What is identity?
Is it who you are?
Who are you?
Can you define your identity? Can you do it in one sentence? With one word?
Even the dictionary definition can’t define identity in one sentence or one word:
I had an idea of what identity was in a generalised meaning until I went searching for the dictionary definition of the word to copy and paste into this post. There was so much written about it that I ended up confused… I’ve often been confused about my identity, the identity of others, what identity actually is, therefore this was nothing new, it was the same old story… does that mean that being confused is my identity?
I regularly tell people that – I am confused – what I really mean is that my mind is temporarily beset by befuddlement, rather than that I am the corporeal form of confusion. Although some people might argue that I am confusion because I often confuse them with my identity when they are trying to establish who I am.
In recent times I have had to prove my identity to others (for legal purposes) so many times, more than at any other time in my life. I’ve had to go through the bureaucratic palaver of ticking boxes, jumping through the hoops of identity checks, giving answers acceptable to computer programs – which do the work humans used to do but now humans are simply there to input data and may have little say in what the computer decides.
These programs… what are they based on? Some are based on an average… But what is an average?
Do any of us really fit the average?
How is an average assessed?
The assessment of an average seems to be so… slipshod, random, compiled in a hurry based on a small group representing it for those doing the compiling.
And we may just have to accept it, cater to it, even if it is unacceptable because… that’s that… funding or time ran out on some study which no one really gave a poop about, or at least no one who was funding it or timing it gave a poop about it.
Or… personal reasons of a typical (and perhaps average) human nature intervened…
We may try to fit into the average for practical purposes, especially in the age of the computer, filling out forms, bureaucracy, etc, but is that who we are?
Who are we?
Who are others?
When I read articles about immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers (whatever identity the articles are giving them), which are aplenty at the moment as this is the news of the now, I tend to think about all the paperwork involved in the process (because of my own recent personal experience – which isn’t as extreme or important, except to me), and I imagine it from both sides of the equation (because this has helped me to deal with my own experience – to empathise with those on the other side of my equation).
Imagine what it is like for those given the job of processing immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers…
The person doing the processing is being pressured from all angles…
They may feel empathy for those they are processing, but… there are so many people all at once to process, and the person doing the processing is often not seen as a person by the organisation for which they work and by the person they are processing who may never actually meet them in person, while the person being processed hopes that the person (whom they may not see as a person but as an entity of government) doing the processing will see them as a person.
We all hope others see us as a living breathing human being as they are themselves… is this hope in vain or vain?
This processor of other people has personal pressures and responsibilities too on top of their professional ones (which entail humanitarian ones) – they are a human too, with a human life outside of what they do, and they may be expected to sacrifice that for the greater good in some way – work more hours, spend less time on yourself, with your family, and… the time they do have to spend on themselves, with their family, they’re too exhausted to deal with that.
A huge pile of papers representing people is getting higher and higher, the workload is overwhelming, the government is being pressured by the people (all the people, the ones who live in the country the government represents and those who live elsewhere, or those who want to live elsewhere), so that pressure is passed on… and they can’t just stamp a – Yes, let this person and their family stay here – because there is so much more to it than that.
Once you let someone in, you have to make sure they have a place to stay, food, clothing, financial aid, and are integrated into the community. And that’s just the tip of a very complex iceberg.
What if they or you don’t let the right one in? What if they or you let the wrong one in?
What if someone who has ulterior motives of a criminal sort is masquerading as an asylum seeker, a refugee, an immigrant… they know the system is overloaded and they know how to play the system – it’s an opportunity to those who see a selfish advantage to be gained in the suffering of others.
Ideally we would welcome all who seek a welcome if we can give it to them, but we all have personal experience of someone who takes advantage of our welcoming – that’s usually a small scale experience which affects us big time, it’s big scale for us, and we’re often not prepared to deal with the ramifications of that, past, present or future.
