Below is a random theory i made up. It’s probably all bullshit. Or not (in which case someone else probably already thought of it).
Response to a threat to identity
What can be done about the identity crisis?
Our identity is the summation of our values. It can be likened to a portfolio that is the summation of its assets. Each asset has an absolute value, a weighting in the portfolio, and an associated amount of risk with it. An identity is slightly more complex as it wishes to be noticed, accepted and understood, but it still runs the same risk of going bankrupt possibly resulting in anxiety, depression, self-harm or suicide.
The rise of terrorism has raised the fear of death of those living in the West, death is the ultimate loss of identity which results in the belief of an afterlife (for themselves and for their loved one) due to the refusal to believe someone’s identity can simply cease to exist. In an increasingly growing, globalised, communicative world our past identities are coming under threat causing a fear of a loss of values from other cultures, races, religions, genders, sexualities, immigrants etc. This also makes it much harder for us to distinguish our identity from others such that it is unique while simultaneously being acceptable to us (for example you could cut off your hand to be unique, but that wouldn’t be acceptable to you). And what is acceptable to us, is generally influenced by social norms. Therefore we try and somehow be unique, while being restricted within social norms. If a fundamental part of your identity is outside these social constraints you will most likely find yourself isolated in society, oppressed by others, feeling as if something is quite not right but not being able to pinpoint what, or even distress at the suppression of your identity.
Each value within an identity has an ‘absolute value’ (an arbitrary unit such at utils in utilitarianism) which determines its weighting, some of the most significant factors will be described here.
Factors which effect absolute value:
- Initial absolute value
Factors which effect weighting:
- Rate of change of values weighting
- Number of values
Initial Absolute Value – This is an arbitrary absolute value given to the value once it has been adopted.
Time – The amount of time you have adopted that value for. The longer you have adopted a value, the more of your existence you have dedicated to that value, thus the absolute value of the value increases over time (ceteris paribus).
Notice – Acknowledgement of your identity by others
Acceptance – Acceptance of your value from your friends. If you notice a friend accepts a value of yours, its weighting will increase temporarily, then settle down to a new, higher equilibrium weighting.
Understanding – Understanding is the method used in order to accept someone’s value, however accepting their value does not necessarily mean you fully understand it. And fully understanding it does not necessarily mean you accept it.
The more values that you understand and accept the closer relationship you have with the person. A problem arises when you understand them better than they do, so may accept who they really are, but not who they think they are. Another problem arises when you think you understand their value and accept it, but really you are only scratching the surface of their value and hence don’t really fully understand/accept it. You may not notice it, but the other person will.
Number of values – The weighting of a given value is its Absolute Value divided by the summation of the absolute values of the other values in the identity. Once a new value goes from having zero weighting to any positive number, a new value is created. This change will most likely be a step change to any possible weighting. Thus the relative weighting of all the other values decreases.
Rate of change of value’s weighting – This is important because I believe this figure influences your perceived weighting of a value and hence your emotions. If a value is changing very rapidly it will appear (in your emotional state) that it has a much higher weighting than it would do normally (and hence other values’ weighting are diminished), however it is a temporary increase. If the rate is increasing rapidly for a certain value, then the person will be feeling happy, exaggerating its relative weighting. If the rate is decreasing rapidly for a certain value, then the person will be feeling depression, exaggerating its relative weighting. (unsure of interplay between acceleration and velocity).
For example, if say your intelligence has a weighting of 0.25 in your identity, and then you fail all your exams. Cognitive dissonance will occur raising the apparent weighting of this value from 0.25 to say 0.75, in your distress it appears a much bigger loss of identity than it is in reality. In such a situation it would be helpful to receive support from people who know your values, to remind you of the previous distribution of weights of values prior to the exams failing, allowing you some real perspective.
These variables fluctuate over smaller intervals in time (with emotions) and would tend to increase over larger periods of time.
Response to a threat to Identity
Anxiety can arise from the acceptance of uncertainty. You must become accustomed to assessing probabilities of things accurately otherwise distress is caused
Depression is not necessarily your identity value dropping to zero, but a rapid change in the value such that to you it appears as if it has.
Self-harm is a method employed to show that you are alive, real and exist when you are having an identity crisis..
