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A culture is a unit only insofar a number is a unit. The fact that we express 1 as a finite and discrete number expresses our tidiness and our sense of economy, not necessarily something exterior to ourselves that is called a number. A number is a thing upon which violence has been committed to make it what it is. When we number something we cut it from its ¬†background. One apple, two apples. What is one apple with a bit taken out of it? Is it still one apple? All units are a product of ontological violence: separating something conceptually does not mean it is separated in existence. What would an apple be without a universe to exist in? Because 1, in each concrete instance of a one, is defined by decision, we could also define one as not 0.999999 or 1.000001. Numbers obey borders and so do words, they are territories, subject to border conflict and diplomacy. "A culture" is a unit defined by a border, the border is imposed and defines the culture a posteriori by whoever decides to define that particular culture. The borders of words like "that culture" are subject to heated territorial disputes. "Do you deny there is something called Englishness?" he asked threateningly. Oh yes there is Englishness and there is German-ness and French-ness. They are cultures of exacerbated difference, of nationalism, of self-conscious differentiation, so they must exist, they are forced into being by the wish to have things so. The concentration of Englishness is highest at the source of definition and at the moment of definition. When tributes have been paid, life can get on with things and forget such nonsense. Englishness, Jamaicanness and French-ness belong to the self-conscious, to those who feel threatened by denial, by sameness. Nationalism is a placebo. The real joke is that much of what constitutes Englishness is also a determining part of other self-conscious cultures. Most Englishness is also French and German, Dutch, Danish and Spanish and whatever else. It might be safer to see a culture as a cell rather than a unit. A cell exists as a result of a continuous, partially selective and largely purposive metabolic exchange with what lies outside.

 

     

 

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