What about the same thing amplified a thousand times… when it is on a large scale we make our governments responsible for protecting our open door policy.
We get annoyed at the government when they don’t protect us, annoyed when they protect us too much, annoyed when what they do to protect us makes us vulnerable to their invasive practices and to others… but what about when the vulnerable need our protection and it requires making us vulnerable to protect them?
As much as it frustrates me to have to prove who I am over and over again because I know who I am, I know that I am not pretending to be someone else for nefarious reasons, I am aware that my frustrations are relatively meaningless to anyone but me.
I also know that things like identity theft are rife in society, that many people pretend to be other people for nefarious reasons (although they usually have better proof that they are who they are not than those who are who they are because they’re prepared for the gauntlet of the identity process)… I also know that others don’t know who I am. I don’t know who they are either. They’re just the person verifying my identity… but that’s not their identity.
Whenever I am interacting with others, in whatever form but especially when I need their cooperation for something which is more of interest to me and my life than it is to them and their life (it may be their job not their life, but it may be my life and not my job), I try to see things from their point of view because that is the view on which they’re most likely to be focused.
Most people start where they are. If I can figure out where they are, what they’re seeing, thinking, feeling, then I can help them help me by helping them help themselves. Or something like that.
We’re all connected, and we’re sometimes very disconnected about our connections and interconnectedness.
If someone is checking my identity as part of their job, and their job is something which I need them to do for my self-interest, then they need my cooperation… not for me to have a self-righteous indignation trip, to shout – Don’t you know who I am!?!? – and expect them to understand where I’m coming from.
If you want others to make the effort to understand from where you are coming, you have to make the effort to understand from where they are coming.
You have to give to get, especially when you want them to give so you can get.
When we’re too focused on what we need, want, our goal… we may forget that others have needs, wants and goals too, and those may not involve fulfilling ours for us, just as ours may not involve fulfilling theirs for them.
When we’re too caught up in our pain, our desperation, our tragedy, our story… we may forget that others have pain, desperation, tragedy, stories too, and theirs may make them not receptive to ours as we are not receptive to theirs.
Pain is narcissistic. We feel entitled because of our pain to receive preferential healing treatment. But we’re not the only ones who feel that way. Our pain may trump the pain of others… but others may feel that way too about their own pain. It sometimes becomes a competition… it is not a competitive sport, no one is winning any medals for this contest.
You often see in articles about the immigrant issue pressing home the point that immigrants are humans, and not just any humans but ones who are suffering and are in desperate need. This type of media is directed in a subtle shaming manner at those who are not immigrants, those who may live in the countries to which the immigrants are traveling, and who are perhaps feeling overwhelmed by the situation.
The attitude is one of – aren’t you ashamed of having so much when others have nothing! Aren’t you ashamed that you’re afraid of them and their sudden increased influx into your territory – they’re terrified, their migration is a matter of life and death to them! You’re just worried about whether you have to share your comfy chair! These immigrants are humans!
Of course the immigrants are humans!
Humans who have a very human story.
Of course they have a very human story.
A human story of suffering and desperation which explains why they are abandoning their homelands, where they were born, have roots, lived, had a life, perhaps prospered, had an identity, were someone, and once maybe felt safe, etc, and are undertaking a dangerous journey into the unknown.
Of course they are suffering and desperate!
And, of course, we would probably be doing what they are doing if we were in their place.
If we were in their place… and they were in ours… if our countries were war torn, hell on earth unable to be lived in by normal citizens, and we chose to flee our countries to seek shelter in their countries to find a new life, a new home, hope… How would they feel about us, what would they think, how would their governments react to a flood of us?
Aren’t we humans too? Would they see us as humans… would we see them as humans?
Do they see us as humans too?
Do they understand why we may not be particularly welcoming? How their fear and desperation is triggering our fear and desperation?
