Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Signs of the Times

I write extensively about identity in this blog. Usually it’s about cultural identity, and the inability of the expat to live their life within the context of a single culture. I rarely touch on personal identity, as I find ‘dear diary’ blogs to be whiny and uninteresting. However, today I would like to address this concept in light of recent news. Silly people of the western world are having an identity crisis en masse.

What prompted this collective freak out, you ask?: a change in the astrological calendar. Now, I know that my intelligent readers are probably sitting at their computers thinking, ‘a change in the what now?’ You know, that zodiac thing… the months of the year that correspond with certain constellations, and figure in magazine horoscopes. I am sure you read them, as I do, with a mixture of amusement and scepticism. But for millions of people, these signs represent more than just a vague (and often incorrect) prediction of the future; they represent an entire identity.

Why folks in the twenty-first century would place any value in this, I have no idea. Perhaps it stems from the desire to have a personality created by the stars and planet alignments, rather than from a combination of DNA and life experiences. Plus, the personality traits associated with the various signs are also vague enough to be able to apply to just about anyone and anything. ‘Sorry I ran over your cat, Jim. Must be the Scorpio in me.’ Or perhaps, ‘I’m dumping you because I’ve been cheating on you with another guy who’s way hotter our signs just aren’t compatible.’

Now a ‘new’ sign is being added to this calendar, and people who thought they belonged to one group are finding out they belong to another. Some poor dumbass even tattooed his wife’s and all his kids’ signs onto his body, only to discover that now they’re all wrong. The idiocy of tattooing anything on one’s body aside, I think we can all see the consequences of placing such faith in an external definition of who we are.

When I put quotation marks around the word 'new' earlier, it's because the new sign isn't new at all. It's called 'Ophiucus', and the constellation has been around all along. It's also known as Serpentarius, which might help to clarify why people are panicking so much. I mean, nobody wants to end up in Slytherin, right? 'You know who' was in THAT house.

With astrological rhetoric infiltrating all levels of pop culture, I think people learn their 'supposed' personality traits early in life and become convinced it's part of who they are. They may even, through the power of suggestion, become more like what they imagine themselves to be. What they fail to realise is that personality is not combined of either/or traits. You can be somewhat emotional AND somewhat level-headed at the same time, depending on the situation. It's like those phoney 'psychics' who gauge your body language, and tell you incredibly vague things that could be applied to anyone's life.

I'm sorry your identity is threatened, but those traits were really never yours to begin with, and if they were, they belonged to an entire population, making you in no way unique. When I was 13, I read up on my supposed personality traits and immediately decided that, while one or two applied to me, my 'sign' didn't apply to me on the whole. And here's the kicker - neither did ANY of the signs. I'm not going to tell you what day I was born. Some of you might try to claim victory and squeal, 'Oh Cait, that makes so much sense! You're just such a ___________!'

Well, I'm not. And neither are you.

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