Thursday, February 08, 2007

Who Are You?

Here in Canada, we are hearing much about nationhood, or at least about nations. We have the First Nations, the Quebec nation, the nation of Alberta, and more (Newfoundland?). We hear also of the Catholics, who used to be the Roman Catholics, and of course there are Greek Orthodox Catholics, Coptic Catholics, and more. The word "catholic" is still used to mean "universal", as in "catholic tastes", and "nation" means that beyond our borders, all are foreigners. I'm afraid Humpty Dumpty has been at it again, with his "words mean what I mean them to mean", and his firm conclusion that what matters is "who is to be master -- that's all".

It is easy to insist on definitions, even legal definitions, in matters such as these, but in every case we can see a struggle for dominance, or at least for survival, and we find ourselves back for another reading of Instincts of the Herd. One thing is certain: the legal profession will always be with us. It is apparent that each of us wants to belong, and to defend the herd or group with which we identify ourselves. Of course, since each of us belongs to several herds, we cannot always be sure to which herd we are loyal at any one time. Is that herd geographic, ethnic, religious, economic, or other? Wolves don't have this problem, nor do ants. But we have this problem in abundance, even with the sexes, which now are three, or is it four?

So who are you? Who I am depends on where I am, and with whom I am. All right -- like the rest of us, I'm not sure.

60 Comments:

At 9:48 PM, Blogger Buffalo said...

Excellent work. Well said.

 
At 10:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Don:

Who am I? I am Canadian (no beer slogan here)

It took me awhile to figure that out. I wasn't sure what I was for the longest time. I was born in Canada but I am visibly Asian. I grew up meeting other Asian kids who came from their native countries. I felt like an outsider who was viewing my 'homeland' vicariously through their eyes.

For awhile, I tried acting like them, but eventually grew tired of the charade.

In fact, I grew up in an industrial area populated mainly by Spanish people and I got along with them well. In fact, I knew then [as a child] that I was not one of them but it didn't matter much because I enjoyed their company and they accepted me.

Recently, I met someone in a line-up who lived in the same neighbourhood as me. We shared similar interests. She was also born here and grew up in a neighbourhood a few blocks away from mine.

She said that I behaved like a typical, "Canadian." I felt proud when I heard that.

As I was growing up, people have asked me if I wanted to 'go back to my native country.' I tell them I am already here. The country my parents came from feels foreign to me.

So, who am I? I am quite sure I am a combination of life experiences that are clearly 'Canadian'.

***

 
At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Pinky said...

I am a nomad. :)

 
At 10:45 PM, Blogger Tom Abramowski said...

I am a Wandering Monk

 
At 10:52 PM, Blogger Tom Abramowski said...

Hello Don,

I think in North America there is too much emphasis belonging to the “right” crowd and not enough on learning who each one of us is as an individual.

I grew up in a communist Poland and moved to Canada when I was 12. I have never had a problem “belonging” in any group nor did I ever have a difficulty communicating with anyone.

We should stop looking around and look inside once in a while.

Hugs

 
At 11:51 PM, Blogger Phil said...

I'm 42 and still trying to figure out who I am. The problem seems to be finding a group worth identifying myself with. It's like the old Groucho saying, "I wouldn't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member."

The older I get, the more I think it's not important WHO I am, but rather HOW I am -- and that is to simply be happy.

 
At 12:04 AM, Blogger whitesnake said...

There are Jews in the world.
There are Buddhists.
There are Hindus and Mormons, and then
There are those that follow Mohammed, but
I've never been one of them.

I'm a Roman Catholic,
And have been since before I was born,
And the one thing they say about Catholics is:
They'll take you as soon as you're warm.

You don't have to be a six-footer.
You don't have to have a great brain.
You don't have to have any clothes on. You're
A Catholic the moment Dad came,

 
At 1:16 AM, Blogger Trina said...

I'm a citizen of the world. Passports are a hindrance.

 
At 1:30 AM, Anonymous Willi said...

