On being from somewhere, but writing from/of everywhere

Joseph O’Neill, as part of the Atlantic’s four-part Border Crossings collection of essays:

There is a venerable tradition of being critical of nationalism and its assumptions. Nationalism proposes that a person’s freedom is justly maximized if the obligations limiting that freedom are set by the group with which he has most in common—i.e., his nation. A Frenchwoman’s freedom is best entrusted to a French government. Cosmopolitanism, by contrast, proposes that, as an ethical and therefore political matter, a person can belong only in a global community. Therefore a person’s freedom is qualified by obligations to others arising irrespective of the nationality or proximity of the other, or—nodding to the contribution of Emmanuel Levinas—l’autre.

…Writers, in order to produce something truly worthwhile, must be ruled only by their deepest impulses, which can come from anywhere and lead in a million valuable directions. But it does seem that those who internalize the new world have every chance of writing something newly interesting.

Read the whole essay here.