Identity is not a crutch.

I’ve finished reading a novel “Deutch for moderately advanced” (In Polish, I don’t know of any translations yet).  The author, Maciej Hen, spins a tale of an identity search from Poland, through Ukraine to Romania and back.  It’s a journey in time as well since the plot is about uncovering the hero’s ancestors,  needed for an inheritance claim.  It's a nice, smart read.  Bickering with the dead father, hints of time shifts and a sudden romance add to the mix of funny, poetic and reflexive. 

I found a polish interview with Maciej in which he says that: 

“identity is not to harden us, not to steer us.  Identity can lead us to feel obliged, to solidify us to the point that it will reinforce divisions between people.  That’s what I would warn against.  Identity is to move us a little bit, to allow reflection.  My hero feels a Jew but in…..a sentimental sense.”

I understand that the relocation of identity to the realm of sentimental softens its edge. It’s a beautiful, harmonizing notion.   I suspect it can be easier obtained and spoken of by somebody who can afford to treat his identity in a relaxed fashion.  Simply because he’s comfortably rooted in it.  On the other hand many searches (if not all) of ethnic identity spring from a strong internal feel or urge or lack that once obtained, filled and satisfied becomes rock solid.  Just look at the converts of many types.  How to navigate between the two ways to handle identity is a theme in itself. 

For me the book’s narrative somehow but not fully matches the conclusions (or a thesis) given in the interview.  Perhaps the meaning of the narrative given in the interview doesn’t fully and immediately spring out of from the book pages.   Perhaps it’s how a narrative should threat an idea.  To let it breath and not to be so "on the nose." 

The call to go easy on the identity’s role in forming our personality chimes with the ethical conclusions of Zygmunt Bauman (as the previous entry discusses).  In short: no rules or ethnic alliances should release us from the duties of constant self-analysis.  There are no ethical or identity crutches, only everlasting, individual struggle to get things right.

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