Why is it that man needs to compare himself to others in order to define himself? Is man able to form a society where only the necessary connections between individuals are the most basic fundamentals of the human condition? The world we live in is vast with a web of social interconnections, and we can no longer just identify ourselves in simple terms. When one is born, he or she is not simply brought into a family identity, but along with that family comes a national, racial, economic, religious, social and historical identity - all determined before we even take our first breath. An identity based on the actual character of a person is developed later in life, long after those predetermined identities have taken root. These multi-faceted identities need to be able to coexist or else a strain is placed on the individual or society in order to reconcile any incompatibilities. Are these identities even a necessity for modern society or are they just a pseudo-social structure manufactured by man?
The first identities that every person is assigned are based upon a historical significance - a factor which should never solely determine an identity, especially in the form of a primary identity. It seems quite counterintuitive to give a person an identity based upon another’s identity, even if it is that of a parent. An identity should be a composition based solely upon an individual’s actions and experiences, not one that is imbued or assigned. When a child begins to develop a basic idea of one’s self, it seldom coincides with these given identities and ultimately creates the necessity for rebellion. The extent of this rebellion is determined by factors including the expectations of friends, family and society. The degrees of variation between and expected identity and a desired identity further affect this rebellion. The more one is pressured to yield to a specific identity, as well as the degree of variation will determine the force of the rebellion.
Specifically for Malcolm X, who grew up in a time when the expected social and desired self-identities of African Americans was at a maximum, rebellion could have only been expected. In actuality, Malcolm X’s rebellion continued further as he eventually rejected his Nation of Islam teachings when he realized that the Nation no longer shared his beliefs. “I’ve had enough of someone else’s propaganda.…I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” (quote) This is an ideal identity, one which is no longer dependent on another to define itself. This does not mean that there are no interconnections to others, it only shows an absence of the necessity for validation.
An additional problem with identity is the fact that superficially it is designed to invoke a sense of harmony and community with others, while unfortunately it tends to separate and...