Components of identity, individual and cultural

Discussion in 'Art & Culture' started by Tiassa, Aug 17, 2007.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Re: Culture & Identity

    What are the components that form your sense of identity? Is it what you see in the mirror's eye? What you have between your legs? Is it something artificial, like fashion and style? Ideas?

    Right now my own identity is invested almost entirely in abstraction. As much as I resent anti-identification--the art of identification according to what we're not--there is an absence of affirmative aspects. I might say "art", but I don't like to be any more specific than that, so it's not necessarily a useful designation. Principles? Again, too broad to be of any utility. Emotion and sensation? Perhaps that gives way to something more specific. Above all else, people should be happy, and that includes me. The question of how to define happiness is a deep current in my life.

    I look at the bigot, the hater, and I see that person's unhappiness. It's like a stain, but I can't necessarily tell you what substance. It's also like a disease, and this is where I become proactive: making other people miserable just to feel kinship is a difficult proposition. As repugnant as I find it, I'm also aware that from certain perspectives one can reasonably assert that we all do this.

    I look at the conflicted lover and, no matter what s/he says about the partner, the conflict is his or her own.

    I look at myself and I see someone who refuses all definitions and assignations of my person. It is better to not define myself; for all we hear about stopping to smell the roses, it seems ridiculous to pass by carnations or daffodils because they are not roses.

    There are many things I would like to call myself, but I don't deserve any of those names, and am afraid of wrapping myself too tightly in the label. The only thing I can tell anyone for certain is that I am human, and that ought to be enough. As I've said before, it will be enough for me to understand in this lifetime what it means to be human. But what purpose is there in the inherently impossible?

    Many of my human neighbors seem utterly alien to me. Their identities are invested in strange affinities. For example, politics: I vote for Democrats because they're the closest thing I'm going to get; I laugh when conservatives complain about liberal Democrats. There are no properly liberal Democrats. Voting for Democrats is my big compromise, my concession to the right wing. Yet there are some who invest tremendous energy and identity into being a Democrat or Republican. Some gun owners seem to invest a great portion of their identity in their guns. Some people see themselves according to their car, or the number of things they possess. Some want to be hip and stylish. Others glamorous. Many want to be viewed according to their intelligence or wisdom.

    As to culture, how does this identity connect you to your friends and neighbors? What are the common bonds in your personal relationships? It's said that it's easy to take advantage of me, that I'm too trusting. But that's a myth; it just takes me forever to put my foot down. Most certainly, I am not Christ, but after a lifetime of being told I'm wrong about what I perceive, it's well enough to give people a chance. Maybe they're not lying. Maybe they're not insane. At some point, though, consistency demands a response.

    I wish I could say I identify myself according to my daughter, but I can't begin to know how to explain that. But I am a number of things, and only the first one can be set in its proper place, and only that first one is utterly independent of any other aspect of my identity.

    I am human.

    I am also, in no particular order, American, male, a father, an artist, a failure, philosophical, curious, reactionary, a stoner, a communitarian, an idealist, a utopian ... the list goes on. I'm vain, an aesthete, a sad joke .... After a while, there are too many aspects to add up. In the end, I'll be comfortable wherever people let me be comfortable.

    As a result, I have no real connection to my neighbors in the world. My fellow Americans seem ridiculous unless I can corner any one of them over a beer or a bong rip.

    I don't think I'm unique in the diversity of my identity components, but I often feel that way. So I'm wondering how cultures come to identify themselves, if so many people are as fractured as I am. How do we go from individuals with so many facets to, say, our national community identity? Being an American, according to the most prevalent notions, is a concept that defies me. The more I understand about it, the more I reject it as a cultural identity. And yet, to a certain degree, it is what I am.

    So says me. But what of thee?
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  3. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    I'm confused but trying to learn but that will take a lifetime of trying to understand what life is and who people really are. As long as we try to learn, we evolve somewhat in who and what we are. It is when we stop trying is when it stops and life ceases to be relevant any longer. Remind me of this song....

    Epitaph by King Crimson

    The wall on which the prophets wrote
    Is cracking at the seams.
    Upon the instruments if death
    The sunlight brightly gleams.
    When every man is torn apart
    With nightmares and with dreams,
    Will no one lay the laurel wreath
    As silence drowns the screams.

    Between the iron gates of fate,
    The seeds of time were sown,
    And watered by the deeds of those
    Who know and who are known;
    Knowledge is a deadly friend
    When no one sets the rules.
    The fate of all mankind I see
    Is in the hands of fools.

    Confusion will be my epitaph.
    As I crawl a cracked and broken path
    If we make it we can all sit back
    and laugh.
    But I fear tomorrow I'll be crying,
    Yes I fear tomorrow I'll be crying.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2007
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  5. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    I am me. I avoid putting labels on myself now, because in the past, I have overturned my own ideas of what I thought I believed. With the passage of time, I find myself more open to different perspectives, less narrow in what I believe to be right. I have moved gradually from a staid, conservative and very insular person to one who grows daily in understanding what perspective is.

    I have let go of anger, aggression, hypocrisy, excuses and find it tiring to fit any kind mould nowadays. Strangely, I feel no desire to cling to people or ideas regardless of their previous closeness, if I feel that being with them is averse to my principles. I don't hate them or even dislike them, I merely feel no desire to continue in a fruitless endeavor that means nothing. This is difficult for me as I am by nature someone who does not give up easily. I find humor and love can overcome endless obstacles. I find people respond to understanding and a feeling that comes from not being judged.

    I have found all this very liberating, though it has been extremely difficult on the people around me. Periodically, I reinvent myself, move to a different place, another experience and start examining my opinions again.

    So now, I am just me.
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  7. peta9 Registered Senior Member

    It's important to remember you are a human being first, then your race, gender etc etc.

    For instance, one can feel a closer kinship to thier loved ones etc or even thier present culture BUT when it comes down to important issues and fundamental human rights it's not about race, creed etc. For me this extends to all life including animals as I think we should be conscious of our affect on them as well.

    I would defend anyone against one of my own race if they were wronged because I have to live by the principles that make the world a better place, otherwise that's hypocritical. If I think rape or stealing is wrong then that value applies to all humans not just my small circle.
  8. Baron Max Registered Senior Member

    In a society, people don't define themselves, they are defined by all others with whom they come into contact. One can call themselves anything they wish, but it don't mean jack shit if everyone else sees them as 'xyz'. And if everyone sees someone as 'xyz', then that's what they are it or not.

    You can't define yourself. And to think so is ...well, pretty damned egotistical and egocentric.

    Baron Max
  9. peta9 Registered Senior Member

    Who you are and what someone else says you are are two different things. Sometimes they are right and sometimes they tell themselves what what they want you to be. If they are correct or not depends on how well or honest they are judging someone else.

    Everyone defines themselves some honestly, some not and then they try to define others some honestly, some not. Egostistical and egocentric, that could apply to anyone.
  10. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    At some point, the question of "What do I believe?" seems important to making decisions. While social expectation and assignation bear much weight in identity issues, I don't expect any gang-banger to be acquitted by a jury for the defense of, "What? What did you expect of me? Why should you, who expected me to be a thug, send me to jail for being what you decided I was?"

    After all, holding him responsible for something he didn't decide for himself ...? We might as well send child rape survivors to prison for facilitating pedophilia.

    I do agree that what other people think about someone does bear on their identity, but that someone should presume to understand for themselves such concepts as right and wrong isn't what I would call "damned egotistical and egocentric".

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