Where do I find my identity? Do I rely on others to help me identify who I am? Do I ally myself with a political party or political manifesto? Am I a religious fanatic who cannot see beyond the literal teachings of my denomination? Am I a blinkered secularist or atheist? Is my creed an extreme nationalism? Could it be that I have beliefs that I use not as a true means of having a personal identity, but as a means to identify others as adversaries? As I go through life, I will make decisions based on what seems to be the best option in any given situation. How I choose what the best option might be, shows what my beliefs truly are. Most of us, I guess, will choose the easiest way out of a situation; the one with the lowest personal cost. Again, what cost I am ready to suffer depends on what I value.
In theory, it is very easy to say that people are more important than money, but how is it that in practice this principle is broken time and time again? Part of the problem is the fact that we are all free to take care of our selfish wants first. I do not have to do anything for anybody else if it should not be convenient, or should I not be in the mood. All of this is said to underline the importance of choosing principles that I really believe in and then actually holding to them as I live my life. Often, our beliefs and values are inherited from our family, and in fact that was normal until the idea of the family unit came under fire. Now that this has been found as optional as anything else, many of us find ourselves floundering in a sea where we have no bearings to navigate anywhere. Seeing as human beings like to feel part of society, and part of a group that gives them support in life, it is no surprise that groupthink and political partisanship have become so strong an element in our national life. Many a person now has his or her identity rooted in loyalty to a social or political movement which has made living with those outside the group very problematic. Here is a quick anecdote: When I was young, my family, including my grandparents, parents and siblings, would often go have lunch in a favourite delicatessen. We would almost always choose the same food, and my grandfather would almost always buy a cigar or two at the cash register when we paid for the meal.
The community that kept this eatery open, and the rather free sale of tobacco are now gone. However, the feeling of happy belonging and freedom holds fast in my memory, and I regret that so many of us in our post-modern days will never even have the chance to have the same kind of experience. This is a part of my own identity.