The question of identity and the quest for identity has become very difficult in modern times. The Polish-born sociologist Zygmunt Bauman has argued that identity has become a liquid concept that alters its shapes faster than it is possible to realize the changes.
The question of identity has become increasingly difficult to answer in modern and post-modern times. Once a person was either a man or a woman; added to that specification was a profession and father or mother. In the 20th century however, this has changed dramatically. A woman almost always is now a woman and a mother AND a professional. Identity has thus become multi-layered and difficult to distinguish. National identity was also simple to define: language, birth place and ancestry defined your national frame-work including stereotypes, culture and disadvantages of any colour. This list is of course not complete and football and literature shall be added here.
Sing when you’re winning?
Ever since Germany has begun to include players into its national team who have no German parents, a debate takes place before, during and after every major football tournament that circles around the question whether Lukas Podolski, Mesut Özil are truly German patriots since they’re not singing the anthem before kick-off. Another player, Miroslav Klose does not sing either but his loyalty is equally questioned. During this tournament a young starlet like Mario Götze failed to impress so far on the pitch and yet no one has questioned his patriotism or loyalty or whatever people and the media want to question.
Does singing the national anthem before kick off allow any conclusions about a player’s patriotism or loyalty to the colour he represents? No.
Reading British Values
Earlier this year, the British secretary for education, Michael Gove demanded that schools should teach British values. Does the reading of Geoffrey Chaucer, Virginia Woolf and Charles Dickens teach British pupils and students British values? Does the discussion of the Magna Charta make students better Britons? And if, what for? Are there any British values at all? And if, what are they? Similarly, films that incorporate British values in their plot are more likely to receive funding than other films.
This move would impoverish British culture to an unforeseen scale as the Empire has indelible traces in British culture and thus has influenced those values.
It seems that both instances are questions of identity in a period of constant questioning of the same. In recent years, the alteration and undermining of familiar institutions – an aspect of modernity – has certainly been intensified and has had important consequences for people’s sense of identity.
Zygmunt Bauman’s theory of Liquid Modernity will be of help here. Zygmunt Bauman is a Polish-born Sociologist and Philosopher who had to leave his native country after increasing pressure and anti-semitic politics at the end of the 1960 and during the early 1970s; he left Poland and settled in Leeds.
He compares modern times with liquids as
‘Liquids, one variety of fluids, owe these remarkable qualities to the fact that their ‘molecules are preserved in an orderly array over only a few molecular diameters […] unlike solids, liquids cannot easily hold their shape.’
Thus, in an age where identity has become a fluid, any straw to clutch that re-assures traditional values that distinguish an identity, will be happily chosen.
Further, liquids are lighter as solids and thus associated with mobility. Therefore, identities might be easier to exchange and alterable. It is in a constant movement, almost like an amoeba, a little creature that has the possibility to alter its body shape. With the possibility to migrate and work in different countries, establishing an identity that is lasting and coherent becomes increasingly difficult. Yet, herein lies the chance: adopt from many sources and forge a solid identity that remains fluid enough to include and exclude values and morals that seem antiquated. What better way to establish an identity?