who do you think you are? (identity, constructivism, and colonialism)

I am not an African, I am not an American, I am not white, I am not black, I am not a Michigander, I am not a catholic, I am from no country, I am of no nation. I like to consider myself a global citizen, a person of the world. The constructed boundaries of countries hold no bearing in my mind, I see no lines drawn upon the earth and I believe that no falsely imposed blockade of governments can hold me back. We are all people of this world and being so we all hold the same basic hopes and dreams. Everyone wants enough food to eat, clean water to drink, a shelter to be warm or safe, education for themselves and their children, and most importantly to be loved by one another. There are no boundaries when people care.

So you may be thinking, this guy is a crazy social constructivist and an idealist – sure if you’d like to use the language of old, white, men with too much time spent on picking at the elements of human nature, then sure I am a social constructivist and an idealist.

A recent article in the BBC: Identity: Who do you think you are? explores the changing roles of ‘African’ identity. Soon Ghana will be holding its 50th Anniversary of becoming independent from colonial rule. If you do not know the history of Africa and colonialism, the continent was divided at the Berlin Conference of 1884-5 by the leaders of Europe. These leaders gave no attention to ‘nations’ of people, or ethnic groups or lands held, or really anything that would pertain to the continent besides gaining the most property. This led to the division of nations within countries.

What I believe is the most important excerpt from the BBC article follows:

“People should be able to move freely and transcend all forms of mental and physical boundaries. Family and national belongings should not be used to divide us but to better understand each other and bridge our gaps because we have a lot that unites us. I have become a black man in Europe but I try to move beyond that and not to let others impose their will on me. I am what I am because of circumstances and choices I make in life. I believe I am my own country: the clothes I wear are my national flag; the song I sing in the shower is my national anthem and all my body parts are the different departments and ministries of my government. The social ministry goes to the eyes, mouth and ears. The home affairs ministry functions through the heart and the brain and my sexual organs have the most important portfolio covering foreign affairs. To be a human being is to understand oneself by understanding others. This can only be achieved by creating relationships with other fellow humans on the basis of true humanism: one love; one heart and one destiny.”

Who do you think you are? This question I feel goes along very well with YP4’s question of ‘What do you stand for?’ Do you identify with family, ethnicity, religon, region, or country? Who are you and what do you stand for?

idealism, action, and reality

Through my personal mission to help save lives in Africa I have often been called an idealist. However I don’t think there is any other constructed term that can be used to describe me and my work. I am an idealist, some say I am a naive idealist, and that is where I tell them they are wrong. My ideals have become realities, my ideals have never been so naive and seemingly unattainable. I define myself by my chosen actions, that is, the choices I make embodied. Therefore I see a time where everyone acts on what they truly believe and not what the popular society tells them. A time where people are motivated solely by the most basic human emotion of compassion and that compassion is demonstrated through their actions to help others and change the world for the better. Your choices define you, your actions define you – how will you choose to act today? How will you show compassion to another person in need today? Your name means nothing, your clothes mean nothing, your amount of income means nothing, your body means nothing – meaning is created in how you dream, how you choose, and how you act. I have seen so many people fall victim to society and the newest pair of jeans wins out over a life in Africa, I have seen a pair of shoes take precedence over the medication for a dying child, I have seen ignorance defeat hope – yet, after all that I have seen so many people let go of their name, their material wants, and their incomes and become dedicated to saving lives in Africa. There is a long and terrible past of exploits and screw-ups in our nation’s name on the African continent, too many to name, too many to discuss because what is most important now is that as we are saving lives in Africa now, Africa is reciprocally saving our lives from a life without meaning. Add meaning to your life, choose to act and not to sit by idly, choose to stand up and create the new reality. Neither one can happen without the other. It may be difficult to see the direct impact of your choices and actions, but you must know and remember that people are being helped. Recognition is not the end to the means. Saving lives and making a difference is the means and the end. Some may get all of the recognition, but that does not discount anything that anyone else has done.

each day as we arise
thousands fall just outside
where good intentions
pave the streets they call home
and tomorrow never comes

the time is now
we are called to take a stand
we are a rallying cry for
the voiceless

(poem from Mathitis)