Sounds like something you’d waste your time on reading about, right? No, we didn’t think so. International Relations or IR and definitely not identities and othering – all of which is portrayed like a large collection of the most boring things on this planet, so that’s no surprise at all. Although this is a subject of relevance to basically everyone worldwide, there’s not even the tiniest little effort to make IR stuff readable or maybe even a little bit fun and interesting. Walk with us.
As you’re approaching your official civil Doctorate in the field of International Relations from the well-respected Creativeroom4talk University located on Le Internet, it is about time to talk about something of controversy. As opposed to all of the other articles in this magazine, not touching any of those things… Anyways, let’s get started – have you ever found yourself thinking about your identity? Considering this word having gained media popularity as F for the past years (quite a few, actually) in the section of trendy-things-to-write-about, no wonder you’ve found yourself thinking about whether earth is flat and how much of your time to actually need to invest in contemplating your own identity.
Because, you know, people writing things say it’s important to focus on them.
When you’ve had these thoughts of self-questioning, they’ve probably ranged from being about analyzing your choice of brands (smartphones, coffee, jeans, all of it) and moving all the way down to the deeper things of life. Like whether a specific diet is good for you, which political party or theory you find most convenient, what those damn migrants are doing in this country and all other things relevant. Some of you may have gone ever further with your thinking, inviting friends and family into discussions in which you collectively try to convince each other about individual convictions. What happens in these situations? Well, all of what separates you from each other is ignored, and then you find one or two things that you’ve got in common, increasing its relevance to the level of any international law document of your choice.
But we’ll get back to international law in another series, those little pieces of fun text written in a language making Bernie Sanders’ speech skills legitimately comparable with Aristotle.
All discussions are useful though, this is important. In each discussion, you’ll learn more about each participant and his/her ideas, as well as their rhetoric skills, competencies and aim with getting involved in the discussion in the first place. Even better, you’ll learn much more about the many ways in which your own opinion differs from theirs and how they too disagree with each other on basically every single point of discussion. This is normal, it’s healthy. Each brain is unique, each human being has their own set of memories, thoughts, experience, interests, passions, goals and dreams. Agreeing on any topic without having questioned it thoroughly is most likely not a great sign of anything.
Now, let’s just get on with the identity thing. What is it? Well, it’s basically a set of attributes, values, ideas and preferences making you you. The way you talk, walk, dress, act, what music you like, how you want to live your daily life, what you think of politicians and political parties, how you reason on conflicts and issues in the world and so on. Identity includes everything. On a group level, let’s say a family, you’ve got a much smaller set of units which defines all of you as a family – no details included because if anyone ever tried, the result would be a family-revolution-thing. Now, in every possible group you can think of, there’s an identity going on. That’s the man point holding it together and no matter what the other attributes and variations include, the one little set of unifying identity attributes are the important ones.
Variations are awesome, who would like to live in a world of robots talking, thinking and acting the exact same way?
Every person has a lot of different identities, depending on the mood, situation and external circumstances. Attributes forming the identity of “being an asshole”, to give a colorful example, most often occurs as a response to a situation. If you couldn’t sleep last night, spilling your coffee all over the car, heard on the news that it’s a rainy day and were met by your favorite coffee shop being out of donuts, then you’ll all ready to press the button and let the assholery (it’s a word) begin. Interaction of this kind could then stir things in the right direction, so to counter-measure the asshole identity you might have received a nice smile from your favorite person in the world. Suddenly, the “off” button is pressed and you’ve got yourself another identity ready, the “I feel great today” one.
As you can see, identities aren’t stagnant but shift intensely depending on a huge range of internal and external circumstances. On a group level, this is why you don’t have much in common with your parents in terms of culture, and this is why history books don’t have much in common with all things today. Change happens, mostly smoothly but at times with bumps here and there, and whenever someone recognizes a change to be or may be occurring, a part of that given group will show resistance. This has occurred in all dimensions throughout the history of societies and is at times referred to as a “revolution”. However, the big ones can be a little bit difficult to understand and relate to, and luckily there’s a way to make all of that understandable.
Societies and other groups tend to act like human beings. We’re all interacting beings, meaning that we use different means to communicate. Bombs and weapons are the most extreme ones, whereas talking to each other, share things, are examples of the most constructive forms. Now, if all of this was just a bunch of sunshine stories, everyone would be friends and the amount of assholes, as previously described, would be down to a minimum. However, everyone who has ever interacted with anyone, ever, knows that this is far from the case. The impressive amount of verbal mass-abuse of the concept of identities which you’ve witnessed both from media houses and self-proclaimed field experts is ever so growing.
Social sciences have one definition of identities and what they mean close to heart, whereas the field of international relations has another one. You know, the more useful one – which is why you as a reader haven’t had much access to it (up until now of course). Sources say that if people were actually more introduced to this fantastic field of study, especially in terms of identity, so much more stuff about the world would make sense. Since we all live in this world and on this planet (Elon’s working on it though), the reasons for investing some time in getting all nice and cozy with relevant concepts is a great idea. According to scientists of course, yup.
But to keep things nice and easy, we’ll handle the question of identities like the Kardashians handle Instagram. They make all things important. Now, naturally it would be time to go through the theoretical way in which identities happen, the whole othering thing in more detail (but not dead boring, we promise). If you’re all fired up about it, then hold on to the next article in this series and we’ll go through it like you never thought it would be possible before. It is and yes we can.
We hope that you enjoyed this article in our series on Identities and Othering. Hopefully, you didn’t fall asleep but actually found it a bit interesting, and a little less obnoxious. Stay tuned for next week and the next episode of making International Relations and identities and othering great again!