perjantai 13. maaliskuuta 2009

Self-identity and the unknown “other"

I don’t want to replay the same old tone about the stereotypes. Everybody knows, what the word means, but does everybody know the background of this concept and the reasons what it stands for. If we really want to break stereotypes, it’s vital to understand their function and meaning to collective thinking.

Regardless of cultures, different societies have always tried to form their own identity on the basis of what they don’t represent. Communal self-reflection has needed “the other”, which is used to set against with the self-identity. The “otherness” is based on necessary interdependence, which is natural to human thinking. The “other”, which is our opposite and to whom we are focusing the juxtaposition, is paradoxically also the lifeline to our own existence and identity.

If our identity is based on the”otherness”, breaking the stereotypes means also breaking our own identity base. Are we facing the threat of identity vacuum, the feeling of emptiness and identity crisis? How have we ever ended up to this situation and how should we settle this existential dilemma?

The world is living in imaginary societies, which are based on collective experiential. This experiential is maintained by collective narratives. These narratives have developed for collective self-identification and they are, on one hand, based on to ”otherness”, but on the other hand they are reinforcing already existing images about ourselves and about the “other”.

Imaginary societies are narrative structures, which are founded and build up again and again. People are socialised to this continuous story and they are also a part of regenerating and modifying it.

Stories are a part of historical narrative combined with some elements that are supporting the objective. One of the most important factors in these stories is that they rise up feelings, which transform into stereotypes, when time has passed enough. Artificial differences between people help some people to consolidate their thoughts and enable to live through something called collectiveness.

Because our identity is based on “otherness”, our own identity is how we have seen the other. The identity of the other can be more familiar than self-identity, because it’s self-made and the self-identity can be farther, because it’s due to somebody else’s behaviour. While studying the weird and unknown “other”, one can learn more about one’s own self-identity. Self-identification needs the knowledge about the own collective story, but also the counterpart vision about ourselves, because we are too near to ourselves to do fundamental self-evaluation.

JYY’s development cooperation week offers plenty of views about us. Challenge yourself, but I warn you, this experience can change our attitudes permanently.

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