It’s not that we don’t want to help them, it’s not that we don’t realise that they’re human (although some articles seem to think we’ll be surprised and perhaps shocked by this information), it’s more that we’re human too and being human is not a straightforward identity.
Do they understand that their story affects our very human story?
Or are we too privileged in their eyes. Spoiled by the relative safety of the country in which we live. Whining about our first world problems…
We are aware that we do this… hence all the memes poking fun at our ‘first world problems’.
For them to find a new home in a place which is our home… they may pay heavily for it. Risk their lives, wisk the lives of their nearest and dearest. I don’t need the media to shove the photo of a dead and drowned child in my face to make that clear. I don’t need a child to be a victim for me to care and realise that the adults are victims too.
What kind of identity are we being given by the media that they think we’ll only care about an issue if a child dies tragically for it? Do they think we don’t value the life of adults, that we are impervious to all the adults who have drowned and died while seeking refuge? Don’t they realise that our individual human self feels powerless to help so many desperate people all at once when we can barely help ourselves deal with our own problems… problems which are being made insignificant with every news report and article aimed at shaming us for thinking we have any problems at all.
I realise that the media may think I’m thick and addled with selfishness (or may be doing something else… because the media is not as free as it appears to be from the influence of… systems). So I may need to be poked… to get me to do something someone else wants me to do. Or get me to not do something which someone else doesn’t want me to do.
Look at the birdy… tweet, tweet!
I know these humans need help… if I was in their place I’d need help…
As a human, who has needed help, I’ve come against the wall of other humans not helping you when you’re in pain and desperate. I was told that being in pain and desperate is a ‘turn off’ for others. If you want help, you’re more likely to get it when you don’t want it than when you need it.
That little sliver of human paradox has proved itself to be true more often than not – it’s totally twisted, as most human stuff is.
Yes, my case was never as extreme as the cases of these immigrants – they win the human suffering competition and olympic gold. And I do feel ashamed for paying any mind to my own issues, for feeling as though I have experienced suffering, pain, when theirs is so much worse than mine have ever been.
However in my experience of being all wrapped up in my own suffering and pain, one lesson amongst others kept being taught was… you may be paying a high price, but what about the price others have to pay for your suffering.
Those in the countries which are a destination for immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, from whom they seek help… they are human too, and they may have to pay for helping others, and what if they can barely make ends meet, can barely house, clothe, feed themselves and their family… and part of that has to do with paying the sort of price which comes from living in a relatively safe country.
If we didn’t have to pay the taxes which we pay, then we might make our ends meet… instead we struggle while the money which could make our struggle less of a struggle pays for the easing of the struggles of others. Yes, their struggles are far worse than ours… we know this and feel ashamed, which makes everything so much more complicated rather than easier. We want to help, because we know what it is like to need help (empathy), but helping others, helping our government help others (and knowing our taxes paid to help others often don’t go where we think they go)… the theory and practice can sometimes test the human element in every human being involved.
They get given things, housing, food, clothing, etc, by our government which our government doesn’t give its citizens as easily as it gives them to immigrants. And we know it doesn’t give them to immigrants easily, we know they have to go through a shitload of bureaucracy because… so do we. But sometimes it seems easier for immigrants to get it than it is for the country’s own citizens to get it.
This could be an optical illusion, but…
Illusions can at times be more real than reality, especially when we’re caught up in an illusion which we’re being made to swallow as reality… not just by ourselves by by others (others who sometimes do a 180 and expect us to get with the new programming).
Before you jump down my throat, for expressing my thoughts (which aren’t fixed as yet, I process them by sharing), from your holier than thou position, safely anonymous on the internet, to attack me without fear of reprisals which will affect you personally in any way as I can’t find out who you really are behind your anonymous cloaking devices…
I know that I am an ignorant twat who has been spoiled by growing up in a privileged environment. My parents made that clear to me, society backed them up. I grew to agree with all of them, and hate myself for it – for all of it from every angle as average humans tend to do. We’re just the right side of self-esteem that the special people want us to be on to prove their identity to themselves using ours.
