- Hi, who are you? "I am Raphael", is a name that my parents chose a bit before I was born.
I am french. What does that mean? It means that I was born in France. In fact, I was born in Nice, which is in the southeast of France. It is only a few kilometers from Italy. Had I been born a few kilometers further east, I would have been Italian. A bit north, I would have been swiss, and that would be a completely different story, haha. But I am french, not Italian, no matter how close to Italy I was born. That means that I grew up speaking French and that my thoughts and dreams are in french. French is a funny language. Very complex in its form and construction. It is a complicated way to think. When I think in English, the content of my thoughts changes. It is not just the form, it is the substance too. Different nuances of the same word create an opposite expression. So I am french. In school, I learned the history of France. What I am interested in, is to know why am not italian. It's right next door! What a silly question, it is because I am born in france, not in Italy. The thing is, many people in my home town are born in Italy. Our food is mostly the same as in Italy. We have pizza, ravioli, gnocchi. Our tomatoes have the same color and the same taste! So the tomatoes are the same here and there, but I am not the same as the person that sells me cheese on the market of Ventimiglia. This is because we were born on different sides of the border. You see, France is France because a thousand-ish years ago, we tried to kill as many people as possible, led by a fierce person driven by greed and an unsatisfiable thirst for power. So we tried to conquer more. Then came another guy, and we tried the same. Then another, and the same. We killed, we pillaged, we raped. For what? To try to satisfy man's vice. Fast forward a couple of centuries later, and we started being a bit more diplomatic. With ups and downs of course, even today we kill each other for no reason other than being lost in the illusions of our imagination. Because of this god, or that god. Because of this greedy bastard, or that one. But in general, in western Europe the day I was born in 1987, we did less killing here. We started building borders, with some fancy rules on how to cross them, with a paper that is stamped by some imaginary construct. As of today, with the European Union being what it is, we don't even have the borders we used to. It is only a fictitious line. And so, between Menton and Ventimiglia, you could put one foot on each country. Isn't that fun? The line is more fictitious than it ever was, and it was always just a thought that spread from one person to another. It was never real. I am born on this piece of rock, and he is born on that other piece of rock. That is what defines us. The line in the middle, that doesnt exist and was put in place to mitigate more killing and satisfy the most powerful's greedy natures.
The funny thing is that I am the first French person in my lineage or at least the first person born in France. My mother was born in Algeria, which is in north Africa. when she was born, it belonged to France, and at school, children were taught that they were all French and that Asterix was their ancestor. Then it changed, and the children, from one day to another had a new ancestor. My father's side originates from Austria and fled the nazis during the war, landing in England. My grandfather never spoke English very well, but speaking German, his mother tongue was forbidden. When your government kills your entire family in front of you, you start to deny where you're from. That is normal. But again, from one day to another, they were identifying themselves as proud Austrians. A few years prior, they would have fought on the German side of the first world war. That means, that the same person in those days, could have potentially killed and died for Germany/Austria, and a few years later, after that country tried to exterminate his whole race, would fight and kill for the very country they fought against, against the country they were fighting for. I know that this is a simplistic view that doesn't reflect fully all the complexities of that subject. But if a shift in identity is so easily done, then we identify the wrong data sets. Have you ever had that friend who was a fervent football supporter of a team, but every time they lost they were a fervent supporter of another team? 2006 - "who are you?" "I am an Arsenal fan". 2018 "who are you?" "I am a huge man city supporter." They change their emblem, and they change their outfits from red to light blue.
Again, I am being overly simplistic about a complex subject, and I am being a little bit cynical and facetious. This is because, once we wake up to the fact that we are identifying ourselves to events and circumstances that are only real in our own heads, in our thoughts, it becomes quite funny. How can I be so shallow is the first question that pops up in my student's heads when they start seeing a glimpse of light. It doesn't matter. But now, it is time to go deeper and to realize who we really are. We are more than a set of circumstances, that often originated from some angry man's greed and thirst for power.
And so I continue asking the question. Who are you?