A fascinating symposium demonstrating that the Chinese are also whingeing about not knowing what they are and what they are supposed to be.
Obviously, the Chinese are not what they were, ie in pigtails, concubines, bound feet etc.
But what are they now? Is it a race thing or nation thing?
In Taiwan they have a better idea of ancient Chinese traditions.
On the mainland they are modern individual barbarians: godless, consumerist, mostly without relations, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, little emperors who will probably euthanase their parents if they hang around too long.
(The Chinese were once known for their filial piety.)
Identity, at any rate, is something that can be
- fought over
Let us therefore universalise this pain in a world with an embarrassment of riches as to the kinds of identities we could embrace.
The factors affecting identity are:
- sexual orientation
- current place of residence
- where our heart is
Our identity depends on who is asking, why they want to know, where we are and the social context in which the question is being asked.
They are shifting all the time.
What a shame that members of BNP - for whom such a symposium would be so enlightening, would never dream of attending such an event.
That is because they are working class and lower middle class, who are conservative people who would unhesitatingly say things "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like."
They are unimaginative people who like being with their own kind even as they are unkind to their own kind.
They are right, up to a point, that a mono-racial nation is visually comforting, but forget that people of the same race will soon find differences to kill each other over. History is littered with endless examples.
There was an exercise in which someone would be asked to copy from a picture, another would copy from that person's drawing and yet another would do the same etc.
This exercise made me think of Chinese whispers and out of control cancer cells dividing, not stopping, not doing what they are supposed to do.
The result could be more interesting, perhaps, if the artist, Yuen Fong Ling, had made a participant draw a self-portrait of himself and had someone else copy the result etc.
It was one of the many demonstrations about how deracinated and inauthentic the British and overseas Chinese are.
The concept of Chinese identity is paradoxically stronger in a non-Chinese, even if mistaken. It is after all the non-Chinese, who say very confidently that the Chinese are this, that or the other.
The Taiwanese think they are the real thing because they have been protected from the unChinese characteristics of Communism, while the mainlanders think they are The Real Thing, whatever they have turned into.
Even now we no don't really know what we are, what we could become or what we ought to be.
Perhaps too much choice is confusing, unsettling and upsetting.
This partly explains why Muslim youth who blow themselves up do what they do. They live on as Islamist terrorists, which was the identity they actively embraced and must have known would establish their post mortem reputation. They lived and died with this certainty.
Our identity is what we really are, what we want to be, and how others see us. Only if they are in harmony will we be happy in our skins.