The Mother of Complexity

29 Apr


(1) who or what something or somebody is

(2) the characteristics, feeling or beliefs that distinguish people from others (Oxford English Dictionary 7th Edition)

So I decided to start my discussions (at least, that is what i hope it is and not some random blabbing) with a somewhat serious topic so y’all don’t think I am naturally unserious (**smiles**).

A couple of years ago I was filling an application for a job in a firm (just in case you were wondering, I didn’t get the job **covers eyes**) and it got to that part I really hate in job applications; the questionnaires (you know the interview questions before the interview), ‘why should we hire you’, ‘why did you apply for this job’, ‘tell us how you fit the role you are applying for’ etc. Trust me, if you have filled as many job applications as I have, you would hate it too. Anyways, so one of the questions asked was something like ‘In a 100 words, write an intelligent treatise using the title I AM’. I wasn’t sure how to go about this. I debated on it for days, asking myself many questions on what to write and what they really meant; I eventually decided they were implicitly asking that first interview question ‘tell us about yourself’ (seeing as I didn’t get the job, maybe I was wrong **shrugs**). However, what this question had done was to stimulate in me a deeper question of identity.

Identity, from my perspective is a mother of complexity. I’ll explain what I mean, but firstly I would like to talk about the definitions of Identity. The Oxford dictionary basically says it is a means of defining someone/something thus, creating features that can be used in differentiating it from other things, people or groups. Many would say that identity is a tool of order and even a tool of understanding; I am inclined to partly agree with both. You tend to understand things better when you know what they are; you understand its usefulness, vices, strengths etc. However, and this is my point, because of the need, even demand for such social definitions, things and especially people tend to be more complex. Take myself for instance and depending on the context, today I could be defined as a female or as an African, tomorrow it could be ‘Oh! She is Nigerian’ or she is from the Niger Delta region or she is this or that, all these many definitions for just one person, for just me. These various ‘identities’ are regarded by society as playing a huge factor in my attitude, thought pattern, actions, abilities and even knowledge or lack of it.  While I do agree that these social factors could play a role in a person’s true identity, I also believe and emphasize that this use of social identities as a need to create order and understanding also creates a greater complexity in truly defining that person or thing. If the definition of who I am is constantly controlled by all these social factors, how can I truly define myself? How can I truly distinguish myself from others in same social groups? Especially if assumptions/impressions are made about me based on these social identities and without interactions? I am not even going to start on the fact that I strongly believe that all these social identities created out of the so-called need to create order and understanding, is really born out of the underlining desire to dominate and claim superiority. The rich are defined as the ‘upper class’ so they can claim superiority over the ‘middle class’ or ‘lower class’; ‘male’ to claim dominance over the ‘female’ and so on (Like I said, I wouldn’t get started).

Someone might say but you are undeniably  ‘ female’ and ‘black’ and African and Nigerian …; Yes I am and make no move to deny so. However, I have to point out that I see myself as being all these things because society has over centuries defined me (these groups) as being just that. Society has grounded it into my head, and that of the entire world. It has been grounded right from my mother’s womb, my first years, until date. It has been grounded through my communications, my education, my associations etc, so how can I not think that is what I am? How can I not think that ‘hey! Am female and African as such, I should be submissive, be patient, love kids (By the way, I do love kids), be a good cook (not so good) etc, basically I should make myself marriageable or end up alone’. What I am trying to say is that underneath all these complex and ever-changing definition of who I am (or should i say, who the world says I am) based on physical features and my geographical history etc, I am first and foremost a person, an individual!!!  Who I am is a factor of my individual character and personality, and trust me that is complex enough. You can’t define me before you meet me based on the fact that you know I am female; you can’t assume my strengths and vices. You can’t judge me before you talk to me and get to know me, just because you know where I am from or the colour of my skin. To you, it may be easier to understand and deal it when you profile and prematurely define me , but to me, you complicate my life; you add another level of complexity to who I really am; you add more lining to my already thick clothes, more garage for me to sieve through. While, I may be categorized as a female, an African, Black skinned, a Nigerian and proudly all these. These are not who I am!!! I am simply ‘ME’. I am a smart, flexible, funny, worrisome, impatient, brutally honest (You can say Nicki Minaj **laughs**), prone to airing my opinion, feisty, friendly and a loyal individual. I am an ‘individual’ who believes in God, Love, Family and balance. Again, I am ‘ME’ as you are ‘YOU’.


Posted by on April 29, 2013 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , ,

18 responses to “The Mother of Complexity

  1. ormainy

    April 30, 2013 at 7:16 am

    Nice one, loved the added humour. Great article really

  2. journalofacomplexmind

    April 30, 2013 at 7:39 am

    Much thanks friend. Will try not to

  3. journalofacomplexmind

    April 30, 2013 at 7:40 am

    I meant, not to loose the humour

  4. vanessa

    April 30, 2013 at 8:27 am

    9ce article…….

  5. Ekene Sean

    April 30, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Kudos Tuokpe, really refreshing read. However, I wondered who is to be accused of complicating the perception who you are: your IDENTITY? Is it the general public who just wants to see you as a Nigerian, a Deltan, just a woman; a black woman or you who wish take us beyond the surface into your likes, attitude and character? I just wondered who is to be accused of complicating the woman, Tuokpe.
    Once again Kudos. One of my best reads for a minute.

