Who am I? That’s a question we don’t ask ourselves very often. Perhaps it becomes relevant when we are completing a resume for a job or creating a profile for an online dating site. Since I haven’t done either of those things for a long time, or ever, it may be fair to say that I don’t really know myself at all. So, purely for the sake of research, after 39 years of marriage, I went on a dating site just long enough to discover that it takes about fifty questions to identify who I am and to find someone just like me in order to ensure compatibility. I then went on a friendship site and discovered a very similar process. Apparently, we are not able to love, or even like someone who doesn’t share our personal traits and characteristics. It seems that we are encouraged to be constrained by our stereotypes.
I really just wanted to enter a profile containing one word. Human. Shouldn’t that be enough? If you are looking for someone to spend time with and a human isn’t what you are looking for then maybe you are on the wrong planet, or at least on the wrong website. Perhaps the singular descriptor could be Humane, which may indicate the existence within you of some of the more positive of mankind’s characteristics.
It became clear to me that society is less an accumulation of people and more correctly a collection of groups. Perhaps that explains why we can all be genetically humane while society is predisposed to negative dysfunction. The process of categorizing us into subsets of society depersonalizes us and minimizes the more favorable aspects of who we are as people. It is far easier to dislike a stereotype or a group of people than it is to dismiss an individual human being who comes into our life. I had the good fortune to spend a couple of years in Libya. The society there was completely foreign to me complete with its benefits and drawbacks. The people who I met and worked with, however, were basically the same as me. Their kindness, warmth, and generosity were dominant but occasionally offset by negative societal and demographic influences. On the occasions where something seemed strange or negative, I could easily place blame on the religion, national leader or life experiences rather than on the individual characteristics of the person standing in front of me.
If this is a reality for most of us, then why is it that we strive to be identified as a part of a group rather than as an individual? Does that group we strive to belong to really represent who we are deep down? Do the more radical or visible members of that segment of society really speak and act as we would, or is the connection to them the price you have to pay to belong to something. Belonging and connecting is a basic human need which contributes to our emotional and physical security. We are compelled to gain acceptance as a member of a group. Unfortunately, in our segmented and adversarial society, when you join one group it can alienate you from others, which is extremely counter-productive.
Stop for a second and create in your mind a list of identifiers that describe who you are. Then think about each one and determine if it indirectly isolates you from others in some way. If we wish to work toward creating a society of uniform acceptance, creating barriers through the creation of segmented groups will not work. We are all far more alike than we have come to believe based on the artificial differences that our global and local societies promote.
I may be many things based on my genetics, environment, and lifestyle but it is my genuine hope that none of them prevent me from my ultimate goal of being humane.
Who do you think you are? That, my friend, is up to you to decide.