Defining An Individual's Identity

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Defined by the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, personal identity is the subject that deals with the philosophical questions that stem out about oneself as a result of that person being human. Personal identity is a complex cocktail of different components that are always being stirred and remodelled according to what one individual experiences during his or her existence. In our world today, it is prominent that an individual’s identity is judged by vague filters and this results in adverse effects on the individual and the society.

The main reason why an individual’s identity is judged so vaguely is that of social norms. Within communities and cultures, there is always a set of unwritten but yet so obvious rules that one must have to follow in order to blend into the community and be accepted as an individual. Different groups, with heredity and ancestry, no matter in what part of the world, have their own set of these rules. Social norms on their own are quite harmless. Yet in 2018, we live in an incredibly diverse multicultural world. This is where the friction can arise. Different cultures may have completely different opinions on the same idea. For example, in most of the world, burping is considered rude and unorderly in public, mainly due to the sound and breath-smell involved.

Yet in most of China, burping after a meal is a sign of satisfaction in the meal and in some ways, gratitude to the chef who cooked the meal. A tip is usually considered a sign of gratitude to a waiter, driver, barber or any worker for their services, yet in a few countries, including Australia, Brazil, Belgium and Japan, tips are sometimes considered unnecessary or rude, either due to high service charge or portraying an insulting image to the worker. The problem is, most people tend not to understand the concept of different norms for different regions, and hence tend to judge people who act differently.

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This is a base on why racism might have originated. We are so tuned to how we live our lives and how others in our background live that we sometimes may not like to accept a difference. Hence, humans tend to judge a person from where they come from and what they look like. The simple fact is that an individual is their own identity. A race or religion is not an identity. An individual has his or her own personal beliefs and ways of living that distinguish themselves from every other person in the world, different from those both in his native culture and other cultures. Hence, when classifying people by identity, the biggest and the smallest unit evidently is and should be the individual. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses and physical appearance and place of origin cannot determine these strengths and weaknesses. Success stories are not made by parentage and ancestry, success is the product of grit, determination and hard work, which every individual has the capability to produce, no matter where he or she was born.

It should be clear that idiosyncrasies are prevalent in everyone. They are inevitable as no two people live the same life. Every experience, every new person, every new thought shapes and defines an individual’s identity. Hence every individual personality will have distinct features. Stereotypes are imaginary. There shouldn’t be a method of life and behaviour one has to follow just because of their race, gender or looks. This is why racial profiling does not make sense. Just because East Africans are historically known for their stamina and long-distance running doesn’t mean that every Kenyan and Ethiopian is a marathon runner. A study in 2005 done by the City of Kingston Police in Ontario City, Canada where most people were Caucasian showed that the police were almost 4 times more likely to pull up a dark-skinned driver as compared to a Caucasian. Yet it should be noted that any driver is capable of committing a road offence or not having a valid license, but due to popular culture and incidents from history, blacks are unnecessarily classified as criminals.

An individual can be so vastly different from one another due to personal identity being so flexible. Every child is raised and trained from an early age differently from his peers. This ensures that he or she learns different concepts and catches different ideas at different times ensuring that later in life, attitude to a certain situation will be distinct. Every situation and experience a person lives through affects his point of view. This is why multiculturalism is essential for growth and development. This difference in cultural background will bring about more unique solutions to certain problems and this variation could lead to new ideas and creativity which was initially missing to overcome the obstacle. Different varying identities should not only be considered distinct for the sake of it, the differences are what keep humanity moving forward due to alternative paths being seen by different personalities.

An anonymous author quoted, “We were all human until race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divided us and wealth classified us.” Trying to label and classify individuals into groups is unfeasible and judging a person’s potential behaviour and performance by it is wrong due to differences in personal identity. Our world requires people of different skin colours and regions to keep working together to enhance performance and help solve global issues such as sustainable energy and food security, instead of wasting valuable human resources due to racial segregation.

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