Hi,
with my 26 years in this world as a doomed non-believer i still hope to one day be comfortable with myself. Guess this is called unrealtistic optimism ;).
But for real - i want to arrive at myself one day without ever stopping to move.
My Hope is to have brain slightly as sharp as your's should I ever reach your age . . .
Oh and I'm struggling to believe in mankind - if just for the fact that mankind made it this far without destroying itself - maybe I DO believe in a higher power after all.

 
At 2:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a member (1 of 4) of my half-chinese/half-white family.

 
At 5:27 AM, Blogger sue beyer said...

I am an Australian Artist. I give both words a capital as they are both as important to me as each other :-)

 
At 8:04 AM, Blogger poet said...

I am Canadian. I was born in Ontario, and moved to NB when I was 14. I guess you might call me a "down easten'er" now as I have been here longer. This is a very well written post. I am glad to have discovered your blog. take care, poet.

 
At 9:27 AM, Anonymous Nils Legge said...

Right now at this very moment, I am a young swedish male as far as I can tell. But who knows who I will be tomorrow, or the day after that. People change with time just as sure as winter turns to spring and then to summer. But then, we can't really be sure of that either. Life is very unpredictable isn't it?

:)

 
At 9:34 AM, Anonymous Snorri said...

Thanks for a very well written post, Don. :)

I'm studying International Politics, and groups, or herds as you refer to them as, are an important topic in InterPol. Interesting to see your point of view, as well as those in the comment fields, and not just dry academics on the field.

I recently wrote an essay on the matter of cosmopolitanism, where I found that nationalism is in some respect declining, and a global identity is on the rise. However, we are still far away from the utopian visions of Immanuel Kant, Karl Marx or Thucydides. But despite these changes, we still have to rely on our nations for citizen rights.

For example: I feel like a citizen of the world. I aspire to sympathize equally with people everywhere, independent of nationality. However, I must retain my Icelandic passport and citizenship, as without them I cannot travel, I cannot participate in governance, and I am deprived of many of the everyday rights which most of us take for granted.

Hopefully, this will change for the better in the future, as the situation can be dire for the many millions of stateless individuals around the world (e.g. the Kurds).

 
At 9:44 AM, Anonymous CHR said...

Well, the question of religious, cultural, political, social or whatsoever belonging becomes more and more critical. At least it seems to me it is, which - I guess - is due to fact that I´m a student of political sciences becoming aware of the overarching diversity around and more importantly within me, my beliefs and my behavior. In times of at least economic globalism it is hard to evade the implications of transnational ties in literally every aspect of the human condition.

I can only suggest to read about political cosmopolitanism - especially the work of David Held - if some of you are interested in political theory. It may prove to be an insightful read.

 
At 9:47 AM, Anonymous Indrani sahnmugharajah said...

Hi Don,

I am Sri Lankan and like to identify as Sri lankan.

But moving to another country you will loose your identy.

It is sad but no choice.

 
At 9:54 AM, Anonymous chr said...

Now that I have seen snorri´s comment, I wish I could type much faster than I obviously can. :) Well said, snorri.

 
At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I discovered your blog only yesterday, Don. You write such wonderful, insightful posts, I'll be a regular customer from now on!

Regarding the "herding" instict you speak of - won't it be a great, great day when we all realise that, as H.G. Wells said, "Our nationality is Mankind" -Bring it on!

Ann aka Twilight
http://twilightstarsong.blogspot.com/

 
At 4:47 PM, Anonymous hibiscusroto said...

I've stopped asking "who am I" and am now asking "am I"?

 
At 6:09 PM, Blogger Em said...

Who am I? I believe we are many....we fill different roles at different times. I'm son, father, husband. I'm teacher. I'm American. I'm many things. I'm not always proud of each of them. Some are inherited roles - others are chosen. But in many ways, each role is an attempt to bond, fit in, become part of something more.

 
At 6:31 PM, Blogger poopee shmoopee said...

interesting question! On one side I am a first generation Canadian of Italian descent and on the other I am French Canadian. I was born in Toronto, so...I guess that makes me as Canadian as Canadian can be.

 
At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Mark said...

Good insight. We are all about labels. The problem with labels is that they set expectations and limitations. The goal should be to remove these labels and treat each other as equal souls who are all here for the same primary reason.

