OPINION: How identity crisis poses cross-border challenges

Mr. Johann Thoirgeirsson.

The Individual

All of us have certain image of ourselves, who we are, what we believe, what we like, what we want out
of life and what values we hold.

All of this forms what is called our identity.

At the same time others have an image of us.

Our identity is made by us, and it does not have to correspond with the image others have of us.

For example, I am an Icelandic, living in Puerto Rico.

Someone, not knowing this fact about me, may think I am from, say, Boston, US.

He may therefore identify me as an American and consequently have various misconceptions about my person (if these misconceptions are harmful or not, is material for another time).

Meanwhile I will identify myself as an Icelandic.

We can also demonstrate various identities towards others.

You may be a husband, father, teacher, son, brother, community leader, guitar student and a member of the football team in your neighborhood.

Those, who only know you in one of these roles will see you as you portray yourself in that specific role only.

From your perspective, there is nothing contradictory in these roles, but someone who has played football with you on Saturdays but now meets with you as the teacher of his son, may feel he is meeting
a different person.

Our identity will change over time.

Our experiences, goals and objectives in life, the roles we hold, all will change and therefore our identity.

And just as our personal situation change, external events and persons also will influence our identity.

You may choose your profession because of your parents, one of your teachers or professors, or because of a friend.

And since your profession plays an important role in your identity the person influencing that decision in your life will have greatly influenced your identity.

As you can see from the above, our identity consists of various layers.

What layer is most important to us varies from person to person, which means, we are all individuals with our own identity.

We strive all our life to define our identity, improve it and polish it as best we can.

We also encourage our children to develop their own identity and make their mark on the world. Self-evident, isn’t it?

The above applies to us as individuals and most of us do not pay much attention to our own identity on a daily basis.

We rarely sit down to make a conscious decision on our identity.

Of course, there are persons who do so but mostly in terms of public identity, that is, how they would like people to perceive them.

For instance, music stats or sports stars that have a team of people designing an identity to their public figure to be able to sell more.

The Group

All the above changes once we become part of a group.

During our lives we become part of numbers of groups by default or by choice, our family is the first group and depending on the social settings this group may consists of anywhere from two persons, most commonly a mother and a child, to extended family of tens of people.

After the family we have other groups such as school, the kids on the street where we live, sports team, workplace, and so on.

We are part of a village or town, or at least geographical area, a nation and country.

Then we may join political and religious groups.

All of these groups will affect and influence our identity, whether we like it or not.

If you do not like it, get over it, its life, and there does not have to be anything negative about that.

The groups will mold us over time and become a part of what we are as persons.

Some of these groups like to extend themselves and start controlling your identity.

There are numerous examples of this like Nazi Germany, English Football Fan Clubs, Cults, name them!

This usually starts with a leader taking control of the group and demanding conformity within the group.

If the leader has total control over the group, the group will become an extension of the leader and coheres new members into conformity.

Conforming to a group’s identity can take on various forms.

From innocent uniforms and patches as in boy, or girl scouts.

To most severe rituals, violence against those the group sees as its enemies, ideological manipulation, brainwashing and so on.

Belonging to a specific nationality is not by choice.

You just happened to be born there.

This does not mean you cannot take pride in your country, your town, village, your people, skin color, religion, or tribe.

On the contrary, you can. However, being proud of being Icelandic (I happen to be born in Iceland), does not label everyone else as inferior.

I had not seen myself as particularly Icelandic until I moved abroad.

Having the experience of living in a different country prompted me to contrast my early life to my current one.

Not in terms of positive or negative, just contrast.

While living there I felt the need to raise my hand and consciously state “I’m an Icelandic”.

This kind of dynamics apply to many of the groups we belong to.

Our skin color, eye color, hair, among others, is because of our parents, often our religion too.

Being born into a group should not make us feel inferior or superior to anyone outside of that group.

They just happened to be born elsewhere than us, by different parents.

We should take pride in diversity. Aldous Huxley’s novel, Brave New World, starts by these words, “A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories.

Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HARCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTER, and, in a shield, the World’s State motto, CUMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.”

The two words, “Conditioning” and “Identity” are not there by coincidence.

They are there together because by conditioning the identity of each individual the government established a total control of them.

To the same token, George Orwell, in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, introduces words such as “doublespeak”, “crimethink”, and “doublethink” and others, all designed to control every aspect of individual identity.

Identity crisis

Identity crisis is real for many people.

They feel unsure about themselves and their place in life.

However, this is a crisis on individual level.

Identity crisis can only exist in a group from the point of view of the leader.

When the leader feels the group is not cohesive enough and does not conform hard enough to the norms of the group, that constitute an identity crisis.

It is unlikely a leader will ever say or admit that identity crisis exists within his group, since that would show his weakness and lack of control, but the leader will start tightening his control by other means.

By implementing a system of rewards and punishment, by requesting members to complete certain tasks that will bind them to the group or others.

Many criminal gangs will require their members to commit an act of violence for them to become fully accepted into the group.

The Japanese Yakuza expect a member who has failed in his mission to cut of his left little finger as a show of remorse for the failure and respect for the leader.

Political leader will hold rallies where they will whip up the crowed into frenzy, waving flags, yelling slogans, and denouncing the enemy, whoever that may be.


A mentally stable, well grounded person will not have identity crisis.

This person knows who she is and what she wants from life.

She will deal with obstacles and setbacks and will not allow these to derail her life.

Same applies to groups, whether it is friends at school, sports team, national organization, or union.

That is not saying that everyone feeling unsure about their identity has some mental issues, not at all.

But a person dealing with identity issues is doing so because of conflicts of sort in their lives.

However, a nation cannot have identity crisis.

Individuals within a nation can but each one has a different issue.

If a specific event in the past has had deep lasting effect on a nation, a natural disaster, war, or human atrocities, as happened in South Africa with the apartheid. In these cases, the nation must come to terms with the past as South Africa did with the South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Not everyone will agree 100% with such a commission or similar solution, but it is a step in the right direction.

To strengthen individual identity overall, emphasis must be placed on education, free speech, acknowledgement of history and active participation in democracy.

Without this demagogues will always appear who what to mold individual identity to their own benefits.

You can also read RESEARCH PAPER: Is your education educating you?

EXPERT OPINION: Why life is about expectations and perceptions

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Mr. Thorgeirsson, a Columnist with The scholar Media Africa is based in Puerto Rico, USA. He is a coach in Personal Finance, with an MBA in Finance and Marketing from Inter Americana University, Puerto Rico. His contact: fflpr2019@gmail.com


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