When you are born the absolute value of your identity would be zero – essentially having no identity. At some point your brain will develop to a stage where it requires some form of identity. This would mean that young children should be more vulnerable as they have fewer values, a smaller identity and fewer defence mechanisms to support themselves, yet they seem to be not too bothered by it. There would be a stage between developing the consciousness to form an identity, and having sufficient values to not be in some kind of identity crisis. A possibility is that they could share unquestionably in the identity of their parents and eventually (when they have the further mental capacity) adopt those values for themselves. Once the child has developed to a stage where they are able to assume their own identity, cognitive dissonance is now possible so it would be necessary for the child to have some kind of basic psychological coping mechanisms by this stage.
Kids who are relatively shielded from the real world through the education system would have significantly less reason to develop their identity as the state has provided them with temporary path in life that does not expect vast quantities of things from them. Someone who did not go through such a system would have to develop a more robust identity at a relatively early stage (‘grow up’) in order to make decisions for/about themselves. This could have a severe impact on the child as it takes time for more and better psychological coping mechanisms to be available for use by the child.
Your identity will struggle to survive in a world where cultural values are continuously deviating over time at a rapid pace from a given identity. Therefore in order for your identity to exist it must either change, or fight off any change. Older people have invested a significant amount of their limited time alive in their identity; therefore it is much harder for them to change their identity as it invalidates the values that they held for a large portion of their life, meaning that they would have to confront the fact that they had wasted a large amount of their limited life (probably worse for those who do not believe in an afterlife).
People who existed in times where the progress of knowledge was much slower than it is today, would have less trouble maintaining a fixed identity as progress was slow. However today, progress is very rapid and it is difficult for older people to adjust to this. I would imagine the older you are the more aggressive you would be in defending your identity, as you have more to lose.
While it is important to have an identity, how can you be absolutely sure it is an identity that is right or has worth? You would either have to be absolutely certain of yourself (this type of thinking could cause significant harm to yourself and others), or get recognition from other people/institutions.
This section will focus on recognition from other people.
The most basic stage of your relationship with another human is being noticed by them. This is a very weak form of connection and satisfaction can only be gained from it in huge numbers such as those gathered by entertainers.
Another stage is acceptance which is an essential behavioural feedback mechanism. In order to accept someone you have to know what values they have. However acceptance is a rather shallow form, as you can accept someone’s identity without any real understanding of it. Once you fully understand their values it will allows for a meaningful form of acceptance.
Each person will have a different definition of what a friend is, and each will require a different quantity of identity to be accepted/understood. The amount of your identity that you reveal to a person that is then accepted by the person, would be a measure of how closer friends you were. This is supported by studies where people who tell each other things which are personal to them (their values), they tend to become better friends, and at a much faster rate. However friendship is in some form, a mutual relationship. It is possible for one person to reveal all of their identity and have it accepted, but for the other person to reveal very little. This imbalance in this relationship may (theoretically) make the chance of rupture of the relationship to be more likely, assuming that the person who has shared a lot of their identity notice the other is not reciprocating. It may be advantageous to not reveal too much of your identity too quickly such that you can notice whether the other person is reciprocating or not, and hence reduce the imbalance and chance of relationship rupture. Obviously there are far more variables in reality than just this, but it seems significant.
Following this definition, love would just be the sharing of your whole identity and having it accepted and most importantly understood by the other person (of course you would use other signals to decide whether you decide to share your identity in the first place, and to continue past the simple friend stage).
Animals and children accept your identity unconditionally because they have little concept of values. Animals could give the a person the illusion that their identity is being accepted, but identity is something that could only be understood in any detail by something with brain like a human, such that the relationship with an animal is far weaker than a human one. Dogs seem to understand our emotions to a certain extent and play off them so it is easy to see why they are common pets. Other animals such as cats and fish would have other reasons such as cuteness, something to do, or maybe just simply a misreading of the signals the animals are sending. NB I have no significant knowledge of pets.
Say intelligence forms a significant part of your identity. You have friends that accept your intelligence identity. But then someone comes along who is more intelligence than you (who is not your friend). This gives rise to one of two responses: respect for the other or inadequacy of yourself. If you perceive the other as having more intelligence, it generates respect and the desire to improve your own intelligence. If you perceive yourself as having less than the other, it generates inadequacy and one of two responses: a desire to reduce the apparent intelligence of the other (revenge for diminishing/destroying your value of your intelligence), or hopelessness (your value of your intelligence has now been destroyed). This could cause particular problems to your identity if the more intelligent person tried to become friends with your friends, as you would fear that it would not only undermine your value of your intelligence, but also your friends acceptance of your intelligence and the amount of time they spend with you (time spent reinforcing their acceptance/value of your identity).