 
At 12:30 AM, Anonymous Anthony said...

Never was ther a truer statement put to blog than the last two lines of this one Don. Thanks for some truth.

 
At 1:10 AM, Blogger Ronni said...

Born in England, raised in Canada, American for the last 35 years.
I am like the Lorax, "shortish and oldish and brownish and mossy."

Everywhere I go, I sound as if I'm from somewhere else.

I am a member of the human race.

 
At 7:25 AM, Anonymous John Lampard said...

I'm Australian, but that doesn't entirely tell me who I am ;) But really I just wish there was more time to do what has to be done!!

 
At 10:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not identify with myself?

 
At 2:08 AM, Blogger bonho said...

Some would say I am an American, and if so, oft-embarrassed to be so.

Mostly, I think of myself as a humanist, and as such, a member of the human race. Narrowing it down further does all the places and people that were, are, and will be involved in my continuing education an injustice, should they be omitted from my history.

In fact, even the human race is limiting, since I'd like to think I'll be a member of my new puppy's pack...

 
At 3:25 AM, Blogger gautami tripathy said...

Who am I? It takes a lifetime to answer that question. I am trying and unable to find the answer till date.

 
At 8:20 PM, Blogger hancar said...

Thank you Don for your blog. My son discovered it, and passed on the good news to me. I will definitely read Trotter and David Held that another person mentioned. I am a 68 y.o. grandmother with 4 children and 8 grandchildren, so I need help from all to keep up in this world and be able to discuss other sides to ideas and grow in understanding.

 
At 12:05 PM, Blogger Becky..Absent Minded Housewife said...

I'm a lapsed Utahn.

 
At 11:50 AM, Anonymous The Financial Ladder said...

I'm a person interested in blogging and longevity. You're site hits the bullseye...

 
At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Abraham said...

Hello Don:

I was born in Barcelona, the second capital of Spain.

I am spanish and proud to be, but I can't say it loud, because there's people in catalonia that they feel they don't belong to spain.

I'm catalan, too, and proud to be, but I cannot say it loud, because there is spanish people that feels threatened by our sense of identity.

I'm a cityzen of the world, and I cry everytime I'm reminded that people still don't see that, from the space, people can't see the frontiers.

I don't profess any religion in particular, yet I want to believe there is a god. I haven't understood yet why people tries to make god smaller by enclosing it in a building of bricks and rules.

I am, at the end, just one person that reads your blog.

Thank you for writing.

 
At 2:41 PM, Blogger princess said...

Hi, Don,
Another post from you that I don't mind coming back to again and again and again.
Who am I? I am who I am to myself, family, friends and relations. Sometimes I am an angel and sometimes the other one. I am what I eat, read, listen to, and go to. I am what I believe and what I don't care about. I am what I see and what I don't want to look at. Do I really know who I am?
Thank you, Don for making me think - that is why I know I am.

Princess

 
At 11:39 AM, Blogger malin2 said...

Well said!
I am born Swedish, aquired a Canadian citizenship as an adult. Living with a man born in Korea.
Or as my yongest daughter put it I am 50% Swedish, 50% Korean and 100% Canadian.

 
At 9:23 AM, Blogger Dina said...

i often wondered this question growing up. I am Jewish but that is my religion not my cultural background. My grandparents were born in Poland but that doesn't make me Polish- i don't think i would recognize the language if it were being spoken right in front of me. My father was born in Toronto, my mother in Europe but came to Canada at age 2. Guess that makes me Canadian.
When people ask me what i am, i say Canadian and they always look sort of confused BUT that is what I am!

 
At 9:34 PM, Blogger The Culinary Chase said...

Good question! I suppose I hadn't really thought about it too much except when I meet people who were born in a different country & live in an adopted one. I always wonder how they manage to fit in or 'feel' as though this is home. I'm currently living in Hong Kong & there are many locals here with Canadian identity cards but claim that Hong Kong is their home. Does this mean they are only happy with their place of birth so long as it suits them?

