Identity

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endsjustifythememe
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Identity

Post by endsjustifythememe » Wed Jan 10, 2018 3:03 pm

I consciously made this thread here, rather than at CFC, because I realize it would just be a shitshow over there. What sparked me to ponder this topic is a story my girlfriend told me:

She leads an organization that collects money to feed refugees that are just entering Europe. In order to collect said money they are doing "solidary cookouts", food is prepared and offered for free, people donate based on what they think it is worth and how big their wallet is. These cookouts are held in youth centres, soup kitchens, concert venues. Two days ago they had a meeting, recruiting new members. My girlfriend was just going through the motions, when her partner interrupted her: "You know, your German is absolutely terrible for a German. Even Said's (her boyfriend, a refugee from Iran) German is better than yours. You should take a course."

My girlfriend was hurt and obviously embarrassed. Her partner is a convinced, almost militant leftist, she brought that up multiple times during the meeting. Now, my girlfriend is half-Japanese and her mother, god forsake her, spoke exclusively Japanese at home. She never taught her children German. My girlfriend was struggling throughout Kindergarden and elementary school, having to learn a new language basically from scratch. She now has a college degree and can write scientific papers with ease.

I really wondered what made her partner make that comment. Then I also wondered why exactly she considers my girlfriend to be German, what constitutes her being German, considering she grew up in an environment (not just her mom, also her mom's friends.. her own friends) speaking exclusively Korean and Japanese, almost like an ethnic enclave inside of Germany.

Now we are getting to the bottom of this issue. My girlfriend told me that she doesn't really consider herself German and never has. Neither does she consider herself Japanese, seeing as how she is detached from her family there and has only visited the country twice. She said she didn't identify with a singular culture or identity, but didn't know what that was called. I told her she was a cosmopolitan, in the oldschool greek sense of the world of course, as coined by Diogenes the Cynic.

I have also never really considered myself German. Of course I like that cosmopolitan label because it makes me feel like a special snowflake, but I wonder how you guys feel about your identity. I reject whiteness. I do however identify as European. I reject German identity, but I do, if I am being honest with myself, accept my localized, Franconian (a part of Bavaria) identity. I don't identify as Bavarian.

Do you also feel like identity is something that you -- as an individual -- are fixated with? Are pinpointed with, put in a drawer full of stereotypes and generelizations you would like to avoid? I had a very smart professor who had a particular concept of the death of authorital identity. He explained it this way: Until the end of the middle ages, your affiliation with a certain rural community, a certain profession which also included a guild, a certain faith which one never chose for itself, a certain caste which was predestined from birth. Everyone had something solid, graspable, something he could fall back on, something he was sure of. This place in society dictated what you do in life, who you could and could not marry, affiliate with, talk to, what your prospects are in life and determined many of the factors of a persons entire social life. That ended with the enlightenment, the French Revolution.. Or did it?

Now with the advent of the internet it seems identity is a lot of pick-and-choose, sort of arbitrarily crafted, manufactured by each individual to adhere to ones preferences. Never before have you been able to stylize yourself, paint yourself as much as you can now, especially considering social media. Profiles left and right. You get to show everyone your favorite movies, books, songs, paintings, places to hang out, your friends, your car, your house, all the things that define you. We represent ourselves now, we are no longer represented as someone by a third party.

Ponder this: Who are you? What are the things you, consciously or unconsciously, let other people know, see, feel about you. What do you show them and why? What labels do you reject, what labels do you embrace?

Are you white or black, priviledged or not, heteronormative, quirky, normal, democrat, apolitical, a meme enthusiast, a grumpy cat, a social person or a reject, a hard working woman, a leech, an artist, a fighter, an intellectual, a feminist, a zionist, a libertarian, an animal lover? How do you present yourself to others?
aka brian emo aka der ewige lude aka mangoloid aka hera cleetus aka carl the youngest aka based evans

Timsup2nothin
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Re: Identity

Post by Timsup2nothin » Wed Jan 10, 2018 5:00 pm

A good topic that deserves more than an off the cuff answer.

Posted to let everyone know I am paying attention and will answer after some thought.

Synsensa
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Re: Identity

Post by Synsensa » Wed Jan 10, 2018 5:42 pm

^ likewise.

