This passage stood out to me in particular because I have had almost identical experiences as the one Malouf describes. When initially faced with this question, I also found it mildly amusing. I eventually came to Malouf’s same conclusion on my own time; this question was a microaggression. However, this passage elaborated further on my own findings; I wanted to delve deeper into an idea that has persisted so much in my life as an Asian-American. It was interesting for me to see this realization written out and explored.
How I came to understand
I thought I understood the whole of this passage, but at further examination, I was unclear on Malouf’s intention when he said, “As for the rest, all of the rest –the path of a free man, the beliefs he acquires, his preferences, his own sensitivity, his affinities, his life –all these things do not count.” At first, I interpreted this sentiment to mean when people require a simple answer to the question of identity, they want to ignore the complexities that life experience has on said identity. Through further analysis and contextualization, I came to understand that Malouf believes identity to not only be a result of ethnic, national, or religious factions, but a culmination of aspects of personality. I found this connection between personality and identity intriguing. Other humesters upon further discussion believed Malouf thinks identity is much more subjective and revolves heavily on intrapersonal intelligence. Upon revision, I still agree with my initial analysis of this quote. However, I believe Malouf is oversimplifying. People do count life experience when culminating an identity. An example for me is the level of education one achieves. That, for many, is an aspect of their identity they acquire throughout their lives. This identity, along with many others, can be impacted by other parts of one’s identity: their race or socioeconomic status, for example. This is a complex topic Malouf does not delve into.
How it connects to bigger argument:
I believe Malouf uses this passage to highlight the greater implications of people’s ignorance on the perception of human complexity– how in reality, a seemingly harmless question can reduce someone and disregard the essence of their being. This better underlines his overall point that people oversimplify the question of identity, but it adds more severity to the act.
Question from discussion it connects to:
I found this to be profound in the context of a point brought up in our Thursday lecture about our tendency to simplify others while maintaining our complexity. While we would never discount our life experiences as part of our identity, we are quick to discount the experiences of others for the sake of simplicity.
A link to Unit 1’s paper on a similar subject: here