Another additional barrier to changing identity is idols/mentors/role models. Idols/mentors/role models are responsible for providing you with values to adopt. This may be because you already share some values, or that you see other people accepting your role model, and hence wish to mimic them. A good example to take is neo-classical economists. Neo-classical economists has been championed by prominent figures such as Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, all the presidents/prime ministers since then, Milton Friedman, Jeffrey Sachs etc. In addition, the most prominent academic journals only accept neo-classical perspectives. To admit that the entire school of economics was based upon invalid assumptions, would invalidate an entire field of study (economics) and all the people who championed it. This would be particularly difficult for current economists who obtained their values directly from these prominent figures, as the destruction of the school means destructions not only of their own identity, but the identity of their idols as well (in the case of presidents/prime ministers the state is also ridiculed). Defence of the idol would be much larger from the person if the idol was personally responsible for giving them their value. On a subconscious level it may be possible that the person believes that if their idol met them in real life that they would accept them because of their value (like a friend), and hence that personal connection would be taken away if the value was proved to be illegitimate.
Our identities are becoming increasingly based on materialistic things such as a job, wealth, social status, the latest gadget, beauty – things that are mostly only attainable through the state and corporations. And less so on non-materialistic things such as close relationships, community or knowledge/wisdom.
I don’t think people can be properly satisfied solely by materialistic values. This may be why people who have these values pursue them more and more in hope that it will fulfil their need for an identity. However materialistic values are a value given to us by the state and corporations, can something so superficial really ever satisfy us? Can it ever be enough? Are these people in some way in constant dissatisfaction with themselves (if they don’t have significant other values in their identity portfolio)? A materialistic value such a wealth or beauty often gives rise to popularity/fame which would soothe the identity somewhat.
Not only does neo-liberal capitalism/advertising encourage us to be more materialistic with our identity (for reasons of profit), but a materialistic identity can be directly seen by you acting as a reminder to your uniqueness; and seen by others, unlike non-physical identities. In addition, it may be advantageous for political power to swap our identity associated with sense of community to more individualistic/materialistic means, as part of a divide and conquer strategy.
Poor choice of identity is resulting in overuse of pathological defence mechanisms, leaving people completely disjoint from reality.
I think people who grow up in an environment surrounded by wealth, associate wealth with their identity via social status, and hence do not connect with those who do not have wealth. If you do not share part of your identity with another, you cannot understand them.
An issue with knowledge/wisdom is that stupid/ignorant people believe they have it, hence they do not bother trying to pursue it. In fact the pursuit of knowledge conflicts with a stupid person’s need to preserve their identity, hence their brain employs logical fallacies (logical fallacies come easier to stupid people) for fear of losing its identity.
Theistic religions are able to act as the ideal untouchable sanctuary for our identity:
- Provides a way of the identity to survive through death – the afterlife
- A higher power gives your life a purpose, even if you don’t know what it is. This provides an additional coping mechanism for anything that may attack someone’s values because it is ‘God’s Will’. This is potentially damaging is it means people will not seek the real underlying reasons for their problems
- It provides specific values for you to make part of your identity (morals etc)
- Removes your guilt that arises from the cognitive dissonance between your values and your actions, because God forgives you if you simply ask for it – this is particularly dangerous as guilt acts as an important negative feedback to behaviour
- God is essentially a friend that is infinite throughout time and space. He notices you, accepts you and understands you (as well as everyone else). He has no chance of betraying you, dying, or rejecting you for betraying his will. Thus it is a risk-free value.
- Provides the identity with a tight community of like-minded people, reinforcing their beliefs
It is easy to see why, from this perspective, why religion is persistent even in an era of scientific revolution. Particularly seeing as people who are going through a similar struggle, created in this case by the assault of the logic of science, tend to flock together in order to defend their beliefs. As it is such a safe sanctuary, it is natural for people to place a large weighting of their identity upon this value, resulting in fundamentalism. In addition it will be able to easily recruit people whose identity has been damaged as it offers them an escape from their identity crisis.
