Identity and Ideas
The world is busy with its inhabitants exchanging ideas. And ideas don’t get fair treatment. Most of the time, they’re associated with their speaker’s identities. For example, I cannot speak against gender discrimination without getting dismissed, “because you’re a woman, of course you demand equality.”
It’s difficult to genuinely express ideas on improving human’s quality of life when my identity is involved. It exhausts me to watch identities that others see in me, while what I see in them are simply humans. They have stories, which are much more interesting than identities. Stories of sadness, happiness, struggle, comfort, etc that transcend beyond identities.
Yet through stories I discovered that humans are so concerned with identity, because we want to belong to a certain group with a superior label.
We forget that we’re all good, and we’re all superior.
We forget that we’re all holding one big identity: the human species.
Growing up, I became aware of cultural upbringing and family values, e.g. the religion I was raised with, the social norms, and dietary preferences. I discovered that they all have a name or label. At first it felt good to be able to call it with one word instead of having to explain it. Yet, as an adult I found these labels increasingly counterproductive, such as:
- you fight only when your fellow religious members are discriminated.
- you fight to have your social norms accepted, but cringe at other people’s.
- you fight when they aren’t aware of your dietary preferences yet cannot tolerate others who are more limited than yours.
So obviously counterproductive, I began to learn to unlearn such labels. With years of transformation, many labels became strangers. I can’t be associated with a certain religion (I see too obvious unity for all religions). I can’t be associated with any social behavior (I’m neurodiverse — let it speak by itself). I can’t be associated with a certain diet (I eat what my body wholesomely accepts).
Like peeling an onion, more and more labels get taken away. It takes a combination of energy work (how to make our body remember that it’s only a vehicle for this ball of energy living on earth) in addition to mental work. Yes, it’s not just cognitive but wholly biological.
While it gets easier to mentally disassociate my self from identities, it’s not as easy to do so physically. My physical features can’t say that I’m not a woman, that I’m in a bad shape, or that I look my age. Since our physical identities are so salient, they have shown me how difficult it is to disassociate our self from certain identities.
For example, instead of seeing an older woman with a mature attitude, people see me as a younger woman with an inert attitude. This perception tells the collective insecurity of a culture that celebrates youthfulness and glorifies immaturity. This insecurity gets projected onto me, whose physical attribute (younger and more mature) matches the insecurity attribute (trying hard to stay young and immature).
Another example commonly discussed these days is unconscious bias leading to “harmless” racism. Having physical attributes of a superior race makes you unconsciously see other races as inferior. You’re insecure because each time you have to deal with “the inferior one” you’re afraid of losing your superiority.
By addressing our insecurities, we can detach our self from certain identities. Ask: what is it that I am defending? Some identities seem too important to hold on to, but they might be illusions.
Are you sure that the real you is what you think you are?
What is the real you as is?
Our real self is the same for everyone. You are me. I am you. You are them. They are you. When you get to this realization, a superiority attitude becomes meaningless. Why? To be superior you need an inferior other, while actually there is no one other than you yourself.
By being mindful of our superiority attitude, I see a future where humans can speak to each other without trying to defend one’s identity. If this becomes the norm, everyone can then voice their ideas without being associated with one’s identity.
Ideas need to be shared and juxtaposed in order to open possibilities. Having two different ideas makes us move, to find a third place where we have a room for both ideas.
Let’s make our ideas effectual not causal. With a causal idea, you use it to achieve a goal. With an effectual idea, you need it to meet other ideas to see its effect.
From the following three possibilities, which one do you want to do?
- form an identity → feel superior → see a different idea from an inferior group→ fear of losing superiority → share an (causal) idea to defend the identity
- form an identity → no superiority → see a different idea from another group → share an (effectual) idea to connect
- no identity → see a different idea from another person → share an (effectual) idea to connect
If most ideas being shared among humans are effectual not causal, we’ll see more connections being made. We’ll see fewer unproductive discussions where humans are defending their false identities.
How to go back to who we really are? Start by finding our self in everyone we meet…