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Cutlass
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Re: Identity

Post by Cutlass » Wed Jan 10, 2018 6:22 pm

Which is also true for me. The OP obviously had some thought behind it, and a decent response will take some thought as well.

Short version, I'm an American, a white man, Irish and American background (American background in that Dad's side of the family has been in the US for at least 200 years, and it would take some effort to find any cultural influences that are not American in there). I'm an unapologetic liberal, although disaffected from the Democratic party to at least some extent.

I'm not really to active in any other group. I'm a stay at home and to myself person for the most part, except for the net. I could list several other things that would be descriptive of me, but I typically wouldn't, as they don't have a large enough bearing on my life so that others would really care about them. Or, for that matter, that I would bother with much. Such as I'm technically a Baby Boomer, although I'm right at the cutoff for that age group.

Synsensa
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Re: Identity

Post by Synsensa » Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:42 pm

Ponder this: Who are you? What are the things you, consciously or unconsciously, let other people know, see, feel about you. What do you show them and why? What labels do you reject, what labels do you embrace?

Are you white or black, priviledged or not, heteronormative, quirky, normal, democrat, apolitical, a meme enthusiast, a grumpy cat, a social person or a reject, a hard working woman, a leech, an artist, a fighter, an intellectual, a feminist, a zionist, a libertarian, an animal lover? How do you present yourself to others?
I'm white, disabled, Belgian, and Canadian. These are 'facts', things that I cannot argue against. I was born in Belgium to a family that is exclusively European but have Canadian citizenship. I'm white, with only marginal ties to other ethnic groups. My dad became dark-skinned in his 20s and there's a chance I'll go the same route, but thus far I'm obviously white bread. I'm disabled, because I'm incapable. I have a laundry list of limitations and it is often easier to ask what I can do instead of what I can't.

But that's about where it ends. My identity, what I think of myself on a day to day basis, is fairly empty. I don't recognize that I'm Belgian or Canadian. It makes me uncomfortable to personally throw my weight behind a nationality and for the most part disapprove of those who are staunchly ____ian/ese/ish. This is likely a result of my upbringing. I was raised in a family cult and was barred from anything cultural besides whatever my father directly participated in (which wasn't much). To me, pledging my loyalty and establishing my identity to one specific region is borderline creepy. I understand the need for nation states and borders but don't agree with the reasons other people wield.

This leads into a situation where I do not feel qualified or deserving of claiming a label. I could call myself an 'intellectual', but what would be the point? To meet like-minded people? Do I want to interact with people who stake so much of their identity on such a singular idea? What even is the idea? That you're 'smart'? I don't really think I'm smart, but those in my life believe I am. Is that enough? Why does it matter? What exactly is the point of talking to other people who call themselves intellectuals?

There are some ideas that I'm a supporter of. In-vitro meat growing, treeline projects, terraforming parts of Africa, and making strides towards post-scarcity. I have a generally open view towards rehabilitation and relativism, enough so that I could probably reasonably call myself a humanist, but again... what would be the point? I try to think about identifying with a label and I simply don't get it. I don't want to be a part of a 'tribe' that revolves around a singular idea or concept. I don't want to be a part of anything. I'm just me, and I'm nothing.

Politically, I don't consider myself loyal or particularly inclined towards any of the parties, be they Canadian or American. I find myself either abstaining, voting for the lesser evil, or trying to vote for something that will shake things up (in a non-negative way). I did this with the previous election here in British Columbia. I voted and supported the Green Party and helped contribute to a significant gain in support for their party, allowing the NDP to oust the Liberal Party (here in BC, the Liberals are conservatives/republicans) and then form a coalition government with the Greens.

This could be considered an upheaval, something that many used as justification for voting for Trump, only the upheaval in this instance resulted in raised welfare rates, better income allowances, and soon a referendum of electoral reform as well as cleaning house in corrupt crown corporation holdings. With all that in mind, it is likely that I won't vote Green during the next election. I vote for whatever scenario I feel will propel society forward in the best way, regardless of party, and that largely depends on what's going on at the time. I didn't vote in the federal election, for example, because each party's platform was a merry-go-round of reactionary changes to what other parties were doing all with a distinct campaign based on "Heave Steve", the prior PM of Canada. I couldn't make a vote and have any reasonable expectation of what would happen, so I didn't vote at all.

