How do I identify myself? Let me count the ways. Taking my cue from the recent forum on multiple identities and the rise of tribalism and because I should do some soul searching on my birthday, I decided to do this experiment.
I am female – and that makes me part of the fairer sex, but not the weaker sex. The old stereotype of the bed- and kitchen-bound woman is giving way to the vibrant, confident and employed person who wants to be treated like…any man. But I am not progressive enough to call myself a feminist.
I am Eurasian – which technically makes me an “Others’’ plus all the stereotypes associated with the community – can sing, can dance, born Catholic and educated in a convent school – except that I don’t fit any.
I am a member of the minority community which resents being categorised as Others but I don’t suffer the angst of being treated differently because of an ethnic label. I somehow had minority privilege.
I am, ah, middle-aged but not quite a boomer. More Gen X or what can be termed the Majulah generation. Which means my childhood was not spent in an HDB flat and the toilet was a jamban
I am working – because I want to and not because I need to. Which makes me more fortunate than others in my age group who still have mortgages to pay off or children to bring up. I am on my way to retirement age but I think that I have settled my financial future, with CPF and other savings.
I am single – see above on my good fortune but this also puts me in the group which can’t get a resale flat in prime location housing much less a BTO one. But I am already too set in my ways to want to uproot because I am, yes, older.
I am educated – and there weren’t so many graduates at the time I became one. Which makes me a bit sniffy (I admit) about the ease with which degree holders are produced these days. But I know full well that it wasn’t my degree that made my career. It was stamina.
I am Catholic, although not from the cradle, but I sometimes have difficulty reconciling the pragmatic approach with religious principles. I take the easy way out by not thinking too much about it and trusting God to help me when I do.
I am a HDB heartlander because I choose to live with my mother in her flat instead of private property. I believe that I fit in quite well into the neighbourhood. I go to Orchard Road only when I want to buy books.
I am Singaporean. I am proud to be a citizen and will always fly the flag high. I will defend the country with my life, even though I never went through National Service. I will support the Government of the day, but I will still criticise policies which I think are bad for citizens and our future.
We all have so many facets to our identities. Some of them surface more than others – when we are with different people or at different times. Some have decided that a certain facet will take priority – like the religious or ethnic identity – and this will guide their words and actions. Likewise, some depend on their age as a guide-post, or feel compelled to because of stereotypes, such as young people are more environmentally conscious than older people.
Each of us is a jumble of many peoples and it’s no wonder that we can get at each other’s throats when one identity overwhelms all else or we let our perceptions of the “other’’ get in the way of interaction.
I don’t know enough terms that range over behavioural psychology, like the academics who were at the forum. I only know that most times, we must accept that individuals are unique, and not force them to conform to our own world-view. That individuals of whatever colour and stripe should be treated with respect, rather than vilified or shouted down.
It’s about “give-and-take’’. That’s something we shouldn’t forget no matter which facet of our identity we show the world.
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