What about the husband & wife who leave their country to live in another. How does this affect their children? Do the children feel they belong in the adopted country or have feelings for where their parents hailed from? Or worse, they don't feel they fit in either society? Tough questions to answer. One thing I do know & that is I am Canadian! I'm not French Canadian, Irish Canadian or German Canadian......just Canadian! Cheers!

 
At 1:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am a copt (coptic ORTHODOX- not cotholic). After Jesus, there was one church. the pope of all christianity resided in alexandria, egypt (not the vatican). the patriarch of Rome decided that he should be pope(long story), and so cotholicism was created(protestantism branched off of that), and orhodoxy remained as before, its pope in alexandria, currently H.H., Pope Shenouda III. Therefore, my point is that orthodox christians are in no way cotholic like you thought. im actually very surprized someone's heard of us copts. apparently we are "a visible minority", in canada, and even in our homeland, Egypt, where we have lived, unchanged for nearly 2000 years.
PS. here are some defenitions:
Orthodox: straight
Catholic: open-minded, or universal, as you said
Protestant: just what it's called, protesting

 
At 11:36 AM, Blogger pam.E.poo said...

Who am I?

I am many things.
I am an old boot. I am a daughter, a wife, a mother, a computer geek, jogger, reader, pianist, the new girl. What I am has been derived from many things.

I am a west coast girl. I grew up here, this is my home. This is where I understand things, where I feel comfortable.

I am Polish, I am German, I am Norwegian, I am Irish. That is where I get my looks, my skin colour, eye colour and hair colour. And my name.

But, I am truly Canadian. I love the vastness of our country, the people, the north, the trees, the moutains, the water, the ocean. I love that there are so many different types of people here, each of us on equal footing. Each of us having something valuable to give to the others, sharing a part of our culture with each other. This is my home. I love that I grew up here. I love that when I go somewhere, people are excited to know I am from Canada and ask me about it. I tell them that it's where I grew up. That it is home.

It has defined me.

 
At 8:16 AM, Anonymous Emma said...

Hi Don,

I'm a 21 year old student studying for my degree in the North of England. However, I am not English, I am British. I come from a tiny island - Guernsey. It's only 9 miles by 12 miles and is found just of the coast of France. However, both my island and the ones surrounding it - the Channel Islands - are 'owned' by HM QE2. So... whilst we have our own personal government, our own money and even our own language, we still have British passports and speak English.

To get even more confusing, my mum's family is Irish and my dad's is French :)

But I couldn't be more proud of my identity and whenever someone asks if I'm English, I fiercely defend my 'British-ness'.

 
At 10:27 AM, Blogger Liudmila said...

You have to visit Italy. It's incredible how people don't accept all types of "foreigners".Even if they are the same italians,but from other village, and they can live nearby for all their life. They can be made from gold, but the local residents prefere the worse of worse,important he is from the same place.
I think it's hystorically feasible.Where people had less protection from the state or something like this.

 
At 2:53 PM, Blogger Duda said...

i´m human.

 
At 1:34 AM, Anonymous A dot of ink on a black page. said...

God has the power to invent life, we create it.

I am a painting with out a name,
call me what you want but I’ll
never sound the same.
And as all artist know, paintings are
never finished they are only put aside
I’m a part of everything so
there are no boarders around me
I am me without a definition.
Anne-Marie B. 16 years old,Quebec
Not that it matters :)

 
At 3:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am a nomad in time

 
At 2:09 AM, Blogger sunnyclaus said...

Hi Don,

Who am I? I am many things as my identity is continually constructed and reconstructed through the dialogue, both verbal and nonverbal, that I have with those around me.

By virtue of where I live, I am Canadian. By virtue of my birthplace, I am British. By virtue of my other relationships, I am a friend, sister, daughter, and counsellor. Further, according to my medical files, I am a complex biological system.

It seems that no matter where I turn, I am categorized and somewhat pigeon-holed into a particular identity by virtue of my relationships.

So who am I? That depends on who you ask.

 
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At 12:22 AM, Blogger lorraina said...

Hi Don, great post! I'm another original Canadian. My dad was born in Labrador and mom was born in B.C. We're all proud Canucks.

 
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