For the most part I'm indifferent to the labels other people attach to me. If someone wants to consider me a feminist, then sure. Have at it. I tend to only take issue if the label being assigned is one woefully incorrect or laughably off the mark. I'd be amused if someone told me I was far-right or an SJW, same as I'd be amused if someone told me I was a lumber enthusiast or a puzzle lover. While I tend to not assign labels to myself, I'm at least cognizant enough to know that there are some labels that would fit me better than others.

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Catharsis
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Re: Identity

Post by Catharsis » Wed Jan 10, 2018 8:41 pm

I don't have to deal with identity a whole lot really because there's nothing particularly interesting about me. I am kinda the same as a person off to the side that you aren't paying attention to, even if you are paying attention to me at that moment; it all gets lost in the blur. This is something I count myself lucky for because it allows me to hide. I don't have to live up to stereotypes or disprove them or whatever.

The only slightly quirky thing about me is my asexuality but honestly... that doesn't come up much. Other than that, who cares.

I guess it's the goal of a lot of those who cling strongly to identities to be able to define all humanity by that identity, or by opposition to it - you're either with us or against us. Not a bad thing, necessarily. Civil rights movement did it - one can't really be ambivalent nowadays on whether or not black people are people. Feminist movement not quite there yet. It does leave the vacillators like myself in an awkward position when those lines get drawn. Luckily there are still plenty of rocks to hide under.
Try to be the reason some guy receives a free fidget spinner.

GoodEnoughForMe
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Re: Identity

Post by GoodEnoughForMe » Wed Jan 10, 2018 9:26 pm

I think Synsensa is right to point out there are some differences between what we might consider identity and what are more traits. Like, I am definitely white, I'll say I'm white, but I don't consider that a fabric of my identity insomuch as it colors (heh) what I've seen and can access in this world. But it's not the same as saying, say, I'm a baseball junkie.

Personally, I'm kind of the asshole who doesn't particularly like labels. I don't know if it's out of any absolute moral grandstanding so much as I don't like how it codifies certain tribalism and it simplifies things too much. I get for communicative purposes simple labels and identities can help, but even ones we take for granted (see: how the term 'working class' is used in mass media) are often suspect and full of problems. Like, I'm a member of the DSA, and probably speaking broadly socialist, but on a case by case basis there are so many discrepancies and intricacies there, and I'm not running around Twitter with a rose on my account name asking people to go on Chapo Trap House, since I would prefer not to subject people to intense sexism and ableism and homophobia. I know when people meet me and early on we get to politics it's hard to sort of delineate what I believe without: condensing it too much such as to make it inaccurate, and also without rambling for too long.

So I guess fundamentally I just kind of eschew them. I don't feel comfortable with them being applied to me. Not because I am particularly unique but because I just find them sort of doing more harm than good. And some of them (nerd, gamer, sports fan) represent cultures that I kind of hate, even if I like the product they celebrate. I'm sure some are generally accurate in a pinch, but I wouldn't use them myself and try to avoid them for other people unless otherwise noted. I don't think it's too hard to both understand nuance and also still communicate effectively like some of the arguments for lots of labels seem to imply it'd be impossible to do without them.

I do understand some labels absolutely can have value as a rallying cry, particularly for more vulnerable communities, as Catharsis basically pointed out. So I wouldn't want to take that away. I just don't feel comfortable in the end applying ones to me (either because not accurate) or because I don't like, simply, the baggage it comes with.

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endsjustifythememe
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Re: Identity

Post by endsjustifythememe » Wed Jan 10, 2018 9:31 pm

Synsensa wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:42 pm
This leads into a situation where I do not feel qualified or deserving of claiming a label. I could call myself an 'intellectual', but what would be the point? To meet like-minded people? Do I want to interact with people who stake so much of their identity on such a singular idea? What even is the idea? That you're 'smart'? I don't really think I'm smart, but those in my life believe I am. Is that enough? Why does it matter? What exactly is the point of talking to other people who call themselves intellectuals?