The benefits of religion are evident in studies of religion that show that religious people suffer less stress than the others. However there are some stressors that can give rise to even more stress if you are religious. Such as if young child dies and you can’t rationalise a reason why God would want to take them as it’s too soon – you would go into severe cognitive dissonance and suffer significantly. Some people relinquish their belief under such circumstances.
ISIS is an interesting case to consider from this perspective. It is easy to imagine how a post-warzone such as Iraq would give rise to an organisation such as ISIS (breakdown of culture, society, dead families), which makes the followers focus on the more negative parts of its holy book and gives people who had everything taken from them an identity/purpose/community.
But how would they appeal to people in the Western world living in relative luxury? I would imagine a main character trait of someone who is a potential recruit would be a lack of identity. I will assume they are already of the Islamic faith as this allows an immediate bond to be formed to the organisation, but potentially anyone with a lack of identity could be recruited with enough effort (this would be a misallocation of resources on ISIS’s part though). The person being recruited, being an immigrant in a Western country, would most likely have trouble fitting in with Western society and adopting its values. They may also be suffering abuse due to the anti-Islamic narrative that has been pushed in Western countries since 9/11. An additional effect of this abuse may be to force an Islamic identity upon the person, even if they didn’t value that part of their identity very highly at first. If they are constantly reminded that they are Islamic, they will give a larger weighting to that identity; and if they adopt this identity, they will further acknowledge the abuse and insults that people throw towards them. An ISIS recruiter could appeal to not only the lack of identity, but also the struggle of a fellow member of Islam; and offer them a sense of community and purpose. Throughout history, mutual struggle seems to be a very good way of uniting people, combine that with a lack of identity and you have strong persuasive means to recruit others. It would seem that thinking Muslims are dangerous, is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In an ideal democracy the state is given power to represent the values of public. However this power can also be used to influence the values of the public, which may or may not be in their interest.
The state provides the environment from which you obtain your personal values, hence indirectly the state is essentially a part of your identity.
It may be advantageous for a state to get their citizens to make the state as large a part of their identity as possible, such that they will defend their state as if they are defending their own identity. Thus if someone criticises or attacks the state, it is essentially taken as an attack on themselves. If it is a large part of their identity and it is lost, the justification for their existence is threatened, and hence is responded to with aggression originating from their cognitive dissonance between reality and their identity. This is probably why the state is able to get its citizens to do what it wants even if it isn’t necessarily in its best interests.
States cannot suffer cognitive dissonance because they are not human so their values are set externally. This means a state can never go from doublethink to cognitive dissonance which would otherwise force it to rationalise what it is doing (or at least invoke various psychological defensive mechanisms).
The fact that citizens are able to take pride in historic actions that were performed by other people (who are associated with state) when they were not even alive, and to not have had any relatives who took part, shows the integration of the identity of the citizen with the state (also shows the ignoring of history that paints the state in a bad light). Given that jobs and the state can form part of your identity, a person who has a job working for the state would have a lot more at stake than the average person.
When you have sufficient power you can get away with anything, there is no one to oversee you as you are at the top of the hierarchy. You are no longer bound by law or socially acceptable constraints so there would no longer be any restraints on your Id (your instincts). This is the origin of the ‘core identity’ of the state which is supressed from public consciousness.
A super-state would be necessary to impose rules on the top of the states. It would then follow that the top officials of the superstate could get away with anything with no one to oversee them. Thus the definition/operation of a state would have to be redefined in order to prevent exploitation.
As the populace inherit its identity from the state, it must follow that the state has some kind of identity as well. An interplay between the identity of the state and its citizens occurs where each influences the other, in a democracy. In today’s current version of democracy, it appears that the state has learnt from the past by allowing the identity of the state to vary based on the populations values (a state with a rigid identity cannot survive for long). However it is able to limit the population’s values within a certain spectrum of debate of its choosing (to a certain extent) to keep the population with the illusion of a choice, while continuing with the core identity of the state for which public values cannot influence (as easily). This illusion of choice gives the populace an illusion of control over their identity which keeps them satisfied/busy. However the state cannot deviate from its identity in large, rapid steps otherwise the general public will notice and a state cannot function without the approval of its population in the long term. The steps must be small and gradual, ideally in secret.
