The world is a very complex thing. It’s a complex planet with billions of processes carrying on every second. The structure is formed through millions of years of change. Humans have been shaped by environment, the ability to to reason or not. Civilisations have grown and collapsed due to a myriad of events. And now we are here in the 21st century still trying to make sense of it all.
Those who believe they have the answers, who know what label to put on themselves and what that label requires them to behave must be happy. They know what they are and what they stand for. They know who they dislike, fear, mistrust, oppose. They are clear about how the rest of us who are less certain should think, behave, respond.
But what actually defines who we are? What is it that assigns us a label, a persona, a group within we can sit?
Political affiliation is seen as an easy grouping to be assigned. After all if we have the ability to vote freely and exercise that vote, we must therefore identify with the core aims of a political party or movement. This doesn’t always follow. People will vote differently at different stages of their lives. People will switch allegiances according to the promises or rhetoric espoused by a party at an election. Age is supposed to affect how one votes. The older you get, the more conservative with a small ‘c’ you become. Maybe however it may be that you become more entrenched in your opinions?
The current new world order is veering towards extremism. Intolerance, fear and hatred and becoming state sponsored. The world after 1945 sought by and large to cooperate. The rise of communism did not necessarily help with this nor did many brutal dictatorships but communism in itself is not a system of extremism. It was merely used as such by the ruling elite of these countries. People power eventually pulled back the iron curtain. The void left by many decades of state control has had its many downsides and power is still in the hands of ruling elites in many former soviet block countries. Power has also been in the hands of global corporations, social classes and dominant political movements in too called democratic countries who sought to lecture the eastern block about freedom and democracy. It was easy in the 1950’s to see communists as dangerous because the arguments were often presented so simplistically. Indeed the rise of far right extremism leading to the election of Donald Trump and the far right in Europe has returned to the language of fear simply presented. The millions left worse off by global corporate greed have turned to the loudest voices claiming to represent those disaffected voters. Many of these voters stuck slavishly to old political allegiances despite their own circumstances deteriorating at the hands of the few.
I have always been a consistent voter. I have rarely switched because I believed my countries best interests were best served by my party of choice. I am no longer that person however. I find myself more liberal and less entrenched in party politics now. Having said that, you will probably guess my politics are not conservative in any way! It does not however determine who I am. It merely asks me to question what do I believe in?
Religion is a vastly influential cornerstone in millions of people lives. You are often assigned a religion at birth by the very religion that then demands your allegiance and unquestioning devotion. Some come to religion or change religious affiliation in adulthood. Many find a comfort in an order that prescribes a way of living and a code of ethics to adhere to. Atheism is feared by some as there is no real value system based on faith. The vast majority of religions at their heart claim to promote peace, love and cooperation but yet again, those in power seek to use selected doctrines to promote more extreme versions of their faith. You cannot blame the faith for acts of barbarism carried out in its name. A wooden stick is not inherently violent unless its used in a violent act. I don’t follow a religion but I have faith in my fellow human beings to eventually do the right thing. This can be tested and I have done so myself on occasions. My faith or perceived lack of one does not however define who I am.
Gender and sexuality can be a minefield of continental proportions. Gender and sexuality are fundamental to the core of humans and centuries of persecution because of supposed differences in gender assignment and sexuality have made the battle for mainstream acceptance extremely tough. To be someone who realises they are gay or that their assigned gender at birth is incorrect must feel at odds with a world still predominantly heterosexual and gender pre determined. The issues and struggles are massive and should never be belittled. However, I do not wish to be known by my sexuality or gender. It isn’t who I am. It is merely a part of the whole who I am. I don’t take my gender or sexuality for granted but have never experienced what it would be like to be otherwise.
I am a slightly overweight, white middle aged man. I am a writer, poet, parent and partner. The writer, poet part is what I do. That is what defines me. Being a parent and a partner are states of being. Once you have children, you are seen as someones dad or mum. Your children mainly see you as their parent and rarely as a man or woman, conservative, liberal, heterosexual, homosexual person. These are not what constitutes being their parent. Being a partner is a state of being. Yes we have choices in that and we are seen as our partners other half, significant other, boyfriend/girlfriend. They are however states of being.
I prefer to be known by what I do. By what I contribute to the world and how I help others and the world around me. I could introduce myself by saying “Hi I’m John. I’m a straight middle aged atheist, liberal” . What does that tell you about what I do in the world? It hangs labels round my neck for others to form judgements about me. I accept others have different political beliefs to me, that others have different sexual and gender assignments, that their religion is different to mine. I do not mistrust those people by their labels but more by how they act and what they do. People can judge me by the actions I take or don’t take. It is far harder to run away from the consequences of your actions or inactions. To hide behind a label of which version of god I hold up, to adhere to the doctrines of the party I vote for does not define me.
Now can we get on being decent people and making a world that helps each other instead of worrying which side of the fence you wish to stand on and why the other side is wrong. It’s just different. If the world was made up of white middle aged, liberal, atheistic men, it would crumble. Difference is wonderful, enriching, enlightening.