by Miyu Fujihara
In Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson talks that the self-sacrifice for the nation comes from the idea of disinterestedness one feels for the nation and that this is similar to the sense that one feels for the family. People cannot choose where to be born and thus that it is natural that people feel strong connection to it, which one can’t control or change.
In other words, people imagine there’s a fatality to belonging to one’s nation and that nation can represent and express that person as well. Also, Anderson states that people cannot feel tied as much to those international organizations that seek for certain interests, like Amnesty International, because one can get out of these community whenever she/he wants to, unlike the relationship between one and one’s nation.
When combined, these two ideas mean that the one cannot die for a non-nation, such as an international organization, because there’s no fatality between them. However, when looking at the history and the number of those who work for the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations, it seems that Anderson’s statement doesn’t necessarily apply.
In the UN peacekeeping operations, especially for military personnel, there is always a chance to lose their lives during the operations, but there are 97,000 uniformed military personnel from over 110 countries and this system has been maintained ever since 1948. This explains that a number of people are willing to work for the UN peacekeeping operations. In other words, many wish to foster world peace even by risking their lives for the UN peacekeepers’ aim, which is to help countries suffered from conflicts to create a condition for peace. It is again clearly contradicting the idea that Anderson’s has. These personnel can sacrifice themselves to sustain world peace, not necessarily to protect their countries.
Nonetheless, on the uniform that they wear during the operation has name of their own nation like Japan, Brazil and the United States and so on, apart from the symbol of the UN and the blue helmet. At this specific point, it does not make sense to have the name of nation seen. If they are truly working for the UN and have so called “UN identity” believing in world peace, not representing their own nations, only should the UN symbol be on it.
This leaves questions that why they hope to join the UN peacekeeping programs while risking their lives, and also why they do not forget to belong to a certain nation. In my opinion, as Anderson says, people cannot sacrifice for nothing but their own nation, and this is why they still want to have their national symbol on them when they know they might die at any time to show their nation-ness. Borrowing Anderson’s words, by doing so, they change the operations disinterested from interested.
Anderson, Benedict. 2006. Imagined Communities. London: Verso Books.
The United Nations. (n.d.). The United Nations Peace Keeping. Retrieved from the United Nations: http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/issues/women/