Daily Opinion

“Objective” subjectivity in the age of identity

I wouldn’t know where to begin, just like my identity – contrived and without origination.

Almost like our thoughts, it seems as if they just appear out of nowhere, yet they do not. Like the frames and thoughts that inundate our minds, identity does have its origins and systems that reproduce it, change and reform it.

I was born in London, in 1988; when Hackney was still just the skid row of the city. My parents had just emigrated from Istanbul, Turkey, but were both from South-eastern backgrounds, which spelt out the dreaded subject in Turkey’s collective mind: Kurd.

I learned very quickly that I had to learn Turkish and that Kurdish is of no use. My father does not know a word of it, and my mother couldn’t care less about a language without the basis to remain lodged in the hollows of her mind.

So, here I am, apparently stuck between “two cultures” or, uncannily, between three: Kurdish, British and Turkish.

It takes time to understand that. No matter our addiction to a particular way of doing things, culture is primarily contrived and dependant on the class, racial, cultural, political, legal, religious and artistic structures of the time; and, of course, the interaction between them.

Then, why is the Middle Eastern person taught (not only by their own) but by so-called Western allies, to remain committed to their culture?

There’s nothing I’m not too fond of more than relaying the wonders of my supposed past. Let me be clear: I loathe, despise and dismiss most of it. Nobody could care less for what passes for British, Turkish and Kurdish values than me. I find it as mostly meaningless, out of date, kitsch, simply rhetoric, limiting and an obscurantist game played by politicians to cloak looming inequality, corruption and environmental catastrophe.

Let me give you a clear example: Take the Nationalistic and Islamist movements in the Middle Eastern region; no secular movement could have ever dreamed of incorporating the said societies into the global capitalist system as well as they did. To take an almost absurd example, Turkey has practically become a Western colony, a banana Republic. Yet, Erdogan, the architect of this transformation, is considered by most Nationalists and Islamists as some kind of saviour.

Identity here, I claim, has played a significant role. The complete obliteration of the left, the secular left to be precise, cleared the plains for the lowest forms of ideology to encapsulate legitimate grievances. Emptiness began pumping into the zeitgeist with insubstantial, frivolous Nationalism, whether religious or ethnic. We speak of inequality as a cultural issue, which is a reality that has spilt over to the Middle East.

Many people in the Middle East, and other Muslim-majority nations, have convinced themselves the battle for equality is a battle between two cultures, one which they claim aims to dominate the other, an idea promulgated by the so-called other side. To frame it in form of a cartoon (which is not too far from the truth); the average Middle Eastern person has been duped into believing the West wants to strip the women and inebriate the men.

This is, of course, iterated in the hallways of skyscrapers, bus stops strewn with advertisement, at a McDonald’s or Starbucks, or on the way to buy a box from a property developer who took out a cheap loan from a foreign bank. Indeed, the very owners of the economy are the ones inculcating these ideas. So, it comes as no surprise when the assertion of one’s culture in the West is welcomed as an act of defiance.

In the West, things are not so different. Our discourse has dissolved to the point ants can feast on the utter stupidity seeping like bile from our societies. A significant portion of the public believes foreigners march through the streets to install an anti-white state, to which liberals and left act as an usher. It is utterly absurd.

A Middle Eastern person, then, is given the space in their respective Western nations (UK in my case) to reiterate their “culture” without actually knowing what that means and completely romanticising, to the point of insulting us. When did we forget that Middle Eastern people are human? We have never been some exotic realm only the Gods of the universe can understand or, even, a mere anomaly. Imperialist ventures in the Middle East, coupled with brutal regimes, have churned out a brutalised population. We aren’t angels by any stretch of the imagination, and nobody should at all be afraid to claim it is hard to work with brutalised, terrorised- poor regions. Poverty has never made noble people.

The liberal left, especially, wax-poetic about how beautiful my culture, food, traditions and Music are. We exist as, according to them, a well-painted cohort, almost like the noble savage, who flourish with nature. But we must always remember James Baldwin’s clash with William F. Buckley. He said, “Black people are just like everyone else…[we] are also mercenaries, dictators, murderers, liars; we are human too”.

What makes us human cannot be our outward decorum but, on the contrary, our very human reaction to horrible conditions. The acknowledgement of this fact will reinstate the reality non-Western people are human. We are individuals before our inoculated culture, regardless of how our ancestry paints our experiences and subsequent reaction.

Condensing the stranger into a narrow framework may make it difficult for the Western person to understand them. Still, it also makes it near impossible for the Westerner to understand themselves. That is to say we invest in others what we hate about ourselves, whether or not the interpretation is assumed as a danger or not.

We should be willing to experience different cultures and show our appreciation. However, when one does that and only that, one, perhaps unintentionally, reinforce white supremacy by assuming the other enjoys the constraints of their culture. A person should strive to be singular, a subject so objective that their so-called ethnic, cultural or religious origins flourish outside the realm of identity, opening them up to criticism.