While the state can change its identity without the public noticing it in small, slow, incremental steps, is this really fast enough for the state? Why should the state have to wait? It doesn’t. By exploiting a method such as shock therapy, it can shock its citizens into accepting an identity that they would not accept under most other conditions. This identity is not necessarily a permanent change to the citizens identity though, as it happens very rapidly and causes confusion/fear which will only last for a certain amount of time (unless they can keep the shocks perpetuating – but they will get less effective with each application). As opposed to incremental changes which will be more permanent.
The purpose of the shock is to put the majority of the citizen’s identity (state, family, life, certainty) under serious threat, creating fear and aggression. During this time of fear, citizens will look to the state to provide security for their identity by either: getting the state to secure their now uncertain previous values or provide them with new secure values. The state then takes advantage of this to rapidly push its core identity into the public sphere. By the time the shock is over some citizens will accept this new identity into their own, given the void in their identity that was created by the shock, via various psychological means. Or they will eventually revert to their old identity, and either: employ psychological defence mechanisms to protect themselves from cognitive dissonance over what had happened or realise that what the state had done had directly conflicted with their values and the values that the state had portrayed itself as having. Betrayal has occurred, and the citizen has been shown the core identity of the state.
The conservatives, by their nature, hold on to their values much longer than other political movements. Unfortunately for Britain, our past involves strong links to feudalism, imperialism and rule by aristocracy and monarchy. This means that, through indoctrination from the aristocracy to its children, the conservative party is more likely to take on these values which are reflected in their policy. However in a democratic system, to stay relevant, they must make concessions and take on modern day values in order to get a large share of the votes. Given that some of these values were around not so long ago, the values still exist within the general population to a certain extent and are thus they are more likely to vote conservative. Of course it takes a lot of skill to get lower and middle classes to vote for such a party, which the conservatives have shown to be very good at (with the help of other parties making huge mistakes). However in the current democratic system the UK Conservatives were able to get to power with only 24.3% support of all those eligible to vote, as power can be gained from such figures it makes the conservatives job to convince lower classes much less of a priority. If however the rest of the population does get pissed off enough, they will have alienated the majority of the population which could cause problems for them in the future, as alienated people are less likely to inherit the identity of the state.
A function of the state is to defend its identity from other states, and, as shown, its citizens. If another state dislikes its core values, the state can divert the attention from its core values to all of its values, thus the values of the citizens and thus the citizen’s identity, allowing the citizens to believe that the other state is against their way of life.
A very good way for a state to do something which is very questionable while maintaining some level of public support, is to appeal to the citizen’s values. For instance in the case of invading another state, a state could claim that is because the other state has inferior values compared to the invading state, and hence the invading state is doing a great thing by spreading its own values which its citizens share (such as freedom, democracy). Why wouldn’t the citizens approve of sharing their values with other states when the other state has values they consider reprehensible, whereas their own values are so great so they must just be mistaken or under oppression – even though the only reason they consider their values to be great is because their identity depends upon it. Their values may not be any morally superior to the other state. The state may genuinely believe it is just spreading its great values to others and be as deluded as its citizens, however, given the regular background actions, with no link to the original cause, that occur regularly throughout history, it is unlikely.
The US has been a global superpower (the “police” of the world) for a while now such that it has become part of its identity. Thus citizens have adopted this value as part of their identity. This makes it rather difficult for the state (assuming it would want to) to stop being a global superpower, without losing the support of its citizens, irrespective of whether it is economically feasible. If it is not economically feasible, the state needs to find other means to sustain its activities upon which it has built its (and its citizens) identity (not just superpower, but also the high standard of life etc). And being “the police of the world” provides a very good excuse to do some policing that may otherwise not be necessary, if there are benefits for the state. For instance Britain is still hung up upon its Imperialist past.
A state needs a specific identity in order to differentiate it from other states in the eyes of the public, if a leftist state is implemented, who acknowledge all identities, the state begins to lose the connection between itself and its people.
People are loyal to the company they work for, as the company provides work as a way to define your identity (when you ask the general question: what do you do? It is usually followed by a job description). This could be why many people view people who don’t work as sub-human in today’s culture, because they put value on work as they have formed part of their identity from it, therefore they have no connection with someone who doesn’t work [if that is the only information that they know about them].