I’m saying that not because of how I perceive myself, or my ramblings, or how I perceive others per se, but because in one of the articles about the immigrant situation – an article which stated that immigrants are human (and wrote about this ‘human’ factor in a way which suggested the writer saw themselves as somehow enlightened compared to everyone else), which played heavily upon being empathic towards others (those others being only the immigrants), that understanding their side of the issue is more important than any other side (the other side being anyone else’s side but the immigrants) – someone expressed a view in the comments which played devil’s advocate on behalf of the other side (the side of those who were not immigrants but who lived in the countries the immigrants were traveling to and hoping to settle in) – trying to balance the issue, share the other aspects which make up the whole – and they were attacked in typical online style.
If we want a solution to a problem we need to consider all aspects of the problem to find a solution which solves all aspects of the problem for everyone involved. I realise that’s idealistic, but we do need to perceive things from as many angles as we can or those missed angles will cause our mathematics to come up with a wrong solution.
The commenter on this article who tried showing another side used their actual name and a picture of themselves as their profile pic whereas the person who attacked them for sharing their view hid behind a cartoon avatar and an esoteric name. That struck me as rather interesting.
Humans… when it comes to humanity can be all for all, but totally against a one in our quest to prove that we’re all for all… yet we may hide the one that we are while being against another one to prove that we are as we claim to be – all for all. If you’re all for all but against a one… doesn’t that negate your claim? Isn’t the all made up of all ones? If you’re against one… then you’re not for the all for all, you’re on one side, for a one-sided all which isn’t a total of all because there is another side made of another all.
You’re basically all for the side which makes the one that you are seem like it is a one for all, therefore making the all part of your one which is above and beyond all other ones.
To maintain your identity you have to censor the identity of others…
I am… statements are in theory used to state our identity, to tell people who we are, but in practice we use them for so much more than just that.
We use them for status updates – I am eating an ice cream. I am walking the dog. I am swinging on a trapeze.
To express our goals – I am going to eat an ice cream (someone please stop me as I am lactose intolerant and I am not supposed to eat this type of delectable treat). I am planning on walking the dog (but I am comfortable sprawled on this sofa, it is cold outside and I am warm here). I am going to join the circus (as I am sure that I would make an excellent trapeze artist even though I am in possession of butter fingers).
To express our mood – I am hungry (and I am craving creamy sweet goodness which is making me reckless). I am tired (and I am feeling lazy, hazy and dazy, and annoyed with my dog for making me feel guilty as I don’t want to take it for a walk). I am… bored with this part of my post.
Speaking of boredom, what kind of bored are you?
extract from an August 2015 edition of New Scientist (I’m the most damaging style of bored, btw…)
Some people identify themselves and make I am… statements along the lines of…
I am a good person… and to prove this I will compare myself to others whom I have identified as being bad, evil, not good persons.
Is that really the kind of identity system you want to use?
What if there are no other people with whom to compare yourself, then what? Who are you without others?
We all use the comparison system, it’s a human system and it can work as much as it can… not work. Depends on how we use it and the consequences of that.
If we rely too heavily upon it we may end up victims of our own success, and wishing we had failed.
Who we are is made of so many multiple ingredients that… the recipe is a secret even from ourselves (just in case we’re tempted to mess with it and in the messing screw up the formula which keeps us real).
We need to keep ourselves real… even if that’s an impossible task in an unreal world. In an ever-changing world which is forever changing who we are, within and without. Still worth a try… even if it is trying, and even if those who do anything but keep it real seem to be more successful at life than those who do.
I have an idea of who I am… that idea is mostly based on basics. Such as the sort of things which I say, do, think, feel, and am when I’m too tired to not say, do, think, feel, and be them.
My magic formula for authenticity, and authentic identity, is… be too knackered to be anything else.
