A Question of Identity

Soapbox | Written By, Alistair G. Speirs |

Who do you identify with? So many people feel close to celebrities who somehow reinforce their feelings of who they are. This often happens with singers whose lyrics resonate with the challenges and transitions in people’s lives.

They know every word on their albums and you can see them singing along at concerts . Others identify with sports people: their favourite footballer or team, their favourite tennis player. Some, poor souls, identify with politicians which is a dangerous thing to do since politicians have been known to change their beliefs, their ideologies ,their parties and their personalities more often than their underwear!

      Read our July Issue ‘Identities of the Island’, available online for free.

But all this is superficial, the real question of identity lies in our geographic, cultural and socio-economic origins. We are products of our countries, our cultures, our religious beliefs and, being brutally honest, how far up – or down – the economic ladder you stand.

      Heterogeneity, or uniqueness, is wonderful, to be a part of a unique race, tribe or group with clearly singular characteristics is fantastic, but can result in dangerous delusions of superiority as happened with the Nazi ideal of ‘pure  Aryan stock’.

      On the other hand homogeneity, or ‘sameness’ is also wonderful, as it allows all people to blend together and be a part of the “world population”, the increasingly multi–racial, ethnically-ambiguous society that exists almost everywhere now.

      But hold on : “Variety is the spice of life “ so if everybody is the same where is the delight in difference, the excitement of discovering places and people that are just not like us at all. Why come to Bali if the Balinese people and culture are the same as in  Australia, Japan or Italy? What makes travel so exciting is exactly that : everything we do and see and meet and eat in Peru is different to Switzerland, Lesotho and Bhutan. Marvellous.

      “A change is as good as a rest”is another great saying. This is going to be especially true for those ‘working from home’ for the last three months! We need to change our environment, hit the reset button, and find ways to refresh. How? By taking in a new destination, new art, new architecture, new people. Different people. We need to preserve and protect the uniqueness of individual cultures but still allow them to evolve, as the strongest do, to adapt and fit in to new challenges in life.

      The Balinese have a unique culture which needs to be protected. The tourism industry has impacted that very hard with the overbuilding of inappropriate non-Balinese structures in hotels, malls, shop houses, villas and the rest. But somehow the culture survives within the concrete jungles we have created, and the dances continue, the prayers continue, life continues. Within Balinese society there are also individual groups with their own identity as you will discover in this issue. Read on and understand the differences that make life truly great.

      So let us revel in the wonderful differences between people, and peoples, and respect them, for without them life would indeed  be very dull.

      Read our July Issue ‘Identities of the Island’, available online for free.

Melia Bali

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