Thought number two + Thought number one


Thought number two: Identity has to do with the question of who you are. Understanding what happens during the process of identity formation may help to answer the question why an individual is as he or she is, why they do what they do, live where they live, with whom they live, how they appear to the world, how they earn money, and why these particular details and not any other.

Thought number one: It’s Saturday, 7 August 2004 at 13:10 in the afternoon. I am sitting on a plane over … the Indian Ocean.

On 3 May this year I stood for hours at a window writing in my notebook. What I wrote that day ultimately amounted to me having defined a self in Taiwan with which I am fairly satisfied. It was also abundantly clear that I was tired of saying, “I’m on my way … this is not my real life … I’m working on a few plans … probably in about six months I’ll have a life that I will be able to call my own with some degree of pride …”

On that Monday, I declared: I have a life. This life is in Taiwan. It is not a perfect life, but it’s a good life. And it’s my life.

I have sorted out an identity for myself with which I am comfortable, and in a place where I can be this particular “I am”.

Who am I? I am a man in his early thirties who lives in Taiwan, who writes, teaches English, studies Chinese, and who works on long-term business projects. Six months ago I would have attached specific labels to all these things I do, labels particular to the time and wider environment where I live such as “writer”, “teacher” or “student”. I have none other than Karl Marx to thank for the idea that you should focus on what you do and leave the labels for those who need them for a variety of reasons.


“For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.”

~ Karl Marx, The German Ideology (1845)