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Identities

Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim
2007 / 4 / 12

What admired me most was the German answer: I am only by accident German. But this very answer increased my interest in questions of identity to a great degree. In fact it has never stopped growing since then. I wanted to know: what makes people acquire a certain identity? What is it based on? Is it the family they are born into, the so-called native language they speak, the culture they have to represent, the name given to them by their parents, the religion they were given or the genetic skin colour? Can you look Middle Eastern or Italian but be German. Nowadays at least officially everything is possible. Have a look at national soccer teams or some capital cities in Europe. But will the German government take it equally seriously if I were taken a hostage?

I have heard some philosophers say identity has freeing power to it. This is nonsense. Identity is the very shackles of convention. It is a sort of mental compulsion disorder, No; I can’t accept any identity based on these ideas and concepts. Look, I had no say in those important decisions even after I came to maturity I went on using them. At least I could consciously shake off some of my shackles. No, my mutliple identities are: the British corduroy suit and Oxford shirts without ties; the Italian espresso, Dutch pipe and tobacco, Russian samovar and Oriental tea and sweets. My identity is my home library, my food and drinks. Have I listed all of them?

Some time ago I was given an identity card (after paying the fees) when I applied for naturalisation or citizenship. But make no mistake about it I wouldn’t have applied for any given naturalization if I had any choice. No freedom from the dictatorship of identity is still possible; neither at the birth nor when I came of age, not even now although we are all aliens created deep inside a star. True, I am grateful for some freedom. I don’t need stay permit and can travel to most European countries without a visa but it doesn’t still make me “German”. Sometimes I feel at home often not. I still don’t write in German or eat typical German food but I claim to understand the German heart and soul. What is it?

Jamshid, April 2007
Bremen, Germany




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