You have a responsibility. You are the worthy representative of all the components of your identity. You are the ambassador of your nation, your religion, your gender, your political orientation, etc. When you speak or act, the world looks at you, scrutinizes you and ultimately judges you. Even if we should not build our lives according to the gaze of others, it is good to be aware that we are not individuals detached from any belonging. We are responsible for the image that we send to others and a fortiori for the image associated with the various identities to which we are attached.
Why does identity consciousness impose itself on us?
A society is regulated by social pressure that encourages us to do good rather than evil. One could qualify this by saying that good is doing something that is in the interest of society and is therefore not necessarily good in an absolute sense. The consequences of doing the wrong thing can have repercussions on the groups to which we belong, notably through the bad reputation we create. Essentially, identities function like Russian dolls: each one is intertwined with another. Some identities are stronger than others. In general, the larger the group, the less proximity there is to the corresponding identity (e.g. belonging to the human race is probably a weaker identity than belonging to a nation).
The family: the hard core
When we were born on this earth, we inherited a certain number of advantages that belonging to a group gave us. The family was one of the very first. By your actions, you contribute to the growth or decrease of the prestige capital associated with your family name. You have received a protection from your entourage at birth, you must in return honor the family blazon by behaving in a respectable, even noble or flamboyant manner. We are not neutral, we carry with us genetic, cultural and symbolic baggage. Neglecting this ultimately makes us irresponsible and we can indulge in all sorts of immoral behavior as we feel so detached from the group to which we belong.
The clan is what we might call the extended family, that is, the junction between the family and cousins, aunts, uncles, close friends, in-laws, etc. If in some societies, there is no real difference between the family and the clan, today’s “modern” societies really mark a difference.
The tribal feeling remains alive in us, it is undoubtedly because it was the spearhead of human survival and this since time immemorial, well before the advent of sedentarization and the consecutive emergence of cities. The tribe has protected us from the hostility of the wild world and other human groups. Today, the tribe still exists but it does not play quite the same role. It is there to satisfy a need to belong rather than to guarantee our protection, which is guaranteed by the rule of law in contemporary nations.
The nation is a very recent concept. It is the grouping of tribes whose ties have been destroyed to create a social structure based on efficiency (through the specialization of tasks) and the hierarchization of individuals in order to concentrate power in the hands of a small ruling group.
The religious community
Christianity, the ummah, etc. constitute more or less disparate groups that are supposed to unite individuals through their religious affiliation. This identity is relatively fragile, as illustrated by the internal struggles that have always existed (schisms, wars of succession, etc.). Nevertheless, it is quite effective in crystallizing an opposition at different moments in history.
We all belong to the human race, despite real differences that are visible depending on whether or not we grow up near the equator. These morphological variations within the human race are themselves surpassed by the cultural differences that we observe according to regions. Claiming to belong to the human race is not a strong marker simply because there are no species strong enough to oppose us today. The entire animal world has been either completely domesticated or almost wiped out. A large part of the ecosystems are in agony and we are no stranger to this, so there is not really anything to be proud of belonging to a species capable of such prowess. If by any chance an extraterrestrial civilization were to come into contact with us, it is highly likely that the significance of the human identity would resurface. An identity is all the more pugnacious when it is threatened. It remains to be seen if these possible civilizations will show a real clemency towards us, the same one that we lacked towards the fauna and the flora.
The individual: the no group
Modern progressive societies emphasize the importance of the individual. This idea is undoubtedly there to deconstruct all the groups to which we could have attached ourselves and by the same occasion to make us undifferentiated beings ready to cling to the locomotive of consumption. When an individual is voluntarily separated from his group, notably by guilt (the one that consists in not honoring his ancestors guilty of shameful crimes), it is much easier to manipulate him and make him a consumerist puppet. Tribalism is a great marketing lever. It is the same one that explains the ease with which an uprooted European listens to rap music and wants the latest shoes of his favorite soccer player, thus getting closer to a culture from which he is initially very distant. Individualism is a trap because it makes us helpless in the face of the predation of consumerist ideology embodied by the big globalized brands.
Is identity a burden?
Identity is only a burden if it teaches self-hatred or hatred of others. A priori, a cultural identity worthy of the name should teach neither. An identity can help us become a better version of ourselves. Before we can become who we are, we must accept the path taken by our predecessors; otherwise, we are doomed to wander like a vagabond or a ship adrift. A man without identity is a man without face or direction.