Looking back on the essays I have wrote, I feel a certain conviction that people never cease to learn new things from each other. John Berger (“Ways of Seeing”) taught me to appreciate and rate highly the works of art, to understand the concepts of meaning, and to differentiate the really valuable pieces of art from the unashamed imitations. While, A. Appiah (“Race, Culture, Identity: Misunderstood Connections”) ‘secured’ me with food for thought, concerning race and human identity. I understood that no man should merge his identity with his color of skin, because otherwise he will contribute to the widespread racial prejudices. M. Foucault with his “Panopticum” made me dwell on the ‘decay’ of our modern society, where “we are already deciphering the world through a particular cultural lens created by others” (“The Shawshank Redemption” 1). After re-reading my essays and recollecting the ideas of the three writers, I developed an understanding of my own identity and took a stand regarding the society around me and a clear consciousness of my inner self as an individual. I must say – I have borrowed some of the views from the writings I studied, but, at long last, I have come to individual conclusions.
Let me begin with my first essay that is connected with my experience of attending the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where the famous “Blythe of President Lincoln” by David Gilmour caught my attention. Afterwards, I searched its reproduction in the web, and found it to be available throughout the Internet, not to speak of multiplous alterations and mutilations for political purposes. John Berger suggested the reason of these deeds and motivated me to assert that “The reproduction of the original copy in one’s painting will also avail the copy to many people for free, regarding the original works powerless and killing their value, since they will be readily available.” (Museum of Fine Arts 4). This sensible approach to such a customary phenomenon, as ‘availability’ struck me, and now I realize the dimension of people`s laziness to analyse the world around them, and the consequences that their actions may possibly bring. Now I understand that the omnipresent people like to hang labels on everything they see, even on paintings. However, looking back, my mind generated a diverse opinion, from that stated above… What if Berger is not right? What if reproductions only perform a role of motivations, for the purpose of turning people to art and beauty? Even with absence of social networks and Internet alone, only a small percentage of population would visit mseums and art galleries. Now, even the least art-interested person can name several well-known paintings, or sculptures, due to their popularity on the web and news. To my mind, this is a well-grounded counterpoint to my previous opinion. Though, I do not completely disaffirm my previous position. I suppose that the novelty of Berger`s viewpoint coaxed me into agreement with the latter, but now I see the reverse side of the subject matter.
As I claimed earlier, people tend to label everything. Even themselves. The truth is that I never felt to be different from others, at least, internally. Though, the color of my skin was always a barrier between me and others. Thanks God, I am not racist, and I strongly believe that no preconceptions must create a person`s identity, though, most seem to think in a different way. Pitifully, “Identities can be said to be partially constructed in our lives by ourselves as well as by the surroundings” (“Identity amidst Race and Gender” 2). Personality is a spiritual entity (object), the unconscious. A person`s individuality and identity do not belong to any religion, nationality, and moreover to race. In my humble opinion, one person can be an Oriental, but possess characteristics that will differ from all ‘generally accepted’ Oriental traits and turn out to be a completely different person (he could be an Orthodox, for example, etc.). It is important to note that the so called races do not exhibit similar specific traits. They differ within the race itself more than between the races. Since I read Appia`s “Race, Culture, Identity: Misunderstood Connections”, I hardened to the view that the main formation of an individual`s identity lies in the refusal of the latter to accept the erroneous perception of his own social status, developed by the others.
In addition, I got to know more about the role gender plays in defining our identity. Though, my views slightly changed. Judith Butler claims that “within the inherited discourse of the metaphysics of substance, gender proves to be perfomative, which constitutes the identity it is purported to be” (“Perfomative Acts and Gender. Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology
and Feminist Theory”). Previously, I reckoned gender to be an innate trait of identity, which somehow defines the way we should act from the very beginning of our life. Time passed, and later I conceived that I would not define myself as male, if my parents would not ingeminate it again and again throughout my childhood (apropos, childhood is the period of becoming of identity as such). There are women that act like men, and there are men that act like women, in spite of their parents that tear their hair in despair. This fact confirms that “Individual identity arises from different aspects and in different ways to different people.” (“Identity amidst Race and Gender” 2).
Still, I agree with Appiah regarding the nonexistence of race. The illusionary concept of ‘race’ is a natural human desire to arrange everything in ‘orderly pigeonholes’ and the incapability to think outside the box.
The third essay I have written (“The Shawshank Redemption”) was based on M. Foucault`s statement that modern society is losing its identity due to our government`s surveillance over its individuality. The government transforms people into predictable creatures with indistinct features, which, eventually, tend to be more secluded and self-disciplined (“Panopticum”). To my mind, we do not live in conditions of gradual identity ‘cancellation’. This statement is exaggerated. If we would live in such a stress-field environment, we would not interact with each other with so much freedom, as we can and would be more meaningless, than we are now. I believe that too much control from the government`s side would ‘choke’ the consciousness of our individual self, but this should be regarded as a warning only, not as a present-day reality.
Our identity is not lost or taken away from us – it is just that most people are depressed by everyday routine or by expectations they put on themselves, or put on them by other people. However, nobody restricts them to a certain way of behavior or way of thinking; we are still free to choose it. By my reckoning, society is a strong unity, which impacts on our identity, and I admit that government has its own influence, too, but, nevertheless, its rules and restrictions are beneficial and harmless in relation to an individual. Despite the fact that “we are born into world premade for us” (“The Shawshank Redemption” 1), we are still people of free will, and it is our choice, whether we will take advantage from this gift, or not.
Looking back at all my three essays, I should say that I have acquired food for thought in relation to their themes. As I brought all my thoughts together in this final essay, I found out that I have changed my current of thought, concerning several aspects of human identity and individuality. I noticed that the theme of identity runs like a golden thread throughout my essay, and I have finally taken up an indispensable attitude towards my own identity.