By Abel Merawi
June 18, 2021 (Ezega.com) -- It is common to witness people stand in defense of identity to the point of sacrificing their lives. Sadly, such sacrifice is made for a single aspect of identity rather than full identity, holistically. For instance, the defense for ethnic identity may jeopardize the inherent values of national or religious identity. This, in every form, is the person losing battle we encounter every time we imagine a singular identity. For this reason, I am critically reluctant to heed the call for defending a particular identity, unable to select one from the plural elements that constitute my identity. I think this difficulty troubles every human being, and so I choose to remain true to my plurality by claiming that I am not just one thing.
My attempt to reveal the plural nature of identity began with a struggle in choosing a point of view. I scribbled some lines in the second person – ‘you’, but I soon realized how it would make me an indifferent observer of my species. My shift to the third person – ‘they’, resulted in defending the separatist identity by necessitating a ‘we’ in juxtaposition. Finally, I decided to use the first person – ‘I’, while mostly avoiding ‘we’, which implies forced singularity. The terms ‘I’ and ‘me’, serve a dual purpose: firstly, it is an appeal to shared humanness marked by a sentient existence; secondly, it is an appeal to the plural components of identity each individual is not just born into but also volitionally incorporates. Before starting my argument, I remark that this is not an attempt to entice readers. Rather, it is a restatement of a fact that is buried under a pile of socially and politically fabricated xenophobic identities. The simple fact is that identity is partly the result of birth, and partly the intentional identification each person makes with social, ideological, political, historical identities, and so forth.
I make an appeal to each person by claiming that I am not just one thing; I possess many layers that make up my identity. Ultimately, being human is the common foundation I share with past, present, and future generations. Building on this totality, I expand my identity in every direction. My past represents plural tokens of identity that are manifested in familial ties, friendship, religion, ethnicities (intentionally plural!), nationality, etcetera. My present has augmented, substituted, and omitted the previous with new layers, and my future can only be viewed in the same manner. In defense of plural identity, I appeal to the humanness humans share.
The natural accidents of birth in space and time have predicated who I am but I become human when I transcend these facts by consciously expanding and evolving my identity. My identity begins with an ethnic and national identity that is not of my choosing, but I refuse to enter the coffin before identifying myself with a universal human fellowship. I am born black but I refuse to harbor hatred against white people based solely on past grievances. I may be born white, but I will not be a ‘white supremacist’ who perpetuates ancestral crimes and horrors. Having one X and one Y chromosome makes me male, but I will not be a defender of misogyny or hierarchies that valorize men. I may be female for being born with two X chromosomes, but I will not define my identity with the negative role assigned to my sex. These and other natural accidents of birth are part of my identity, but they will not dictate my life.
My identity is derived from my religious identity but it is not limited to it. I constantly remind myself of the past and present evils committed in the name of religion. Thus, I transcend the institutional barriers through spirituality. Viewed from a spiritual and moral height, my religion shared the language of love with the other sects, and so I will not restrict love to my creed. Such love is abundant enough to embrace humanity, and I socially practice love through justice and fairness.
Social and class divisions have existed before me, but they do not precede humanness. I am a sentient being that can detect the unnaturalness of such divisions and choose to rise above them. I may come from a wealthy family, but I refuse to remain indifferent to the plight of the poor by defending the very system that brought about collective misery to hardworking people. I may be born into a working-class family, but I will not develop blind hatred against every rich person because I value the creative and diligent while maintaining a critical attitude against the corrupt. Being born in the city will not make me belittle those from the countryside, and this also means that I will not develop hatred to city dwellers just become I am from a rural area. I will win these external and internal battles because the force of truth resonating in humanity defends me.
Enshrining a single aspect of my identity makes me shortsighted; thus, I broaden my identity to live a life worthy of a human being. This worth is part of utilizing the potentiality entailed in my species: Homo Sapiens (thinking). If I was Homo Erectus, walking upright would have been enough; but as a Homo Sapiens, I am required to think and recognize the myriad versions of reality. This recognition implies knowing the difference between natural and social constructs. This recognition also implies knowing my potential for growth, which helps to pluralistically expands my identity.
