Rise of a Digital Nation

by jftownsendv

“To be in exile is to be alive.” I can’t hope to imagine what it would’ve been like for the original passengers of the Windrush coming to London, but George Lamming’s writings on the subject of exile have begun to resonate with me in a very personal way.
I’ve never been a very ‘good’ American. Seeing a large group of people recite the pledge of allegiance seems more Orwellian to me than patriotic. It’s not that I don’t understand patriotism, nationalism, and loyalties of this nature; I simply don’t feel these things as an “American”.
There are however, millions of people in this world who have never met me or heard my name, but understand exactly who I am; these people come from every country in the world. Because of the internet and social media we need no longer rely on geopolitical space to determine our cultural identities. I am a member of a digital nation. I feel immense pride in my identity as a ‘nerd’ of the global community. It’s why I have friends here in England and in many countries I’ve never even visited. We aren’t unified by a flag, a president, a queen, a slab of land, skin color, or religion but rather by our passions.
In a way this makes all of us exiles because no where on earth truly belongs to us. This is certainly a paradox of exile: belonging nowhere and yet always belonging. Rise of a Digital Nation is coincidentally the name of one of my favorite metal albums. To quote the title track:

“We cast increasingly irrelevant designs aside”
“Though far apart, united by heart”

It’s a cheesy song to be sure, but it touches on exactly what I was just describing. The transcendence of ethnically and geographically agnostic national identities makes us exiles everywhere on earth, but it also makes us connected and accepted in a way more meaningful than ever possible before the 21st century.
It would have been impossible for Lamming to predict this transcendence back in 1960, but his writing on exile, its paradoxes, and its pleasure has certainly not declined in relevance over the past 50 years.