Sunday, September 01, 2019

2607 : Essay - Politics of identity

Essay : Politics of Identity (20190820) - 1050 words

I am fascinated with identity. Identity seen as a mirror of my/our “definition”. Race, gender, name, belonging, family and the entire associated similar ilk, are all proxy attributes of our identity.

It’s my unbridled fascination with identify as a driver of human motivation, that brings me closer to the work or implicit support I endorse to the LBGTQ or the “Dalit” movement within India.

And then a few days ago Kashmir happened. What happened in Kashmir? Kashmir is now via “article 370” abrogation, inducted into India formally as a “state”. So what was it earlier? Kashmir has enjoyed the status of “special territory” within India since 1947. When I say “Kashmir”, I actually refer to “Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh”. What changed (and I repeat), Kashmir is now completely subsumed into the Indian definition of a “country”. Kashmir’s identity has changed.

Side story. Not long ago, I knew someone who was from Kashmir. He was young (about 22 when I met him). More importantly, he was from Kashmir. Most importantly, he was a Muslim from that valley. Here is a young person who read complex French Classics (not Saul, but almost there), and made me feel intellectually as if I had missed the bus completely. The more time I spent with him, the more I realised that he was completely weighed down in his life. Was it being thunderstruck by unrequited love? Natural guess, given his age. It took me a good 2-3 months of trying to pry him to get him to open up. He was miserable about the state of valley. And he personally felt persecuted, just as much as he felt the valley had been accosted.

He viewed the world around him with deep suspicion, and when I say “world”, I mean to impute it with “everyone and everything” outside of him. So he almost assumed and believed that it was him versus an antagonistic universe. Imagine that as an inverted messiah complex. Probing and insight, revealed that he held the society around him as responsible for the plight of his people, for his state of affairs....in summary, there was an assault happening (in present continuous) on his identity and we all were complicit and tacitly involved in that travesty.

Specifically he did not have a single grouse, but it was the continuous jerking around of his family, his valley and his people - that was the monster which could not be packed into the egg again. And the monster was growling at him, and he did not have a ready repose....because, he felt his limbs were tied, his mouth was stuffed, and his fingers blotted out - never would his vote count.

What makes a 22 year old, have such rage and anger? It’s difficult for me to imagine or comprehend it. It really is. I cannot fathom what drives him to such a point of despondency. One of the primary reasons for that is my complete lack of identity or belonging. I am a free radical. Belong to nothing. And just like atheism (which I am part of too), which sounds intellectually sexy, in reality, the lack of the belief (and belonging) is a vacuum that sucks your life force away. The point being, anyone who does not have a strong sense of identity will always struggle to relate to this 22 year old’s angst.

Another side story. In recent years, I have gotten to become great friends with Israelis, (who are Jews too), but more importantly they are Israelis who live and breathe Tel Aviv. Meeting these human beings reminds me, that they are just as flesh and bones as I am, they have the same failings, the same prelibation as any of us....but....they differ from us in one stricking aspect. They carry a perpetual open wound the size of a crater. Just that, this wound never heals, its an endless pit that grows like a chasm. It feeds on the wounds of me, my family, my caste, my region, my land, my community, my nation, my language and hence my identity. It (the wound) blisters every day, like a ritual of renewal, and grows to include one more inch, one more person and one more grieving member into its identity.

The Israelis, the Gaza Strip, the Kashmiris - they are not isolated. They are the norm. their identity is the bulwark around their neck. It sometimes amplifies them to be giants, and at other times, it drowns them to the bottom of the pit.

So. It’s easy to judge identity. My identity is a actually a non-identity. A “liberal” identity is nothing but a neo foolish one. I dont belong or believe. Hence I dont partake the pleasures and the pain of the universe.

To those with a real identity though, their collective defines them. Their coterie defines their purpose. It’s identity that helps us win wars, its identity that helps us even create wars, its identity that sometimes makes us falter, its the same identity that will eventually lead us through to the altar.

Now you see why I am fascinated by it. It’s (identity) the meat on our bone. It’s the fuel for our fire. Just that, in this game, we willing offer our own meat to the fire.

A small (arguably irrational....remember rationality is just a perspective) part of me, wants to question identity. Are we all not almost the same. We share over 99% genes and roots with our  human brethren. We share more than 95% with most animals and this earth. We share so much and yet, we belong to where we believe we belong. This belief makes us hack another army to death, just so that “my people” will rule and live.

Our genes are wired for survival. Is it possible that identity is nothing but our genes expressing their desire to perpetuate themzselves instead of the nearest other (who we share 99% with).

Is it possible, that in this battle, all that matters is the perpetuation of the gene? Is that the only purpose of our life. Gene expression? Are we nothing more than programmed containers?

On days when I ponder and meditate on this, I feel completely alone, isolated and a logical conundrum. On days like today, I could really do with some identity.

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