My goal for this paper is to introduce the idea of personal identity struggling against a larger groups. I want to jump start a discussion within my peers. My original idea was almost entirely different; I restarted with a stronger point, and less repetitive statements and observations. I struggled with finding a structure that tied all of the quotes together, but eventually managed to find common ground. If I could change anything, I would delve deeper into the idea of a community deciding your self worth.
Individuals that are a part of a group have an inherent conflict between acting in their self interest, as an individual, and following a group’s ideals. In this environment, there is a delicate playing field of striking a balance between being yourself and still belonging to the group. We see this conflict play out in satire, science fiction, and in our daily lives.
The selfish behavior of forced superiority is especially difficult to control. A review of the popular book ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell analyzes interactions within the group of animals. “The thoughtful reader must be further disturbed by the lack of clarity in the main intention of the author. Obviously he is convinced that the animals had just cause for revolt and that for a time their condition was improved under the new regime. But they are betrayed by their scoundrelly, piggish leaders. In the end, the pigs become indistinguishable from the men who run the other nearby farms; they walk on two legs, have double and triple chins, wear clothes and carry whips.” In the beginning, the pigs act in the best interest of the group; help conduct a revolt, and devise a new system. As time goes on, they see the benefits of acting for themselves as individuals. In their quest for self gain they became the oppressive farmers they had supplanted. The pigs claim to be a part of the group, but have seized a more powerful role. This is a clear case of Primus inter Pares, meaning first among equals, someone who is above the others in their likeness. While the pigs claim to be group members like all of the other animals, they clearly develop a sense of self that they are “more equal” than the others.
Your being is often decided by those around you; affecting your interactions and ideas of self-worth. In ‘Flowers for Algernon” written by Daniel Keyes, the main character Charlie Gordon expressed very little self interest beyond the benefits of being a part of a group. Focusing almost exclusively on fitting in did not bring the lasting happiness he craved. “How strange it is that people of honest feelings and sensibility, who would not take advantage of a man born without arms or legs or eyes-how such people think nothing of abusing a man born with low intelligence. It infuriated me to think that not too long ago I, like this boy, had foolishly played the clown. And I had almost forgotten. I'd hidden the picture of the old Charlie Gordon from myself because now that I was intelligent it was something that had to be pushed out of my mind. But today in looking at that boy, for the first time I saw what I had been. I was just like him! Only a short time ago, I learned that people laughed at me. Now I can see that unknowingly I joined with them in laughing at myself. That hurts most of all.” In this moment Charlie realized that he had never truly been accepted. He had unknowingly made fun of himself to be a part of the group. His focus was always on belonging, even when he grew intelligent and didn't feel like he belonged, he yearned for it.
Not all individuals choose one path or the other. They adapt to their surroundings to survive. This habit is often used in social situations, like changing speech patterns or body language to best fit the situation. In the new york times article, Why ‘Self-Identifying’ Is Different From Coming Out by Wesley Morris, Bill Kennedy, a professional basketball referee, has different identities for different groups. In public life he allowed people to assume he was heterosexual, until recently when he publicly came out. Those close to him knew about his homosexuality beforehand. His decision to have two separate identities most likely spawned from an effort to gain acceptance into two different worlds. “There was no ritual to Kennedy’s announcement. He’s a self-identified gay man who, again, has a job best done with little to no identity. News reports reverted to ‘‘coming out,’’ which, clearly, is what this was. But it was also something more complex. ‘‘Self-identified’’ alters the tenor of the outing. Not only does it imply ownership of the identity. It also implies that the person coming out was, under the circumstances, not actually in. He just wasn’t out to you. If you’re self-identified, you might have cultivated a life that’s self-selected, meaning the people aware that you’re gay know because you’ve told them.” In his personal life he was able to act more selfishly with less risk of rejection. Kennedy could focus more on his individuality, while as a referee there was more pressure to conform to the group ideology. His existence was considered irrelevant unless someone was there to validate it.
The complex actions of individuals assimilating into a group or a set of groups are split between acting with themselves in mind or adopting the mindset of a community. Balancing these two behaviors is critical to an individual's identity within a group and whether or not they will be accepted by that group. Without it, you aren’t even the beginning of a concept.
Keyes, Daniel. "Flowers for Algernon." New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1966. Print.
Soule, George. "In 1946, The New Republic Panned George Orwell's 'Animal Farm'." New Republic. N.p., 26 Sept. 2013. Web. 19 Jan. 2017.
Why ‘Self-Identifying’ Is Different From Coming Out. New York Times, n.d. Web.