably up against one another - where cosmopolitanism is not so much an identity as the normal condition of life. Such places once abounded. Well into the twentieth century there were many cities comprising multiples communities and languages - often mutually antagonistic, occasionally clashing, but somehow coexisting. Sarajevo was one, Alexandria another. Tangiers, Salonica, Odessa, Beirut, and Istanbul all qualified [...]
To be sure, there is something self-indulgent in the assertion that one is always at the edge, on the margin. Such a claim is only open to a certain kind of person exercising very particular privileges. Most people, most of the time, would rather not stand out: it is not safe. If everyone else is a Shia, better to be a Shia. If everyone in Denmark is tall an white, then who - given a choice - would opt to be short and own? And even in an open democracy, it takes a certain obstinacy of character to work willfully against the grain of one's community, especially if it is small.
But if you are born at intersecting margins and [...] are at liberty to remain there, it seems to me a decidedly advantageous perch [...]
[...] I believe I can understand and even empathize with those who know what it means to love a country. I don't regard such sentiments as incomprehensible; I just don't share them. But over the years these fierce loyalties - to a country, a God, an idea, or a man - have come to terrify me. The thin veneer of civilization rests upon what may well be an illusory faith in our common humanity. But illusory or not, we would do well to cling to it. Certainly, it is that faith - and the constrains it places upon human misbehavior - that first go in times of war or civil unrest.
We are entering, I suspect, upon a time of troubles. It is not just the terrorists, the bankers, and the climate that are going to wreck havoc with our sense of security an stability. Globalization itself - the "flat" earth of so many irenic fantasies - will be a source of fear and uncertainty to billions of people who will turn to their leaders for protection. "Identities" will grow mean and tight, as the indigent and the uprooted beat upon the ever-rising walls of gated communities from Delhi to Dallas.
Being "Danish" or "Italian", "American" or "European" won't just be an identity; it will be a rebuff and a reproof to those whom it excludes. The state, far from disappearing, may be about to come into its own: the privileges of citizenship, the protections of card-holding residents, will be wielded as political trumps. Intolerant demagogues in established democracies will demand "tests" - of knowledge, of language, of attitude - to determine whether desperate newcomers are deserving of British or Dutch or French "identity". They are already doing so. In this brave new century we shall miss the tolerant, the marginals: the edge people. My people."