|In search of an identity|
|Saturday, 04 August 2012 00:00|
I am fascinated by the issue of identity because I believe it defines a person and forms the basis for a better society. Identity is what separates one person from the other, one family or nation from the next.
Names are an attempt to create that individuality that separates one person from the other.
Identity, however, is more than a name. It is about knowing and believing in who you are and what you are. In my view an identity is a matter of the heart as this brings in the commitment necessary. An identity comes with values, norms, priorities, responsibilities and behaviour which determine the way one carries self in any given situation.
If one is a Christian for example then his/her conduct must be orientated in a manner that reflects Christian values. There are responsibilities and conduct that is expected of a husband or wife.
Individuals, families, clans and nations have distinguishing characteristics. Those who depart from the defining characteristics of the family are seen as odd. I am sure you have heard in families people saying “uyu anongoita zvake ega hameno kuti akafanana nani” (this one does his/her own thing I don’t know who he/she resembles). I have seen people pride themselves over their totems. The totems give most people a strong sense of belonging. It is surprising how people become close when they discover that they share a totem.
I am sure dear reader you have heard people say “isu vana Mukanya, vaMwenyi, vayera Shava” etc in reference to their totems. There are certain characteristics, a uniqueness that people tend to attribute to families or clans.
An identity starts with self. One has to find self first to be a committed member of any group. When I look at the world today I see people struggle to find themselves. They are looking for something that defines them thus they try almost everything that comes along.
If it’s fashion they try it out notwithstanding some natural considerations such as age, height, weight, shape and also social norms and values. Could it be a question of identity crisis?
The issue of an identity is critical because it defines an individual, family, society and a nation. I think an identity is acquired through socialisation as an individual experiences and responds to his/her environment. There are certain characteristics that are identifiable.
Since our experiences and responses differ there should be some uniqueness in every person.
We live in a world of brand names. Business brands its products and seeks to cultivate brand loyalty in the customers. Now there is talk of personal branding. All these are ways of creating a corporate or personal identity. People talk, they use, buy and wear labels because it comes with status.
This is why some men prefer to keep the label on the sleeve of their suits. It looks very odd I think. The label is an eyesore that I think is meant for identification while on display in the shop. Labels give one a sense of belonging and an identity.
Using or owning an OG (original) comes with pride. Business understands that hence it produces counterfeits to cater for those among us who are dying to have an OG, but cannot afford. An imitation therefore gives people such as these a false sense of comfort.
The world has physical, spiritual, social and mental brands that influence actions and conduct. The “who’s who” of this world set the trends in fashion and lifestyles across the physical, spiritual and social divide. It is about this fashion or cosmetic house, this church or this health product.
It is not surprising that people imitate the way a movie star dresses, the pastor or the prophet speaks and the musician dances. People seek to belong as Maslow states in the Hierarchy of Needs.
This is not a contemporary problem even the biblical Paul addresses this problem to dissuade followers of the way from identifying themselves with him or Apollos. He points them to the true north for the true identity.
A person can be very successful, but still not know who he/she is. The lives of some artists — movie stars, musicians, sportsmen/women tell a story of the struggles that they face. I believe most of them have their roots in the issue of true identity. The world bombards them with great things leaving them with very little or no time to recollect and be themselves. This is why some of them indulge in self destructive habits with others ending up committing suicide.
Usually the world gives them an identity that is linked to what they do or own. Sadly these things cannot endure forever. They are subject to seasons which can either be good or bad. I have learnt that education, work and material possessions constitute the secondary identity.
They just add value on to what is already there. On its own secondary identity comes to nothing because it has no grounding in values and character.
People grapple to understand themselves. I have seen young and old people searching for a father or a mother who they have never seen just to try and complete the missing link. At times they are disappointed by the response after a long draining search.
Reading through the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible gives one the conviction that the things of the world, while good for life, have limitations. They cannot satisfy the search for an identity as they fall short. God foreknew that is why John 1v12 says “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right o become children of God.” Those who find Christ find an identity pillar if you ask me.
True identity comes from knowing and believing who you are. If you can achieve this then you would not want to be somebody else. Imagine how this would eliminate the petty jealousies, the envy, the competition and the pretensions.