While in the Tibetan museum in Dharmsala I paused at a quote from a Tibetan boy:
‘If you take our cultural identity from us, what do we have?’
This resonated deeply with me. I feel this also. Being from Northern Ireland is a burden on owning & celebrating your cultural identity. Internally, without too much soul searching, I know exactly my cultural identity & heritage. I feel exactly where I fit into the world jigsaw & I comfortably slot in to my place. Outwardly it is a different matter. My friends on both sides of the border in Ireland come from various backgrounds & each would have an opinion on where they feel I should sit. Even voicing my own opinion with some of them could lead to an argument or sideways glance. How can my personal cultural identity be moulded by someone else. I find it incomprehensible for something so personal as someone else’s sense of true belonging to be debated & decided for amongst others. How do you know what my heart leans to? How do you know where I truly find my solace? And what right do these people have to place me in a box when it is such a unique & intimate connection I have with my sensation of being?
With the state of affairs in Northern Ireland it can be suffocating to bury your true cultural identity. Whether I hide for convenience, to escape confrontation & conflict, fear…. When I travel I feel free. I tell my friends my nationality & they seem satisfied. Why do I even acknowledge their response or approval? Some question based on geo politics but I can clearly state my stance & move on. When people label me as being british it feels entirely alien to me. I feel I don’t match their stereotypes & characteristics. It doesn’t fill my heart with the feeling of comraderie or belonging. I feel a disaffection & disassociation which I cannot evade. If my neighbour or brother feel the opposite to me about being labelled British I couldn’t care less. I am happy people have a sense of belonging & strength to be patriotic.
To have someone take your cultural identity from you is a destroying. I perceive cultural identity to be a birthright. To feel secure on your soil with your people in a place you were born &/or raised. How disorientating to have this swept away from you. How sad to have this element of you removed while others can enjoy & celebrate their own. How can you ever retrieve this in a world of judgement, control & power mania?
People born in a country of minimal conflict who can & rightfully own their cultural identity with pride without being judged or questioned – I envy you. To not always look over your shoulder for haters, to not have to justify yourself to either side of the border & the whole world, to celebrate with every person on the street, to not face controversy must be bliss. Appreciate your freedom for something you, maybe rightly so, take for granted.