This concept never really stimulated me as it’s routine for me to encounter it, being a dual national who is currently underway a dainty identity crisis myself. I’m usually flustered from the multitude of different expressions thrown at me with respect to ‘where I belong’ and ‘who I am’, but it never really appealed to me. What do we, even consider to be, our identity? The people we talk to? The food we eat? The clothes we wear? I wonder!
With all individuals seeking out their own definition of the term ‘identity’ and what purpose they serve on this planet, the generalised concept really does decay. But that’s not all of it! A statistical number of residents, perhaps every day from different nations, undergo social coercion due to their opposition to the social norms and values of their own society. Would you still consider these same individuals as belonging to a culture that they do not traditionally or fundamentally follow or respect? In essence, the cross-breeding nature of globalisation has surely crept up into modern industrial societies.
An indefinitely increasing number of groups of citizens are now born and brought up in contrasting areas, and as a result essentially belong to a very diverse range of countries. Whether that be Ukraine to Bangladesh; Switzerland to Maldives or even Chile to Madagascar. With certain individuals who consider themselves as citizens of multiple states, does their nationality determine where they belong to? Or does a state determine where these individuals belong to or not?
We can easily consider United Arab Emirates in Asia as an example. The country flourishing in riches and oil, breaking records on campaigning for diabetes and car parades, and certainly world-famous for their phenomenal colossal structures; there really isn’t much else they could possibly want. Well, of course, to ask citizens to evacuate the area once their working visa has expired. A single citizen which has empowered their economy, boosted business’ self-esteem and followed the norms of such a society for the duration of their stay, however long that could possibly be, is asked to leave. In such a case, is that individual not considered a citizen soundly living in Abu Dhabi? Does he not follow the values enhanced in Dubai? Is he not considered a neighbour, or a friend, in Sharjah? Simply due to the fact that he was not born and bred in the Middle East? The contraction in conflicting conceptualisations is easily highlighted here; with the help of a singular yet simple example.
Despite whatever an individual may consider as his own identity in terms of how he acts in certain situations, which statements he holds to be affirmative, what ideas he considers to be right and wrong, and ultimately where he belongs to, this singular being perhaps may not have complete dominance over how others perceive him as. In essence, this may easily lead us to the idea that states themselves mould our identities, into what we believe we have complete autonomy over. Could that possibly be the case? Perhaps.
Currently in the status quo, the youth face an idealistic approach to their identity. Society empowers those who succumb to social norms and values at an early age, and may possibly do this through the many social institutions a society has endorsed. Hence, the domain to which guidelines are as identical to the beliefs held by each individual, that site could easily be denoted as to where that entity ‘belongs’. Accordingly, many teenagers undergo a phase as to where they truly identify which category they belong to in the hierarchy of social groups. This may extend to practical, moral or even principle grounds albeit not being able to primarily pinpoint each distinguishing characteristic of themselves in comparison to others. There’s a distinctive line between each of these sub-cultures, and ultimately each being realises to which they belong with knowledge, time and experience.
This reminds me of an old friend I have; casual in body gestures, and tender in expression. He’s labelled as being different in terms of sexuality, yet resides in a state overridden by conservatism. Where does he belong? A place which socially accepts his right to choice, or the area where he has grown up in to eventually discover his true identity? It should be the latter, but sadly individualism is a sensitive feature which a republic refuses to always extend a friendly hand to. Does this individual need to move his place of residence to a more accepting environment, because of the fact that his current home does not accept him – for who he is? That doesn’t sound right!
Let us go back to the previous century, a crucial time for the civil rights development in America. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks persistently debated for the rights of black people. But the question I ask in the first place was how the visible complexion of people, in the very first place, a factor to deny someone rights to? It just fundamentally did not add up to make rational sense to me, and it still doesn’t. If an individual is born, bred and brought up in a country which they personally accede to, regardless of the colour of their skin, they should have the ability to peacefully reside in that area without facing the threat of social coercion. Period.
A personalised crisis I faced was notably during the time I resided in Ireland, where many students considered me to be ‘Pakistani’, despite the fact that I am indeed an Irish national and at that point in time I had never stepped a foot on Pakistani soil. I would exclaim: “How is this possible? That is absurd, I’ve never been to Pakistan!” in exasperation, but others didn’t bother to ratify my claim as my comparatively darker complexion said otherwise. How did I deal with it? Well, what exactly is the solution to such a crisis? My identity still remains one of the most controversial aspects of my character to this day. Of course, I made friends. In fact, a countless number of them. I’m still surprised by the diverse range of companions I have crossed paths with as I look back onto my hectic life. But at that time, I never anticipated what was still in store for me. The amusing part was the moment I arrived at school on my first day in Pakistan, other students didn’t consider me Pakistani. No, they considered me Irish! “How convenient,” I usually thought to myself in uncertainty, but with time I realised that although the way other entities see and consider my identity as, is in fact, much more different than how I see myself. In other words, which perspective is more important in relative terms?
To many people it may be the former, but considering the world we live in today, it really should be the latter. As criticisms and refutations are thrown hither and thither, arguably routine, people need to know how to identify themselves and how to stand by their justification. This idea is derived from the classical form of parliamentary debates; you cannot allow the motion to stand if the opposition has established a principle clash and dissolved the grounds you work on. Similarly, the identity individuals hold so dear to themselves cannot establish its grounds if such a foundation is easily torn apart by other beings. Therefore, I do consider myself Irish…But I also consider myself Pakistani. Because that’s who I am, that’s how I identify myself, and that is my solution. I walk with Abdullah to the mosque, and I drop Niamh to the Church. I belong to Ireland, but I also belong to Pakistan.
Who are you?