If there is one thing that is considered a backwards idea in this day and age, it is the notion that family and homeland do not matter and are simply things that have passed their time in our individualistic, globalized and atomized age. Those that know best consider that the individual and his personality is primarily constructed by his immediate environment, his life experiences and most importantly, his internal reflection on the above. That is, of course, bullshit of the highest order. First and foremost, we are determined by the innate codings of our genes and how they express themselves. Secondly, we are defined by the larger overall culture in which we are immersed in. Let me explain. A 100% Japanese-American will share proclivities inherent in every ethnically Japanese person, whether they be born in Japan, or third generation in America or Brazil. However, how those proclivities express themselves will be shaped by the larger cultural milleau he or she lives in. An inherent aesthetic sentimentality, for example, may attach itself to Bossa Nova instead of Enka, with all the trappings that entails. But what does that mean for our theoretical Japanese-American in his search for himself?
I hold that one of the great weaknesses of HBD in this discussion has been overgeneralization. What it can say about generalities and larger groups is both interesting and useful. Its efficacy in individual introspection is limited. It’s simply too macro in it’s outlook. What is necessary is to tell the story in a micro manner, namely to look at one’s own family tree, and one’s relations to see where they came from, and where perhaps they will go. This is not a screed of deterministic dictums on one’s fate. In my eyes, the illusory nature of free will is negated by the fact that we will never be able to completely predict everything, and we will always be able to surprise ourselves with the seeming capriciousness of our own and others personalities. This isn’t a scientific essay where I submit results of the allele analysis of me and my relatives 23andMe reports. Instead it is a rambling personal reflection on ancestral heritage and the soil, water and sun that surrounds it.
Where to begin? Let’s start at the ending. Myself. I was born and raised in Hawaii, a distant outlying part of the United States of America, once its own independent kingdom, and now a slowly homogenizing cosmopolitan society. American, yet not completely so. I am of Portuguese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Chamorro, Scottish, Chinese, and German heritage. For various reasons I self-identify as Hawaiian, but in future posts, I will explain why by the standards of where I live, my own designation is dubious. My multiplicity of ancestries is perhaps uncommon where you are from, but not so much here. Over 20% of the population of Hawaii is multiracial and no one ethnicity dominates, though it is not the shiny utopian world of beautiful sun people that some people who believe ideology over reality would have you think. Nor is it a hellhole of subliminated racial tensions that contrarian holders of socially frowned upon thought crimes on race would think it is. It is messy and disorganized and gloriously complicated. In short, it is human, and it is my home.
Part II: The awareness of difference