For this reflection point, we are asked to think about collective or individual identity, drawing from our own experience or that of someone we know.
When I emigrated to Canada about twenty years ago, I entered the country as someone who is used to speaking one’s mind without being politically correct. That concept was only just rearing its head back then. South Africans are known for their sense of humour, and the ability to laugh at themselves and they do laugh often. I was so dismayed when I discovered that I would have to think very carefully before making a joke, lest I offend someone’s sensibilities. Canadians take themselves rather seriously (apologies to any Canadians reading this post) which I found very difficult to get used to. I found myself paying particular attention to my words, thinking before I spoke at literally every occasion for at least six months before I realised that I would never, could never fit into that mould if I wanted to remain true to myself. All spontaneity would disappear from my life. From that day on, I would preface my jokes with a statement to the effect that “I’m not politically correct …” so people were forewarned.
Even to this day, though these problems still arise and many of my fellow immigrant colleagues experience and comment on the same issue. I think as the city where I live becomes more and more multicultural in nature these problems are going to increase, as each culture will make an effort to maintain their peculiarities/traditions and ways of thinking. Canada is a country of immigrants and as such does not really have a strong national identity compared to that of the United Kingdom, France, or Italy for example. The country is also very young – it turns 150 this July. The overall identity of the country really is that it is a melting pot of cultures.
If one is not allowed to be oneself, one looses a part of one’s psyche – something gets lost. One’s spirit gets squashed. To be myself is to preserve my honesty and integrity, my sense of ethics and values, my courage and beliefs.