Corporations caught onto this concept of identity a while ago, when, instead of just simply trying to get its employees to identify with the company, they began creating the concept of a brand (an identity for the corporation in the eyes of the consumer). They also quickly realised that they didn’t need much loyalty from their workers if they could effectively implement a form of slave labour where the worker has little choice and must accept the conditions the company provides – sweatshops in poor countries. Thus all the focus (shown by huge increases in spending on various forms of devious advertising) was on showing its identity to the consumer, to get the consumer to buy into this identity and essentially make the brand a way of life rather than just being a company that sells a product. Brands have not just tried to advertise a way of life (an identity), but have also gone a step further and stepped onto the territory of the state where in some cases corporations have built an entire town designed to perpetuate the brand.
This allows people to own an item, and then be viewed by other people as encompassing the lifestyle that the brand perpetuates (luxury cars, designer clothes etc).
Long working hours mean that at a job reduces the time for a person to form other values, and increases the weight of the value of their job.
Specialisation means less chance at exploring the possibility of other values that are available.
It may be useful to define political views in terms of identity. Authoritarians want their values to be fixed in time and imposed upon everyone, whereas libertarians do not mind values changing over time or other people having different values. Right-wingers tend to have a very narrow range of mostly materialistic values, whereas left wingers have tend to have a wide range of more general values (such as valuing sentient life). This means that left-libertarians will never be able to get along with right-authoritarians (these 2 classifications seem to be the most common), because while right-authoritarians can live in a world managed by left-libertarians as they accept a wide range of views that change, left-libertarians cannot live in a world managed by right-authoritarians where values are limited, fixed in time and imposed on others. If left-libertarians’ values are treated like this they will feel like their identity is being taken from them and others (through values of solidarity such as simply being human).
People coming together with those who accept their values, mean those people that accept them are more likely to have those values themselves. This allows the creation of a ‘closed ideology echo chamber’, where ideology is amplified by transmission and repetition inside an enclosed system. This would be particularly common among right-authoritarians as they are unable to tolerate values that they do not share, it would also be common amongst people who do not share mainstream values. If right-authoritarians were able to get power over the mainstream, they would ensure that left-libertarian groups would be eliminated, ridiculed or unheard.
A possible tactic that may be employed in order to make friends is to mimic the behaviour of those you are with. This would work significantly among right-wingers as they are only really interested in people who share their own values, hence by mimicking their values they cannot reject you as it would mean rejecting themselves. In left wingers it would be less common as they tend to be interested in people with a variety values, not just their own.
In the following definitions banks and media can be assumed to fall under corporation’s nametag.
- Fascism – merging of identity of corporations and workers into state, private ownership
- Socialism – merging of identity of corporations into workers, oversight of state
- Classical – partial merging of identity of workers, corporations and state (theoretical)
- Mixed – small chance of being truly mixed, most likely will turn into neo-liberal (realistic)
- Neo-classical – merging of identity of corporations into workers, no state (theoretical)
- Neo-liberal – merging of identity of state and workers into corporations (realistic)
- Authoritarian – merging of identity of workers and corporations into the state, public ownership
- Libertarian – merging of identity of corporations and state into workers, public ownership (theoretical)
- Anarchism – no merging of identities, hence no state or corporations.
- Feudalism – merging of identity of workers into aristocratic state, no corporations
Workers’ identities are merged into corporations via brands/advertising, and into states by propaganda.
An interesting comparison may be between fascism and neo-liberal capitalism. In fascism the state is the lead identity of everything else, whereas in neo-liberal capitalism corporations are the lead identity. Under neo-liberal capitalism, corporations use advertising and brands to convince the workers to consume in order to advance profits (and indirectly this forces the workers to work to earn money in order to consume). Whereas under fascism, the state uses propaganda to convince workers to work in order to advance the power of the state. It is very difficult to draw a distinction between the two as it is essentially the state/corporations (which have merged identities, though one leads the other) trying to convince workers to advance their own aims. The only main difference is that, under neo-liberalism, corporations can claim that they are just providing the workers with what they want (goods), hence keeping the workers superficially satisfied. This would give the workers the illusion of being free (if you have enough money), whereas under fascism this is less disguised.
