On identity

7 September 2009

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced there are two main ways people form, or project their identity.

The main way we encounter every day is defining it in relationship to another identity. This can happen in both a positive and a negative way. Negative will often take forms like this:

Berlin is once again full of political slogans and ugly mugs. A large percentile of the slogans tells us the person will “attack and solve the problems”. Implied in this statement, we don’t believe the other people in power (often from the same party!) are doing their jobs right. You should vote for us, because we are not like the people who make policy right now.

Flemish nationalism is often fed on the fact that the people are not Walloons,Dutch, or German.

Positive identity relationships often takes the form of sub-cultures, pigeon-holing and dogma:

I’m a person that doesn’t eat pig meat. So do you, so you will probably gain a good idea of my identity.

We’re from the same country, so we must be more probable to share some part of our identity. We grew up with the same books, tv-shows,….

While it seems natural to try and convey and identity in this manner, it is also limiting. To be able to convey an identity by relationship to another one, you automatically assume the other person has the same opinions, and views on the other identity. Call it a shared vocabulary. In any case, you are dragging along a whole lot of presuppositions. This is the problem of Dadaism: it occurs outside of “reason and logic”, but it cannot exist without it. Especially in case of negative association, the results are quite ironic: how can you claim something is not part of your identity, if you define your identity in terms of it?

Where is this all going? Don’t know. I guess it’s good to associate positively with some “shared identities”. I think “negatively defined” identities are bad ways to create understanding. Maybe it’s just important to be aware of the process, and not worry too much. Follow your heart, I guess.

If you’re offended by my take on Dadaism, please enlighten me, I am quite ignorant.