When my younger son was little he looked up at the black and white magpies in the tree and cried PENGUINS!
When I was working at Heathrow a new young chap started; his name was something like Fabrizio and he spoke with a strong Italian accent, of course everyone referred to him as ‘the new Italian bloke’. But he was furious to be called Italian, insisting he was English and had been kidnapped from England as a child and taken to Italy. As you might guess, he was the product of an unsuccessful mixed marriage.
Whether you are bird or human, how others perceive you may not be how you perceive yourself, but do we even know ourselves who we are and does it matter? We’re all human and if we all treated each other the same what a happy place the world would be. Alas that is unlikely to happen. In a previous incarnation, when we had moved to a new place – let us call it Dullsville – I turned up at the church hall for the mother and toddlers’ group. The church happened to be marooned at the end of a lane cut off when the motorway was built; a subway connected our side to what had been the rest of the old village. Anyone who has moved to a new area will know it’s like going to a new school – will anyone talk to you? They all sat in an imposing circle, mums, one granny and a dad, but I soon perceived there were two distinct groups; each side of the motorway regarded the other with suspicion.
We are all different and it would be a dull world if we were all the same. We are more different from each other than the clumsy groupings some would like to impose. Everyone has their own unique combination of DNA, culture, religion, origin and generation so why not celebrate our differences, pick out the positives in every group.
My Ancestry DNA test showed nothing exotic in my make up and only a fraction of a percentage possibly Jewish, but one of my mother’s many sayings was that the Jews must be God’s Chosen People because they are so good at everything, while my aunt said that Jewish folk seemed to have more hours in the day than everyone else. Pick a great musician, scientist or actor or perhaps a polymath good at all of those things and they will very often be Jewish; probably you wouldn’t know that because who you see on the stage or screen, who you listen to on the radio is an individual who is your favourite performer or an interesting scientist.
Every country and race has positive characteristics we recognise, whether their people are the backbone of the caring professions, natural musicians or the brains behind every electronic device we possess. But success in the modern world is not everything and we also need to recognise those who can help save the planet. The Aborigine in Australia, who has managed to stay connected to his ancestors, will understand more about nature and his ancient land than any scientist.
And how do we perceive ourselves? We can imagine what it is like to be someone else, writers do it all the time, but we still look out from one pair of eyes, inside the body that others see. Liberal thinking white men wrestle with the angst of not knowing what it is like to be another colour or to be a woman. While white British women, the only group I can claim to belong to ( and this is just my opinion and observation ) for generations have seen themselves as neutral, eager to embrace the more exotic by travelling or marrying for love into a family different ( and less boring! ) than their own. They embrace new recipes, colourful clothes, perhaps a new religion and look forward to giving birth to a designer mixed race child with Mediterranean olive skin and dark eyes or lovely Afro hair or adorable oriental features. What they do not dream of is their beloved child being treated as anything less than a unique individual equal to anyone else.
How do you see your identity?