Identity Crisis

So, was on a ferry the other day, and ran into that quintessential Harley Davidson motorcyclist. On a bagger with half helmet, wearing Harley Davidson boots and jacket with that round emblem on the back, most probably wider than Captain America’s shield. Of course, he had ridden cross-country to Sturgis, among the bigger motorcycle gatherings on the planet. Absolutely a cheerful guy to speak with, but also signaling an unmistakable identity, something no one can overlook.

Not just in motorcycling, adopting identities wholesale seems like a human trait. Whether its politics, art, culture, or even technology, we seek to belong. We signal identity not just through clothing, but through gadgets, accessories and through expressed opinions. Especially in politics, we probably state beliefs to just convey who we are, not because we believe they are absolute truths.

We become a liberal, conservative or libertarian not through expansive research, but through instincts. We pick where we want to belong, and then adopt ideas wholesale. In fact, any real research would evolve our own thought, making it difficult for us to fit in. Seems like more than the truth, we seek that identity. Also, Libertarians or Leftists tend to have a lot of infighting, on who is the true torch bearer, probably because we simply cannot allow that group identity to get corrupted.

Not just in politics, identity is an essential driving force in all our pursuits. If we examine with that lens, then all contentious social convulsions are related to identity, even the trivial ones. Recently came across this band Deafheaven, seems like they trigger an identity crisis among black metallers, especially the ones on Reddit. The band simply borrowed all black metal sonic influences, but none of their aesthetics. Sounds like black metal, but does not exactly reflect the artistic inspirations. Essentially corrupting a pristine identity, and wreaking havoc in a true black metaller’s peaceful existence.

Seems like the world is constantly in this disruptive state, plunging from one crisis of identity to another, and each such crisis spawning new identities. Whether it’s ‘true Norwegian Black Metal’, or capital (L)ibertarian v/s small (l)ibertarian, or obscurities like democratic socialist liberal or MAGA conservative? But this identity crisis is also an essential pillar in Federalism, Madison eloquently stated — “the society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests, and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals, or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority.” In that sense, so glad we don’t simply get along.