In the first essay in this series we learned that many people spend a lot of time and energy pretending that the world around them is other than what the evidence would suggest. In other words their worldview is not accurate, it does not correspond to the facts. We could say that they do not want to give a truthful answer to what we call the first great question, namely: Where am I?
If we don’t know where we are, we probably don’t know who we are which is—you guessed it—the second great question, namely: Who am I? We will continue using current real-life examples of human behavior to illustrate why people are starting to freak out. They have good reason to be anxious considering what they think is happening in their world. Are we a good judge of what’s happening in the world around us? Let’s find out.
Given that our worldview (where we think we are) determines our identity (who we think we are) it is important to answer both of these questions with as much awareness as possible. By the way, our identity is whatever makes us definable or recognizable. Identity is very much in evidence in the world today both in relation to individuals and collectives.
Starting with one of the most “recognizable” individuals on the planet today we see that many people are using the words “identity” and “brand” interchangeably. President Trump was “selling” his brand to voters much as a seller was pitching a specific brand of foot powder to those with an itch. “Trump’s pitch to voters was ‘I’m rich. Sure, I have absolutely no experience in government, but the fact of my wealth is all the evidence you need that you can trust me to fix everything.’”
Many of us tend to admire those who appear to be successful at attaining what we ourselves are striving for. What are most of us coveting? Three things in general. First, success at accumulating material things because they seem to provide security in a threatening world. Secondly, we admire those who appear to be experiencing pleasure for its own sake. A deeper look at pleasure reveals it is usually valued as a distraction from our mostly unconscious anxiety. And finally, we tend to think that those who appear to have power must lead happy and fulfilling lives.
The Trump brand takes great pains to emphasize his success at having acquired quite a lot of plenty, pleasure and power. He, for the time being at least, has defined an identity that contrasts in significant ways from would-be political competitors. We are not picking on the Donald but he is a perfect and dramatic example of the human ego (or what we call the false self) run amok. Most of us crave the same three badges of success with the same fundamental identity that our current president has. We should all beware of a “holier than thou” position because the population of the entire planet is self-destructing for the same reasons successful American politicians are, only less “dramatically.” What is your brand?
Insight # 2: Our worldview determines our identity and our identity drives our behavior, hence it is critically important that we learn to distinguish reality from illusion.
- Identity in ABC Book
- Cox, Ana Marie. “Naomi Klein is Sick of Benevolent Billionaires.” The New York Times Magazine. June 18, 2017, page 62.