Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Self-Identity

Posted by Jerry on February 21, 2007

I have always denounced holding any sense of identity that is merely accidental and not consciously chosen. For this reason, I reject automatic allegiance to nations, cities, ethnic groups, races, families, tribes, or any other accidental aspects of one’s existence.

Patriotism, jingoism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, casteism, and racism are particular identity-characteristics that I revile. If you are patriotic merely because you were accidentally born within a certain geographic location, I pity your mind; and if you are willing to fight and die for this accidental geographic location of your birth, I will have no words to express to you the tragedy of your decision.

In essence, the matter of assuming accidental identities is a matter of accepting unchosen values; indeed, the concept of an unchosen value is itself a contradiction because if it has not been chosen by the individual himself, then by what and whose standard can it be legitimately regarded as a value? Thus, it is utterly meaningless to claim love and allegiance for nation or family simply by virtue of the fact that you were born into them, without regard to their philosophic virtue and character. It undermines those objects of your choice that are indeed of value to you.**

Those who heckle you on the streets and condemn you for your lack of allegiance to a nation are demanding that you shut off your mind, ignore the volitional faculty of your consciousness, and embrace whatever they offer as your own value. And the moral code that powers their ammunition is the moral code of altruism. Their moral code condemns you for holding your own life and selfish interest as the standard of your values and offers in exchange the value of a nation full of undifferentiated billions, whom you are supposed to love merely because of the accidental matter that “we are all Indians, therefore, brothers and comrades!”

The same hecklers are also thrusting their morality of altruism and self-sacrifice down your throats when they condemn you for choosing a self-made family of friends in exchange for the one you were accidentally born into. They argue for some mystical, supernatural view of blood relations that is supposed to usurp every rational choice you make with regard to the people you associate with. And the only argument they offer you in self-righteous justification is that “you owe it to them; they are your family!”

The mindless, jingoistic zealots who have instituted the habit of singing the Indian national anthem before the screening of every movie in theaters–and making it underhandedly compulsory through coercion by the mob–are banking on people to be as mindless as they are; they hope that through some mystical means of osmosis or through the repeated chants of the anthem, the audience will gradually turn into zealous patriots.

As Rand said, where there is no reason, there is force. These Indian jingoists know that they are incapable of erecting a rationally persuasive argument for their moral code (altruism), their political philosophy (socialism), their social philosophy (collectivism), their personal philosophy (irrationalism and mysticism), and their Indian nation that is formed from and embodies all of these constituent philosophies (the democratuc rule of the mob). Hence, since they cannot appeal to man’s reason, they resort to force to demand that you value their moral code and their nation. And a docile mind that decides to march to the frontier of his nation in defense of this philosophy purely because he felt compelled to it by his fellow compatriots is as immoral as the philosophy he defends: since he has already surrendered his mind to the mob and has replaced their slogans for his syllogisms, he may has well complete the sacrifice with his own life and body.

Objects regarded as values accepted from others or by virtue of existential accidents are no values at all, regardless of whether or not they turn out to be good for you. You cannot substitute the autonomy of your own rational mind in choosing values with the randomness and arbitrary nature of accidents or with the mind of someone else—you are not living their lives with their minds and there is no such thing as a collective consciousness.

The values you hold invariably leads you to gravitate toward others who hold similar values. The crucial matter here is ascertaining whether your values are ones that you chose willingly or are ones that you accepted unquestioningly from others–are these values the result of rational decisions or due to nothing more than accidental facts? The only way to answer this question for yourself is by using your own mind.

**Note: For the same reasons, I reject the notion and the widespread practice of citizenship based on location of birth; I argue that citizenship must be chosen freely by an adult–or by a child’s parents for the child–[regardless of where the individual or the family is located at that time] and should be granted by the society on ideological grounds.

And in corollary, I argue that citizenship can revoked by a society or surrendered by the individual on ideological grounds. If I had to draw an analogy, I would refer to the Catholic rite of Confirmation, wherein a young adult–typically, of 18 years of age–consciously and of his own free will chooses to be a Catholic, accepts Catholicism as his religion, and chooses to belong to the Universal Catholic Church, regardless of where he is located in the world. However, as a child, this decision to be Catholic, is made by the child’s parent until he is of age.

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3 Responses to “Self-Identity”

  1. Dexter said

    I agree totally. In fact, here in India, in addition to belonging to a certain religion or caste or state, you’re always someone’s son, daughter, husband, wife, and so on – never as just *you* So since you are someone’s son, you are supposed to play that role; in the end, you end up playing several roles: son, cousin, husband, etc., and become totally disillusioned with your own identity. And, when you don’t play that role, they say you have *no* identity. isn’t that hilarious!!

  2. Ergo said

    hehe 🙂 True.

    I do have to mention an important clarification. Accepting accidental identities are not intrinsically bad or wrong (to make such a claim would be intrinsicist, and opposed to the objective valuation of a thinking agent).

    For example, if I indeed love the family I was born into for good, benevolent, rational, and mutually self-interested reasons, then yes, it would be perfectly legitimate to accept your family’s name and status as your own identity and enjoy in playing the role in it.

  3. mark1985 said

    I’m a little late but great post.

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