Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Sense Of Belonging

I'm trying to put form to my thoughts and it's very hard. I'm a bit too emotionally involved to keep an objective optinion, and don't really know the nooks and crannies of words like ethnicity, so I'm going to run with my gut.

Since I believe genetics is half of what I am, it means that from my viewpoint at 4 months of age someone locked the door between the two rooms and left me in the swedish part, and I willingly upheld this. People would point out the door but I gave pre-set answers and shied away from thinking about it. "Korean" was just a word. When I looked in the mirror, not many days ago, for the first time of my life, I felt Korean. I felt not just like a fake carbon copy, like a Swede with korean colors painted on, like I have before when people have asked me where I'm from. Instead for the first time I *understood* that I'm Korean, like the difference between mechanically solving a mathematical problem and actually understanding it. I felt one with my physical form. Toes dug deep in the sand. It passes, of course, like feelings do. But it was the first time of my life I felt whole. Maybe that is because I've never felt at peace with my physical form, and it's mostly been trouble for me. Maybe it's because I've always felt largely different from most people and have combined that with looking different. Maybe because I haven't felt that I really belong, really is in the right place, ever, anywhere. But I cannot deny what I saw and felt, nor the lasting impression it made. It is as if I can hold my head higher now.

So having Belgian blood doesn't make you Belgian, and people taking you for an American doesn't make you American. What does make you what you are then? And does that mean you do not consider yourself Belgian at all? I have always known I am Korean. Just like I have always been one to carefully consider before making an attempt at something - as a child I never crawled; I watched, waited and then walked. Culture, ethnicity, race, call it what you want. I care not for the labels. Does my form matter: yes, it does. It is as important to my identity as my opinions, my routines and my preferences. In fact, parts of those are shaped by my physical form. To take that to it's limit; would I have been the same without my crippled leg? Who knows. Maybe I inherited that from my father. It's not hard to extrapolate that sense of belonging to a people. Why do you feel Swedish, and not, say, just connected to your family line?

If there is only "culture" and no "ethnicity", then what is it I feel when I see people similar to me? Had people told me I was chinese or japanese, I might as well have felt chinese or japanese. I do not claim the ethnicity of Korean, or to ever become. I claim to be a Korean adopted to Sweden, and I claim my right to the full extent of that state of being, and that includes a Korean piece of identity. This isn't a huge intellectual venture. It's a gut feeling, and I've learned that those refuse to be ignored. And I don't think there is such a thing as "genetics alone". The two comes inseparably as far as we can tell, for now at least.

How can genetics play a part in an individual's personality but not on a grander scale? Genes are inherited from our parents, and shared by our siblings, and in extension that means more and more people. Different circumstances will force the expression of the same traits in different ways, and it will become diluted, but I have family over there, they are Korean, their ancestors were Korean. I may have a bit of Chinese or Japanese or Mongol, of course. If I say "they are my people", maybe you could argue me out of it eventually, intellectually. But the fact remains that I came from their blood, from their soil, from their culture.

How can appearance can be a cultural phenomenon? I can see that my hair is black and has a different texture and that my skin has a different tone. I can feel that my nose is different, even if I can't see it. A mirror puts it on the edge but is in no way the limit. Without surroundings, would I care about my form? Humans cannot live without surroundings, as little as we would exist without genetics.

Can we know how much is nature and how much is nurture? No. Not yet, maybe never. So it's difficult to say if any race have traits that are more genetically common. So for now that topic is on hold on a "who knows".

1 comment:

Riklurt said...

This may just be random nonsense, or it might be a deep insight. I don't know. But, to me it's always felt like your personality, your self ("you" in the general sense) is mostly the roll of the dice. Everything else is just modifiers. Those modifiers may steer pretty strongly in any direction, but a lot is still up to the roll of the dice.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that maybe everyone in the world rolls 2d6 to determine Korean-ness, but those with Korean blood add maybe +4 and those who grew up in Korea add maybe another +4, but that certain people can roll unusually low or unusually high. For instance, some people feel American in heart and soul despite perhaps only having moved to America at the age of 25, or stuff like that.

Not sure if this is a meaningful insight, but it's my thoughts on the subject.