Currently Europe is experiencing a migrant crisis due to the contribution it made to the problems in the Middle-East and North Africa. Quite expectantly, this is giving rise to the rise of far-right nationalistic groups who feel this influx of immigrants is threatening their identity. If it was because of them leeching off services (hence taking money), I would imagine that people would look to practices of governments, banks and corporations where most of their money is lost (assuming they are rational). Therefore it may be reasonable to assume there is more significant underlying reason such as identity at stake, although it is difficult to say given the effect the media has upon the narrative. The far-right have managed to combine protection of cultural values (e.g. nationalism), with the dislike of those who don’t work and ‘scrounge’ benefits (poor/uneducated), and the ‘stealing’ of jobs (which I linked to identity earlier) as the reason for persecuting the immigrants. This trifecta is very difficult to argue against with facts as it invokes so many values that people hold, meaning high levels of psychological defence mechanisms are employed, as well as invoking fear and hence aggression.
Experiments have been conducted to see if an identity can be removed from a person and a new one implanted, but the electroshock methods messed with the neurology of the brain damaging the person’s ability to form an identity.
In slavery, the master is the one who forces a given identity upon the slave through physical force (initially). As time goes by the slave may have to adopt the identity that the master has designated for him in order to not have cognitive dissonance between his previous identity and the reality that faces him. The master would be able to encourage such an identity change if the master rewards the slave for signs of adapting to his new identity (positive reinforcement).
With my limited knowledge, I don’t think there is any obvious, significant link between torture and identity as it is both biological and psychological oppression. During specific types of torture, a shock can cause regression (coping mechanism where the identity of the person reverts to an earlier stage in life such as that in childhood). This makes the tortured more likely to comply with the interrogator by seeing them as a father figure. I personally struggle to find a link.
A difficulty may arise, for example in patriotic Americans, where state interests conflict with religious interests such as homosexuality. Gay marriage has only been accepted recently by the state, so it may be difficult to predict what is going to happen. But I would guess that the state value will mostly override the religious value in time, given the amount of parts of religious texts that religious people ignore due to the fact that they are no longer socially acceptable. Although really the entire religious text should then also be called into question if a value which recently had significant weighting was overridden; however psychological defence mechanisms will help to solve the cognitive dissonance.
Cities are very crowded places with high population densities, this could give the person the feeling that their identity is insignificant amongst such a vast number of other identities. This could give rise to experiencing more stress within a city. In rural areas, with vast open spaces, you feel insignificant relative to the size of the planet. Combining these two would allow the population to feel that they have very little effect upon the world regarding something like climate change. Not to mention that climate change would also require giving up some of the material comforts, requiring you to change your identity if you are dependent on materialistic values.
Empathy & Doublethink
You can understand a value without accepting it. This would be most common in left-wingers, as right-wingers only acknowledge a narrow range of existing values that they have themselves. To understand something without having experienced it is empathy, which is the pinnacle of consciousness. To understand something having experienced it and rejecting it is doublethink.
For example, in football, when you see a member of another team, you understand his support of his team, but you do not accept the support of his team because your team is right. You see the similarity by projecting your value onto him, but you cannot accept it as it is fundamentally at odds with your value. Yet it is the same value, just from a different perspective.
In sports, you share in a value with many others who accept and understand you because of that shared value. Losing a match temporarily causes…
Some people enjoy the power over people’s identities. It makes them feel that their identity worth more than someone else’s. This would most likely arise from a small absolute value of identity, lack of acceptance or understanding.
Taking identity to the extreme, you could either have no identity or an identity with an infinite amount of values. I would argue that having infinite values is the same as having no identity, as you wouldn’t be able to spare much thought to your values as there as so many, therefore your absolute value of each value will be very small. Which could be approximated as having no identity at all.
Accepting that you have no identity (or that even if you do have one that it is meaningless) in theory could be quite dangerous for you, however in a nontheistic religion such as Buddhism it appears to be a defining feature and the participants have a general view from outsiders as being ‘at peace’. There seems to be something that can be learnt from this philosophy, but as I have little knowledge and experience of Buddhism I can’t comment any further than this.
There are two methods I can think of that preserve your identity:
One is to diversity your identity a lot so that if you lose one section of it, it doesn’t affect your overall identity significantly. If you put a lot of your identity into your job, and you get fired, you lose a lot of your identity. If you put your identity into your family, and they get killed, you lose your reason for your existence. Thus each value forms such a small part of your identity that you can afford to lose it without significant effects on your overall identity. If you do lose something that contributes to your identity, it may be useful for someone to remind you of other things upon which you based your identity, as at the time, you may become completely consumed by the immediate loss of a portion of your identity, such that its temporary relative weighting increases. This could lead to depression and possibly suicide. Just like when investing in financial instruments, it is beneficial to diversify your portfolio to reduce your exposure to risk.
