Someone once told me:
“Only when we discover other life outside our planet, we will feel connected to the other inhabitants of our world. Only then we will identify with our fellow ‘earthlings’.”
Is that true?
Do we construct our identity solely in opposition to others?
There is a certain logic in this statement.
I only knew what it feels like to be Belgian when I met someone from another country for the very first time. I could compare my identity as a Belgian with that of someone else. It became clear what it means to share a geographical region, a government (well, six governments in our case. But that’s a different story), certain habits and ideas, a common history. Therefore all of a sudden I saw the connection with other Belgians in a whole new light. I found out that people can have other ideas about the world than the ones I was used to, things that I had taken for granted were suddenly questioned.
The more people I met the more clearly my identity was shaped. I felt ‘Belgian’, but also ‘Hasselaar‘, ‘Vlaming‘, Western European citizen, European citizen, ‘Brusselaar‘, ‘Limburger‘…
And all these labels indeed referred to differences with other groups and a sense of community within a group. So in a certain sense, yes, my identity is shaped in opposition to others.
But hey, let’s put things in perspective.
Searching for identity also means to define and redefine these labels, because that is what they are after all.
Names that we gave to concepts in order to understand them.
I never labelled myself as an ‘earthling’, because indeed, there is no need to in reference to other life.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t identify as one. Here on Erasmus I met people from all over the world -from Sri Lanka to Italy to Bolivia- and I learned that we resemble one another more than can be seen at the first glance. I never felt a stronger connection to people from other cultures than now.
We are all young people, open to other cultures, open to get to know the world. Let’s try not to forget this once we are out of this dream-like Erasmus bubble and re-enter the ‘real world’.
Let’s get a little sentimental (I am allowed to, it’s almost the end of my Erasmus!)
I love you, my fellow earthlings… 🙂
credits: cover photo Lotte Stockmans