Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Identity (Iteration 1)

What are we to make of intersecting identities? I relate this to a very old Values Council discussion (it happened to be our first in the virtual world, actually). The question was posited, "Why is religious identity such a big damn deal now?" I suppose this ignores questions like, "Has it always been?" or "OH IS IT? I HADN'T NOTICED!"

Anywho, we decided that perhaps the autumn of 1989 provided the fertile ground for its "resurgence," since when "the Wall fell," the world ceased to be discussable in terms of Soviet and Free World. Of course, people had been religious during the Cold War, and for thousands of years before that. Probably since forever.

Of course, identity is far more than just one's vision of ultimate reality. There is tribal allegiance, gender, nationality, some construction of ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, location, socioeconomic background, height, weight, preferred brand of cigarette, language, history (both personal and otherwise), cat-lover or dog-lover or dog-lover-cat-hater, pasta fanatic or gluten-allergic, handicapped or able-bodied or somewhere-in-between, vegan or not, and a whole slew of hyphenated, tongue-in-cheek bits of what constitutes a person.

So what does identity mean nowadays? Can we be sure? Why does it seem important to the level of life-and-death at some times and completely inconsequential at others? Why doesn't one act as a militant whatever until that point at which being a whatever comes under attack by someone who is explicitly or implicitly not whatever? What does identity mean for us? What does identity mean for me?

As a young undergraduate, I wrote a paper on linguistic diversity wherein I claimed that discourse communities could be both as broad and as narrow as we could possibly conceive, since one's linguistic identity was a combination of many factors, a handful of which are listed above. Perhaps I was looking too specifically at the subject. Perhaps identity as identity is a worthy topic of discussion. The meta-identifiable bits of what makes humans interesting are what I concern myself with.

That, and what how I'm going to get all my schoolwork done this term without suffering a nervous breakdown.