The Matrix of Identity

“We are all captives of our own identities living in prisons of our own creation.”

Have you ever wondered what’s the basis of your identity? In the last year I wrote about it here and then over time I’ve been thinking it through. I can’t say I have cracked the code by I keep wondering. What if our identity is but an illusion? What if it’s just something we convince ourselves about and to be? How do criminals operate? Do they have some level of consciousness or to what point does it stop being a bother for them to be criminals?

In 2015, 147 university students were killed in Garissa University by a group of militia that everybody believed to be linked to the militia group, Al-shabab. I’m no conspiracy theorist to say they actually exist or not. That’s beyond my purview to conclude on. However, at that point the Somali community were under the lens often being arrested or prosecuted for anything and everything that could be conceived or perceived to to be a crime. My best friend and confidant at the time was a Muslim and every time I saw her off home I couldn’t stop wondering what would become of her if at all she got rounded up in some of the police operations that had become a norm in the country. Over this time the major challenge the government mentioned was the similarity in facial features and lack of proper identification systems thus majority of these people were often rounded up before later being released. This pushed me to start working on a biometric iris recognition system that could ease and enable the identification of individuals through a common government data center thus saving on the inconvenience that was being caused to families and loved ones. Unfortunately, towards the end of this I lost my laptop and the entire file. I’m still working on recollecting it to see what options lie there. What kept pushing me at this point was why would an entire community suffer because of the atrocities of a few deviants?

Looking back on these incidences, I’ve asked myself why an individuals identity is as important. Following the post election violence in 2007, we all acknowledged the extent to which ethnicity had grown in our communities yet there wasn’t anything we did to get past it. Once you are associated with a particular tribe, religion, sect or organization people perceive you in another light. I wish we could shake this up but I have no means to get to it. For this matter, in my most recent reflections I’ve been wondering what it would be like it at all we dropped all the restrictions we put on ourselves in order to conform with an accepted norm for the identity we are associated with. What makes Peter not to be a Muslim and Mohamed to be a Christian?

I’ve made some of the most preposterous decisions and choices for awhile in this lifetime. Some that have been frowned upon, others considered childish and others just left to be because it’s just how I am. Do I regret any of these? Never even for a minute. Well, at times I wish I could get my way with most things if at all this was the way the world worked. Unfortunately, it doesn’t and this have cost me more than I dare to recount but in all I still soldier on. I’ve had to let go of relations because they were unconventional, impractical and uncharacteristic. In other words bound to fail but then I kept asking myself how we could make such claims with utmost finality. Is it because we have written our futures from a bleak past or because we fear shaking things up from the comfort of what we’ve known for so long? Maybe I’ll never know but until then I’ll keep journeying.

What makes you who you are? Does your identity ever restrict the circles you can get to or operate in? Is it a real barrier or is it something you’ve convinced yourself with? You know it might not be an absolute thing but because of how we’ve perceived and configured them, they come out as such.

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