There are some ideas that I'm a supporter of. In-vitro meat growing, treeline projects, terraforming parts of Africa, and making strides towards post-scarcity. I have a generally open view towards rehabilitation and relativism, enough so that I could probably reasonably call myself a humanist, but again... what would be the point? I try to think about identifying with a label and I simply don't get it. I don't want to be a part of a 'tribe' that revolves around a singular idea or concept. I don't want to be a part of anything. I'm just me, and I'm nothing.
I love everything about this post. Not just its content, also how it reads, how it affects me as a reader.. It feels very private, voyeuristic even, like a passing, intimate moment.. You gave me a glance of few things you think you are and a lot of things you think you are not. I feel like I associate something with Synsensa now, and it's not labels or isms, it's a very particular and precise emotional response. You seem to have tackled in your post the application of labels in everyday life and I would like to engage-

First of all, I think you got "intellectual" slightly wrong. I do not think an intellectual is a smart person, infact being an intellectual has little to do with intelligence. To me an intellectual is someone who gets pleasure from cerebral pursuits. That can be just thinking, meditating on some issue, questioning.. It can also be the appreciation of art. Just to clear up misunderstandings, my definition of art some people may consider extremely loose, I include among others literature, film, cooking, landscaping, architecture, performance, dance and many others. The celebration, appreciation, critical discussion and of course the making of art are intellectual pursuits. Would I call myself an intellectual? Well, not in public, because it's quite cringeworthy. But deep down, sure I do, in fact most of my free time is spent with intellectual pursuits. I think what seperates, say someone listening to the radio or someone watching a movie on television from this is that I make a very conscious choice as to what I consume, and the fact that I can never consume anything without also questioning its motives, its essence, its background -- I have a really hard time just taking a book, or a movie, or a picture for what it is, I immedeatly have a personal response to it and have to think about it, I think that is the point I'm driving at.

As for your second paragraph, our ideas are incredibly similar. If there was one "ideology", one idea I would devote myself to politically it would probably be sustainability. I am not a reactionary nor a conservative, I do not approve of the current status quo nor do I think there is ever a way of going back. Sadly we have crossed that line decades, maybe centuries ago. I feel like everything is not just moving, but accelerating. Globalization, as some people term it in a reductivist fashion, is a process that has been going on essentially forever, even before the first trade economies began. I reap the benefits of it, just enter any supermarket, clear your mind and stand in awe at what it has to offer. Think for yourself if people a century ago would have ever imagined this paradise of diversity, it seems utterly utopian. Yet it is perverse. A mango travels thousands of kilometers from California to Germany just because I feel like having a Lassi today. It's decadent. As I said, it is much too late to reverse this whole mess, all we can do is make the best of it. Eat less meat, or at least buy local. Support biodiversity. Keep your own habits in check. Do everything you, as an individual, can do to prolong the lifespan of this doomed rock floating in a soup of nothingness. Maybe technology, while destructive, can help get us there. Again thanks for your post and thanks for opening up, I'm already feeling good about making this thread. Procrastinating as we speak, I have my bachelor's thesis due in a few weeks and haven't done much at all. It seems I write best -- and most -- when I should be writing something else :D
aka brian emo aka der ewige lude aka mangoloid aka hera cleetus aka carl the youngest aka based evans

Synsensa
Posts: 164
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Re: Identity

Post by Synsensa » Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:21 am

Ugh... I have no idea who you are on CFC. Should I be thankful or indignant that you appreciated my words? No clue!!! For now I will be thankful with great suspicion. :P

That definition of intellectual is a bit broad, and I think most people would fall into that category in some way or another. It's rare that there's someone who takes everything at face value without looking deeper although it's certainly true that most are limited in that regard. What is your threshold for someone labeling themselves an 'intellectual'? How often do they need to 'look deeper' before they can reasonably claim the title?

Lexicus
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Re: Identity

Post by Lexicus » Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:32 am

I think identity is contingent and fluid, so I don't like to talk too much about what I 'identify as'. Who I am is a somewhat meaningless question, given that "I" am, at best, a temporary emergent phenomenon that's only usefully distinguished from "not I" as a matter of convenience.

I'm not even really sure what it means for a person to have control of their own identity. To the extent that identity is real, it seems we have no choice but to consider it a social phenomenon. If you identify as something, what does it matter if there is no one else around to acknowledge it?

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