For most of human history, there was a central gathering place and community in which people found their identity. The son of a potter was a potter. The son of a baker was a baker. And so on. You belonged to your family. Women were handed off in marriage in the traditional sense that they were the property of their father and then became the property of their husbands. There was a singular cultural narrative for the tribe, town, or whatever form community took. The kind of choices, vocation and relationships, that we take for granted were unimaginable. People moved within a tiny slice of the world, a few miles, in their entire lifetime. Communities were a few hundred people, and everyone was known.
Yes it was oppressive. Yes it was harder. Yes, women and children and minorities and the poor had it much much worse for most of human history. I acknowledge that there are so many aspects of the past that were horrific, that we have progressed. There is no desire in me, and I am not advocating that we return to the days of colonialism, slavery, and marriage as a property transaction.
There is one specific aspect of life that I know is missing. Community identity, and identity in general is gone. No one knows who they are anymore. I believe that the new way of people defining their own identity has failed, that this is a hollow ideal, and that people are desperate to be told who they are.
On the other side, it is a sacred rite to name someone, to institute an identity in a person, to tell someone who they are. It is a power dangerous and ripe for abuse. But despite the risks, we need it. I need it, you need it, we all need to restore to good the establishment of identity. This means the restoration of community, a shared narrative and story of who we are, and out of that, a personal individual identity. The way we are doing it now doesn’t work. There were many mistakes of the past that I have no desire to return to, and the exception is this. Let’s return to each other, and speak carefully into each other the good story of who we are.