The kind of plurality I speak of is not the same as the doctrine of pluralism that focuses on tolerance among race, religion, ethnicity, culture, etc. I think we have reached a point where tolerance is not enough, because the word already marks the ‘other’ as unfavorable, which is allowed to exist because of my generosity. Plurality, for me, admits tolerance but transcends it by accepting the limitation in myself and others. This will be followed by an embracing of the ‘other’ and becoming part of its identity while retaining my own. It also leads to the cohabitation of different identities without the need for comparison and competition. For this to develop my identity must be plural, and prepare to face the confusion that is part of the ‘human condition'. Wrestling with the questions of personal identity is a lifetime task, which makes me interminably renounce some forms of identity and embrace others.
My identity is not preordained, and my essence is continually reshaped from cradle to the grave. I accept physical death but I will not commit spiritual deaths by limiting my identity. I am born into a world already occupied by people with different identities, and it is arrogant for me to champion my identity at the expense of others. In summation, my identity is primarily unified in humanity, and every other form of identity enlarges humanity. Whenever my plural identity is internally conflicted, I reexamine my allegiance in light of humanity. Perhaps words have failed me to vividly portray the plurality of identity, then I recommend you listen to Rophnan’s new song, which melodically articulates humanity!
Abel Merawi is Addis Ababa-based contributor for Ezega.com. He can be reached through this form.
Other articles by Abel Merawi:
Necrophilia – The Affliction in Servants of Death
Public Trust in Social Media
Even Monkeys Can Use Smart Techs
Adwa – Triumph of Unassailable Humanity
Democracy and Democratic Institutions
Democracy and Democratic People
Paideia or Deep Education
Educational Purpose: Good Citizenry Vs Rational Autonomy
Crowd Leaders as National Enemies of Ethiopia
Ethiopia Under the Threat of Crowd Mentality
Conformist Realism in Ethnic Federalism
Alternatives to National Identity
Ethiopia in Conflict - Part II: A National Stand for Unity
Ethiopia in Conflict - Part I: EPRDF and the Creation of Ethnic Division
Forms of Human Violence (Part II)
Forms of Human Violence (Part I)
The ‘Having’ Mentality
Free but in Chain, Part IV: Personal Bondage
Free but in Chain. Part III: Economic Bondage
Free but in Chain. Part II: Social Bondage
Free but in Chain. Part I: Bondage of Worldview
Unemployment and Economic Growth in Ethiopia
The Underestimated Human Ignorance
Is America the Land of Freedom? (Part II)
Is America the Land of Freedom? (Part I)
Capitalism Becoming an Impediment to Morality
Ketman: Living in Disguise to Gain Acceptance
The System and the 'Criminal'
Trust as an Economic Force
Do You Trust the Government?
Our Online World
Fame Mistaken for Expertise
The Heavy Burden of Healthcare Workers
A Time to Reflect
The Plague by Albert Camus: Fiction Becomes Reality!
History of Pandemics in Ethiopia
Human Struggle Against Pandemics: Historical Perspective
You Can Make a Difference
Rule of Law for a Free Society
The Origins of Law
Determinants of Market Value: Part II
Determinants of Market Value: Part I
Your life Matters Too
Manifestations of Artistic Expression
Achievements vs Natural Accidents
The Grip of Sacrifice
Injustice is Never Justifiable
Education Demands of the Future
Job Security, Life and the Unpredictable Future
The Shift From Racism to Culturism
Sacrificing Meaning for Power?
Culture and Market Forces
Seeking Cosmic Justice
National Myths: Makers and Destroyers of Nations
Are We Truly Free?
Maturity: The Prerequisite to Freedom and Democracy
Loyalty to Truth, Not to Group
The Value of Work
The Flaws with Ethiopian Political System
Intellectuals and the People
Where Are Our Pathfinders?
The Allegory of the Cave and Its Lessons to Leaders
The Truth Behind Humanity
The Seven Virtues
The Seven Deadly Sins
What is the right thing to do?
Building National Identity
Adey Abeba and the Spirit of Change
Living the Truth as a Human Being
Hubris - The Tragedy of Not Learning from Others
The Era of Group Mentality: Us vs Them
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