Identity is about belonging, about what you have in common with some people and what differentiates you from the others. At its most basic it gives you a sense of personal location, the stable core to your individuality. But it is also about your social relationships, your complex involvement with others, and in the modern world these have become even more complex and confusing. Each of us lives with a variety of potentially contradictory identities, which battle within us ........ allegiance: as men or women, black and white, straight or gay, able-bodied or disabled. The list if potentially infinite, and so therefore are our possible belongings. Which of them we focus on, bring to the fore, “identify” with, depends on a host of factors. At the center, however, are the values we share with others.
Identities are not neutral. ........ the quest for identity are different, and often conflicting values. By saying who we are, we are also striving to express what we are, what we believe and what we desire.(…)
All this makes debates over values particularly fraught and delicate: they are not simply speculations ........ the world and our place in it; they touch on fundamental, and deeply felt issues about who we are and what we want to become. They also pose political questions: how to achieve reconciliation between our collective needs as human beings and our specific needs as individuals and members of diverse communities, how to balance the universal and the particular. These are not new questions, but they are likely, nevertheless, to loom ever-larger as we engage with the certainty of uncertainty that characterizes ‘new times’.
The basic issue can be stated ........ simply: by what criteria can we choose between the conflicting claims of differences? To ask the question immediately underlines the poverty of our thinking about this. Can the rights of a group obliterate the rights of an individual? Should the morality of one sector be allowed to limit the freedom of others? To what extent should one particular definition of the good and the just prevail over others? These are ancient questions, but the alarming fact is that one still lacks a common language for addressing them, let alone resolving them.
WEEKS, J. The Value of Difference. In: RUTHEFORD, J. ed. Identity, Culture, Difference. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1990. p. 88.
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