I’m actually a nicer person when I’m ill, than when I’m healthy… what does that say about me!?!
Forget about that…
Forget about me…
What about you?
Who are you?
An interesting and thought-provoking post. 🙂
The auntie of the little boy who drowned is from Canada and was trying to get him and the rest of his family to BC since March. Since we are in the middle of a federal election, the politicians are all falling over each other to point out either heartlessness or a lack of attention to security. Yes, the Liberals say, we’ll take in 10 million refugees! Yes, say the New Democrats, we’ll take in 20 million refugees!! The Conservatives say we need to keep our nation secure! It’s been enlightening watching these people try to deal with this and try to please everyone while not pissing anyone off.
I like how you have framed this. We are made to feel guilty for what we have, for having fallen into it because of an accident of birth. There are many people just holding it together. And in this context, I keep wondering our First Nations. They are still far behind on education and many of them live in worse conditions than the refugees. I don’t know what the answer is to nay of this, but you have made very salient points here.
As for my identity, I’m an INTP as well, so I am just going to say that I am me, trying to be the best me I can be, whatever that means.
Thank you 🙂
I was a bit worried about this post because I don’t usually blog about current issues in the news which have political and other ramifications. However, I think this particular issue is one which connects to the personal. The history and evolution of humans is all about migration. Our roots, identity, is tied up in what the generations before us did. The history of human migration is fraught with all sorts of issues that inform us of the complications of mass migration.
Immigrants can enrich the country into which they migrate, but there is always an adjustment period which may include an identity crisis for the whole nation.
My father’s family emigrated from their homeland due to extreme poverty. He himself only moved within his country, went north in search of opportunity because they were starving where they were, he grew up in what was considered a slum or ghetto. He was one of many who did that at the time, who flooded a northern town with southerners, and even within a country of which he was a citizen this caused fear, prejudice and problems. Other members of his family migrated abroad.
Would I exist if they hadn’t done that? Would I have what I was born into and so on if that hadn’t happened? In my personal case the answer is – No. Because my mother and father only met due to my mother migrating to another country in search of opportunity.
My mother’s family were northerners in their own country who migrated south during a big north to south internal migration in search of opportunity due to similar issues which my father’s family faced, and which inspires many people to migrate.
I read a very interesting article about ‘middle class’ Algerians who choose to risk the people smuggling route to find a better life even though they aren’t in dire circumstances where they are as they are. All humans seek a better experience and quality of life.
My personal history includes living most of my life in countries of which I am not a citizen. And I’ve done quite a bit of traveling where the first rule is to remember that even if you’re a tourist who is benefiting the economy of a country, you’re still ‘invading’ the homeland of others on some level and need to respect the people who live there, their views, customs, realise that they’re human and that this is their home which they are allowing you to visit and stay there.
I also got a bit hot under the collar (which inspires many of my rambling posts) about the whole – they’re human – aspect which was expressed in a way that reminded me a bit of – Soylent Green is People – and those doing the whole – They’re people like us – thing seemed to be people congratulating themselves on realising that other people are humans too and seemed to think other people didn’t know this already and needed enlightening.
Everyone knows that the immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees, are human… but they’re a lot of humans all at once and that can feel like an invasion to our primal instincts, even if our intellect knows that’s not what is going on.
I had to go through the system to live where I live now, the paperwork and waiting times to have my status approved needed for me to be patient and to rely on a system which is easily overwhelmed and gets backed up. When I finally got approved I was advised to guard my approval carefully because there are those who would kill, lie, cheat, steal for what I had been granted – and it was a government official who told me that while I was going through another process the system requires even after you’ve been granted approval.
There are some very harrowing stories being given the media treatment at the moment, but the media covering them has an agenda which isn’t always clear. We criticise our governments for not doing enough, but our governments are made of people, of humans too. We’re angry at them for not saying yes to everyone, and we’d be angry at them for saying yes to everyone, seeking asylum.
