Monday, June 28, 2010

Identity, Confusion, Abundance And Germans

It's probable, according to the extensive readership research we conduct here at LLD at regular intervals, that you're 98 years old, prone to wearing checked trousers on Tuesdays and dodgy hand made leather slippers that you're proud of all the time.

You eat rice about 5 times a week and have slept with 2.8 women in your lifetime. You've also had 1.3 "experiences" of a sexual nature with men, but that was when you were at school and everyone was doing it anyhow so it doesn't count.

Oh, as for the 2.8 women, well one of them was a servant when you were 15, one you married and the 0.8 was from that night you got so pissed that you've never been sure what exactly happened.

And, as a regular reader, you know enough about me to know that I have some strangely abundant views on identity, specifically on my own identity.

When I was younger I had a scarce approach to identity, thinking that I was both British and Sri Lankan but that the sum of my identity could only add up to 100%. I think many people hold similar views now. The result, among chaps with mixed identity, is that things become a situation of either / or, of being more of one and less of the other.

The scarcity approach is centred around the idea that one's identity is held within a container, one of fixed size. It can only hold so much identity, but can have as many mixtures of identity as you can think of, just a finite quantity.

The thing is, the more of one you are, by definition (albeit my definition), the less of the others you are. I spent probably the first thirty or more years of my life with this mindset. I knew my make up was British and Sri Lankan but would always struggle to balance the two. As I connected more and more with Sri Lanka I felt as though I was betraying my country of birth and physical home and vice versa.

I suppose that would all have been well and good were I happy about things, but I wasn't. Then I read a wise man's academic thesis on identity, specifically on being Sri Lankan, and I had a paradigm shift. The conclusion in this thesis was that identity is personal, that it's actually defined only by what is within the person's mind. It's not actually about passports, physical geography, heritage and whether you wear a sarong or not. It's about what each chaps feels and believes.

I took this and ran with it, applying it to my own circumstances.

"It's about what you feel, what you believe".

Hmmm.... I thought.

So there are, in my mind, some prerequisites, some rough rules. Rules like the fact that I probably couldn't decide to be a Belgian. Don't get me wrong, I like a good episode of Poirot and a plate of mussels as much as the next man, but even by the loosest criteria I don't have much to connect me with our Belgian neighbours, not even a pointy moustache. On top of that I think Belgian chocolate is nice but overrated, give me a good slab of Cadbury's Dairy Milk any day.

I decided that life, in as far as identity was concerned, would work better for me if I adopted what I call an abundance mentality towards it. Which is to say that, instead of my identity container being of a fixed size and only holding 100%, I'd picture it as something that could expand to whatever size I wanted.

The result was that I felt content and peaceful to take any view on my own identity. I could be 100% British as well as 100% Lankan. The truth is that I feel as if I'm about 90% British and about 90% per cent Sri Lankan. That is today and things fluctuate on a day to day basis, the main point is that I'm at ease when I adopt this mindset.

The girls, A and K, have three mixtures in their pot. Their mother is Polish British, then they have me and the fact that they've been born and brought up here in the UK. I feel very proud that they've grown up with the attitude that they're Polish, British and Sri Lankan.

Those are my views on identity then, formulated and evolved over the last forty four years. They're views that I'm actually rather keen on, but I figure that it's up to the individual to decide upon.

Sometimes I have a little bit of internal conflict. Cricket is never a problem, I always support Sri Lanka. Football is a hypothetical problem. I've always supported England and there's never been an England v Sri Lanka match. If there was I'd have to cheer on Lanka, just because they'd be such underdogs, but it would be a bit of a wrench.

When I hear a lot of the political views that are quite anti the UK I sometimes struggle, feeling a bit loyal to the country but also trying my best to filter out the good information from the bad and formulating decent opinions of my own.

If Sri Lanka were a footballing nation and were in this World Cup I'd definitely sport a St George's flag as well as a Lankan flag on my car. One of my ongoing projects is to find a tattoo design that will be able to combine my feelings for Sri Lanka with those for Britain and also my passion for drumming. The search is ongoing and making slow progress.

It's all abundant, all good, happy and smiley, you may think.

But the other day I saw something that threw all of this upside down. It messed with my head and has left me in some turmoil and anguish.

It was lunchtime, I strolled over to Tesco at my work to get a sandwich and some fruit to nibble on. As I crossed the road a car drove passed me. Said car was flying a St George's flag, something that just about every car here seems to be doing.

It also had another flag. No biggie, lots of cars have been flying two flags and, as I mentioned, I'd fly a Lankan one with a St George's cross if possible.

Then I looked at the other flag. I blinked, cleared my vision and looked again, to check I hadn't made a mistake. I hadn't. It was the real thing and it was just so......wrong.

This car, a Merc, was flying a St George's flag and a, I struggle to even type this, a German flag. Yes a bloody German flag. I mean, there's mixed identity, there's abundance and world citizenship and all sorts but a German and English flag together. Gott in Himmel. Can you believe this?

My head, full of its theories was overpowered by my irrational heart.

It was just so wrong.

And now the match is over and England were well and truly thrashed, beaten by a German team that outclassed us in just about every department. Okay that ref's decision didn't help but I can't complain.

I drove back from watching the match at my friend's, took the St George's flag off my car and threw it in the bin. It's like losing so much more than just a game of football, it wouldn't have been so bad it we'd played better.

The worst thing? I've lost some serious money in a bet with David Blacker. Yes, in a fit of madness I bet 100 Sri Lankan Rupees on England. God knows what I was thinking, throwing money away like that.


Sach said...

Gah, if only I knew you were into betting. I would have made some serious money as well.

Btw, here's a thought. You could get a tattoo of a drumming lion. Drumming is obvious, and the lion represents both Sri Lanka and England. You could even stretch things and say it represents you as well.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Sach - Thanks for that idea, but I've rejected the idea of a Lion as I think it might portray certain viewpoints to some that I wouldn't be keen to be associated with.

dramaqueen said...

I am brimming with ideas and suggestions for you.

1. Pol sambol and muffins, served on a drum.

2. The Queen in a kandyan sari, holding a drum stick instead of a staff

3. The Ceylon Jungle Fowl playing drums, carrying a rose in it's beak

4. A sheet of drum music, a rose and a peacock feather

5. A cricket bat and a drumstick crossed in an 'X' like a coat of arms

6. The letter A, the Sinhala equivalent and a musical note (a staccato).

7. A nice monogram-my set of words- London Lanka and Drums.

I've got more. Want?

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

DQ - Yes please, keep the ideas coming. So far my favourite is the Queen in a Kandyan sari holding a drumstick. Class!

Angel said...

I vote for DQs #3

Anonymous said...

I think a good pair of Sri Lankan breasts (not Kolu's) draped over a union jack draped over a drum.

Matches Malone said...

an English and German flag? unheard of indeed, though it might have been interesting to see which side he was on after the game..

Gallicissa said...

I approve no.3 suggested by DQ.
But, remember it is Sri Lanka Junglefowl.