Intimations of Independence

We all want to be independent, don't we?

Scotland may be the most noted example of a country weighing remaining within a larger union or striking out on its own. But it's not the only one.


People in the Catalonia region of Spain have spoken about becoming an independent nation. Even the Basque regions -- Spain, though parts of France are considered Basque, too -- have considered, to a certain extent, self-government.

We are at a time when people wonder what it is they're attached to, and why that's important -- from the country-wide level to the personal one. Do you define yourself by your ethnicity, or by your citizenship? And what does that citizenship give you in terms of your personal identity?

Are you an American, an Italian-American or an Asian-American or any other hyphenate? Are you a New Yorker or a Los Angelino? Are your neighbors Seattleites or a Chicagoans first? Are you southern or northern or western?

Do you define yourself by your family, your city, your state, your country, your religion or all of the above? Are you independent of anything that has affected, to some extent, your way of looking at the world?

Maybe this is why personal branding has become so powerful. We can escape our association-by-religion/region/nation by branding ourselves. Does anyone beyond her staunchest fans know where Beyoncé was born and raised? Probably not: she's Beyoncé, and that's all you need to know to picture her and her work.

In other areas -- beyond nationhood -- independence is burgeoning, out of necessity or through evolution.

The music world was upended by technological advances, and now you don't think of labels as much as you do of individual artists and the brands they create, through their music, their videos and their image. Similarly, advances in digital publishing have upended the publishing industry. If you're an author, do you define yourself by the publishing imprint that brings your work to the public or by the kind of writing you do? Many authors still want to be published by a corporate entity, yet others are looking to independence.

Think of the growing number of self-published authors, established ones such Barry Eisler or J.A.Konrath who've decided to do it themselves, and others who've decided to forego traditional publishing in order to retain control of their work. These authors aren't looking for the protection -- whatever that is -- of a large organization, but rather the freedom of owning the rights to their work.

Whatever independence means, for a nation, a person, an artist, it's becoming more and more important. We want community, certainly, but we also seek autonomy, on many levels.