I read an interesting article on the BBC news website about the problems involved in the current asylum seeker issue from a legal aspect. Many asylum seekers want to migrate to certain countries, like Germany, which offer more to them than the countries on which they first land. But legally they may negate their asylum seeker status by crossing borders and they then become immigrants which has another set of laws applying to it. It is so complicated from many aspects and it is also overwhelming from many aspects. Legal and otherwise.
I also read an article about how many of those in the countries closer to the immigrants home of origin feel that their countries aren’t doing enough to help their neighbours (there’s a recent Twitter trending hashtag about it), and may be encouraging those in need to take desperate measures and put their life in the hands of criminal organisations which profit from people smuggling. The recent spate of drownings is due to people smugglers overloading boats way beyond their maximum capacity – people smugglers get paid in advance what do they care what happens after that. That’s people not treating other people as people but as profit margins.
The good news is that the majority want to help, even our governments, which we the people often see as the villain, want to help, but it’s complicated and anything involving people, humans… it’s never as simple as we idealistic want it to be.
It’s important that we also realise that everyone is human, and making one bunch of humans feel guilty about being human because of another bunch of humans isn’t a solution to a problem which affects all humans.
It’s great to be an INTP, but sometimes… our need to see too many perspectives can make us forget about our own! 🙂
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Yes – one too many perspectives! I find myself sitting on the fence about which party I’m going to vote for in the election. Out of the three, one is a definite no while I’m see-sawing back and forth between the other two. Changes daily. 🙂
Of course, with the exception of the present government’s policies, most Canadians see themselves as very open to taking in immigrants. We are a country of immigrants. Even our First Nations are (ancient) immigrants. Most of us were fleeing something or pursuing something. And you are very right, it’s the very nature of humans to try to secure a better whatever. I just did so myself. To try to stop it – well, you may as well cover us with dirt. And there are always going to be those who see dollar signs in the needs or desires of others. Having come from narcissistic backgrounds, we both know first-hand about that.
When I hear or read commentary about how many of the refugees aren’t “really” refugees – they’re pursuing better economic opportunities because they want to go to Germany – it makes me think that it’s pretty easy to make that judgement when you’re comfortably situated with your bills paid and full kitchen cupboards and a roof over your head. The economy of Syria is a mess. Even if these people aren’t in immediate danger, how are they supposed to live? And are there hidden terrorists? Probably. But we have always had that problem, too. We don’t stop serving soup at homeless shelters because a gun-wielding maniac might appear.
Good discussion. Thanks. 🙂
PS – I’ve been deathly ill with flu and also tryingto work; just catching up on your posts now. 🙂
Thank you very much 🙂
It’s a fascinating subject with so many tangents, I’ve enjoyed the discussion too. The points you’ve made are excellent. Nothing is ever straightforward when it comes to human affairs of any sort, especially once politics gets involved. We all want something better, we get a bit antsy when someone else wants that for themselves too as it may impact what we get.
Take good care of yourself, your move as awesome as it is, is also highly the kind which the physical self can find too much.
I read an interesting article in the New Scientist about the immune system and how we sometimes get ill as a way to get us to pay more attention to caring for ourselves. It’s like our whole system agrees to go into hibernation to catch up to the demands we’ve placed on it. Modern life doesn’t always give us time to be considerate towards our whole system and recover from a big change.
Best wishes, get well soon!
Thanks. I am still struggling a bit with not feeling well but slowly getting there. I think that you are quite right about an “intervention” to get me to slow down. 🙂
Hope all is well with you. 🙂
Things are moving along with me on the home front… eek! 🙂
I’m trying to keep myself chilled so I don’t make myself sick. I have a tendency to get ill when I expect too much from myself, or at least when my mind forgets that it’s attached to a body which can’t keep up with what the mind wants to do.
Take good care of yourself and rememeber that you’re an intricate whole, a complex system, which all needs to work together ❤
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