As a society, we are increasingly obsessed with defining ourselves. Think about most introductions that people make: “Hi, I’m John, and I’m a Student,” or “Dr. Smith at your service, surgical doctor, that is.”
While we do change our introductions based on who we are talking to, we have a reasonable small circulation of them. The revolve primarily around what we do. Sometimes they extend to what we think: “I’m liberal.” In conversation it is often our history or our personality: “I’m from Vancouver” or “I’m optimistic.”
When we define ourselves by belief systems and assumptions, we are being close minded and start to be walk a dangerous path: “We should all just buy more and the economy will pull itself back out of this mess.”
We even define ourselves by our flaws or struggles. While it is humbling to see our flaws, what does it achieve by boxing ourselves?
These fundamentally little things seem to be so important to us.
If you look throughout history at all the atrocities, you can blame religious institutions, political movements, ideologues, zealots and nincompoops. But what is the real problem? People try so hard to define themselves that they walk a dangerous path.We struggle to be challenged at our very core.
“But we are a tolerant society now?” Really? Well, even if we are, there is a huge difference between tolerating others and recognising that you would benefit from changing yourself.
It is emotionally unsettling to be undefined. We seek out people that define themselves similarly so that we can all pat each other on the back and applaud how right we are. It prevents us being challenged.
Furthermore, encouraging someone to make a change is insulting. When did this become the case? Okay, do we just strive to tolerate everyone? No. That would be the end of us. We need to learn from others.
The information society is taking us one step closer every day to having a quantifiable definition of ourselves. When that happens, how are we any different to 6.8 billion machines? Quantified definitions are not very different to machine specifications.
Why can we not define ourselves by what we can be? Each of us have the potential to be much greater than we currently are. But even the act of defining oneself by what they could be would be limiting. Would defining oneself as the potential world leader simultaneously limit them being bohemian designer?