Identity – it is something that we are all born without and leave without. Still, throughout our lives we cling to it like our existence depended on it. True, we all need a sense of identity. But what do you identify your SELF with?
Are you your culture?
Are you your language?
Are you your belief system?
From my perspective a human is none.
Culture – The Foundation for Civil Behavior
What gives rise to cultures in the first place?
From my understanding, it is the story of the evolution of a particular region with the changing times. A culture exists to assist in the evolution of human behavior. It opens up that dimension that not only lays a foundation for survival but also ignites the creative, analytic and intelligent nature of the species. Literature, History, Arts, Science, all these are possible because of the shift in perspective that culture brings in. Culture is not static. It changes with every era, depending on the evolutionary needs of the species.
India being a country with diverse geographical regions has given rise to various cultures.But, it is sad to see that there is an underlying intolerance for diversity in India. It ignites at the smallest spark. Each state has a judgement about the other’s culture, food habits and way of life. Social media will give you a host of examples of how our cultural identity is more of a race for supremacy now than a foundation for civilized behavior.
A couple of years back, I read a news about a person being beaten black and blue, because he was not a native and did not speak the local language in a particular state.
Language like culture is an evolution of communication. We, as social animals need to communicate. Language is only a TOOL to communicate. But caught in our ‘obsession with with a language’ we forget the END and focus on the means. How does it matter, if someone expresses love, hatred, anger in a particular language? The substance of the communication remains the same. You only need to understand the other person.
I would like to highlight here that the British spoke fluent native languages during the Raj. Did that make them our kin?
You know the answer.
I have tried to associate myself with my cultural identity. But I have realized that I am more than that. I am not only my culture, I am not only my language and I am not only my food habits or belief system. Yes, they are a crucial part of me. Something that has shaped me very closely.
But if you ask me, ‘Who are you?’ well, I am none of the above.
My identity is my evolution as a human.
My identity is my behavior
My identity is my life’s work. Something that I have come to do here.
I sometimes wonder, what would have happened if Gandhiji believed himself to be a Gujrati only. We would have had a free Gujarat now and not a free India.
Moving on to a global level, do you identify Albert Einstein as a German Jew? Or do you identify him as a human who has changed the face of human history with his life’s work?
Look around, the examples are many.
I am not against culture. I am not even against identifying to a level with your cultural roots. But I am against losing your humanity in the process of identifying with your culture.I am against people imposing their cultural identity on others to arrive at a point of consensus.
It is easy to identify and camouflage within a group.It is easy to bask in your cultural supremacy because it gives you a sense of belonging.You become a part of all the cultural achievements, but you forget that it is not your hard work that has brought in a difference. It is someone else’s life work. How did you make a difference?
All great work on the planet has been accomplished only by people who worked without being camouflaged under the cocoon of a cultural identity.They worked as a human trying to evolve the face of human history; to leave a trailblazer to guide and shape future generations to come. This is why each human is born in the first place.
It is time we reclaimed our identity of being global citizens, of being one family and break free from the narrow minded existence of only being a part of an ethnicity.
Keep the goodness of your culture as a foundation, but do not just stay there. Move beyond. Ask yourself,’What is my identity?’