Being human is not automatic. Not simply sourced in the assemblage of genetic material we each possess, but in the complexities of culture adaptation, both social and biological. We carry our culture, our language, and our resultant prejudices to every encounter we have with others. Usually, our awareness is focused on our ego as the creator of our experience and we act towards others as objects of our experience; as belonging to our world. We rarely have an awareness of the complex of social, cultural, and experiential elements that constitute our world. We see others not conforming to what we believe is right and true, and through our reactions, we reflect and reproduce the systemic features of racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other acts of discrimination and prejudice.
If we lived in every moment with an awareness of what we bring to every encounter, or at a minimum that we bring a certain set of assumptions, we would have a better chance of arresting those assumptions and prejudices that perpetuate the suffering of others and ourselves. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to reify these assumptions by an overuse of the existential qualifier, ‘I am.’ Our obsessive pursuit of identity, to be our ‘authentic self,’ has the net effect of dividing us even further and setting those assumptions and prejudices in stone. The reach for identity is a collective endeavor. It is a constant across social groups, from LGBTQIA+ to Southern Baptists. We are all hammering into place the edifice of our own oppression.
It is the fetish of the individual, the cult of personality, that drives us apart, blinding us to our common connections. As much as Andy Warhol was right, each person’s pursuit of their 15 minutes has become an obsession with being seen, being recognized as ‘someone.’ It isn’t the whole of our being we want recognized, just the parts that are acceptable, or rather recognizable, to others. For 15 minutes, we want the world to see itself reflected in our being to validate the questionable truth of our existence.
Our individuality is cheap, not because it isn’t valuable, but because we do not value it. While we have an intention to be individuals, we do so on autopilot, perusing the warehouse of options and assembling an identity that somewhat represents something. Much like constructing an…