Another method is to place your identity in something that cannot be destroyed, materialistic values and even valued relationships can be destroyed. As mentioned, religion is one of the best ones (in terms of preserving identity, not at anything else). But to people who have at least minor levels of critical thinking, this is not an option. I have tried to come up with one, first a few definitions:
- Knowledge – what you think – displacement equivalent
- Intelligence – the way you think (personally I think this defines who you are) – the rate of change of knowledge – velocity equivalent
- ? – the rate of change of the way you think – acceleration equivalent
Valuing your own knowledge is a trait exhibited by everyone, from stupid to clever people (stupid people don’t know they are stupid so the still value their knowledge in the same way). But knowledge can be wrong; if you value only your knowledge and it is wrong then your identity is threatened to be wiped out so psychological defensive mechanisms are called upon to refute any new knowledge. Believing false knowledge is not only severely damaging to the person themselves, but also everyone in the same society as them, and in a globalised world that means everything on the planet. So this isn’t viable and it must be taken to the next stage: you could value the rate of change of your knowledge – the way you think – intelligence. This stage is very difficult for a lot of people to reach because it requires accepting that nothing can ever have a 0 or 100% probability of being true. You must accept that there is a chance your knowledge is false (and that knowledge you considered false could be true) and hence you are flawed and can never know anything or everything. However your way of thinking could also be wrong, it also changes slowly for biologically reasons (your pre-frontal cortex doesn’t stop developing until around 25 years old and then slowly starts degenerating). Therefore you would have to value the rate of change of the way you think. When you change the way you think you are not you any more – this collectively effects your perception of all your values (identity). If this happens you may go into depression if all your previous values seemed meaningless. In other words, a reasonably safe place to invest your identity is in change/learning/adaptability. This intelligence value would also allow you to better solve any problems you may come across individually or globally.
Unfortunately the theory of evolution where those who are most adaptive to change survive, does not apply to identity/values. This is because you can pass on your flawed identity to your children without threatening their ability to survive, whereas physical traits passed on will affect their ability to survive. Essentially physical solutions will always be the way 2 conflicts of interests will be settled. This is why wars aren’t just settled by flipping a coin (to avoid huge civilian losses), because the other person can always just fall back on military might (although economics/finance these days has massive influence over military might and hence is a new way of effectively waging war).
People allow the environment around them to change their identity, but are not so keen on other people doing so. First most people probably aren’t very aware of how their environment affects their identity because an environment (to them) doesn’t have an identity in itself; it is merely something in the background. Whereas when it is an actual person, it is another identity imposing its identity upon other people. The environment is an indirect method that allows people to put their guard down, whereas another person uses direct method. In addition a person is not exposed to a certain other person for very long, whereas the environment tends to be a more permanent feature, allowing micro-changes to their identity that go unnoticed. This works to the advantage of the state (and increasingly corporations) who has control over the environment, unlike individual people.
When confronting a person, it is better (if you have the time) to establish some form of acceptance/understanding of each other’s values, and ideally find a value that you both share. This will form a connection that will allow them to take the things you say from the perspective of you being an insider rather than an outsider.
Before you can make stupid people intelligent, you must reform their identity such that it does not depend on their ignorance, is this possible without making them intelligent first? You could increment both slowly, or use shock tactics (very unlikely to work). You could layout the logic for your argument using a different topic which is not as sensitive and then show the similarities between that and the controversial topic, and cross your fingers.
“believe what your heart tells you, not what others say” – These quotes are a form of pathological defence mechanisms. It is important that you note what others say, but how much weighting/truth you apply to their words should be based on logic rather than simply dismissing them because they don’t agree with ‘your heart’.
Building various communities, clubs and societies would be a great way to make people feel less alienated and feel more integrated into society (in the case of dealing with ISIS, maybe a Muslim support group for people who are having a hard time dealing with the anti-Islam rhetoric or just simply a sports club?). These people desperately need to be given an identity before ISIS notices they are ripe for recruiting. Uniting under a common struggle is possibly the most effective way for people of different backgrounds to unite e.g. oppressive government, climate change etc.
Give someone an identity today! 🙂