  6. bobptaylorbob

    April 30, 2013 at 11:00 am

    I read this last night, It reminded me a lot of the “tomboy” converstion

  7. journalofacomplexmind

    April 30, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Hi Ekene, much thanks for the comment. You have generated just the type of conversation I was hoping to get. To answer your question, lets forget about social identity for a minute and just talk about me; I believe every individual is naturally complex (maybe me more than some **smiles**). We are born with an identity in form of character and personality; as we grow up and experience life, that character is further defined, most times, even changed. You would agree that this is an evolving process, thus complicated. Personally, like I said, I am an individual that strives for balance and that is hard work(**sighs**), it is constantly pushing me in different directions and that makes me super complex.

    Now back to my original topic, ‘social identity’; It is clear that I am already complex as it is, I do not need the added complexity that comes from being constantly defined within such social categories. I would agree that sometimes I unconsciously find me defining myself within these categories, but like I said, it has been planted in my head since I was born, it doesn’t change overnight, because it is a mentality that has deeply rooted itself and is constantly re-enforced by society itself.So what do I do; constantly and consciously point it out and try to dig out every root. However, my post chose to emphasize the primary cause while pointing out the symptom.

    I hope I got everything. Again, thanks for the comment.

    • journalofacomplexmind

      April 30, 2013 at 5:19 pm

      Hi Bob, thanks for the comment!!! I remember that too. God! I could be so argumentative **laughs**, I don’t mind too much. Maybe I should write something on this ‘tomboy/tomgirl’ thing and see what people think… Thanks again.

  8. Neneh

    May 1, 2013 at 7:36 am

    Well done Toupke, this is really deep and the truth…. Its quite unfortunate that society has created these cultural stereotypes or images of a so-real illusion.To be honest, Its difficult to fight but if one can be determined not to yield (which isn’t necessarily easy), you eventually become a peculiar kind of person that people are drawn to and respect.

    • journalofacomplexmind

      May 1, 2013 at 9:31 am

      Hello Neneh, thanks a bunch for the comment. I am inclined to agree with you. It is next to impossible to fight, because, like I said it is so deep rooted in society in general and me as an individual. If you do manage not to yield, society tags you as a outlaw (that’s me being dramatic), but seriously, people tag you as either a feminist (if you are a woman), or an artist or something. I don’t really blame anyone, most times people have to tag things in order to understand them; they have no idea what to do with you when you fall out of the different categories they have in their head (you become weird). But like you said, some intelligent people are drawn to you and respect you.

      Oh well! it is a complex world!!!! Thanks again Neneh, I hope you become a regular follower (**fingers crossed**).

  9. lunartsd

    May 5, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Well, if you’re so impatient, then how do you manage to write such lengthy journals?! Just joking!

    Anyway, the issue of identity is truly a complex one to tackle. And one with no actual resolution. At least in my opinion.

    What defines anyone’s identity? First race, then nationality, state of origin, tribe (here in Africa, anyway), familial ties, even the order of birth among siblings defines their identity. Gender, of course is a very strong factor in defining who a person is, what they can do, where they can go, and, ultimately, who they get to be in life. All these classifications, and so many more, are are attributed to “nature”.

    On the other hand, there are those classifications that come about through “nurture”. And that, to me, is where things start getting really interesting. Because, regardless however nature might cause you to be identified (by others or even yourself), nurture can turn all that around significantly. And that is why America currently has a president of African descent. However nature may have conspired to define his identity, nurture overruled it all, to eventually identify him as the president of “the most powerful nation in the world” (or the most powerful man on earth– in the minds of the American people, I personally disagree!).

    I could go on forever about how so many people have defied nature’s classifications and “nurtured” themselves to take on a totally different identity (in good ways as well as bad), but that’s an entirely different discussion. Besides, this comment is long enough already!

    Have a great day!

    • journalofacomplexmind

      May 5, 2013 at 9:09 pm

      Hey Lunartsd!!

      It beats me too i.e how I manage to be so impatient and still write such lengthy posts **laughs**

      From your perspective, I do understand what you mean with regards to nurture erasing some factors of nature, nevertheless, I don’t think there is always a clear win in the debate on nurture versus nature. Using Obama as an example; Firstly, he wasn’t born in African. Secondly, he has an American mother who has passed some of her heritage to him as well.
      Lastly and most importantly, when i say identity in this regard, I see it more as personality attributes and character. Obama like all individuals was definitely born with certain attributes that are almost impossible to bend (read my interlude, it may give you an idea of what i mean). The question then becomes, do we define Obama, the president by his gender, the colour of his skin, his nationality …, or do we define Obama, the president as an individual with distinct character attributes? Do we expect and measure his success as a president by his gender and colour of skin or by his character strengths or flaws?

      I am an individual that believes that although it is difficult to do (I confess I do it too sometimes), individuals’ personalities, knowledge and abilities should not be judged by their social categorization. For example, don’t assume I need aid because I am African; don’t assume that I love kids because I am female etc. Those are the aspects of social identity that bothers me and I think we should stand against – stereotypes and expectations born out of social categorization.

      But yes, I agree with you, this issue on identity is very complex to tackle.

      • lunartsd

        May 6, 2013 at 10:32 am

        This is exactly the kind of discourse I’d hoped to find here. And the reason I keep returning. I’m happy to say, you have not disappointed me! 🙂

        First let me say that I was never trying to suggest that nurture triumphs over nature completely. But I do admit that I’m on the side of nurture. And I’ve seen it triumph over nature in some rare cases. And even in everyday situations, nurture continues to defy nature, quite boldly in fact.

        Both are important, no doubt, but I always put my money on nurture, cos she’s never diappointed me yet. And she obviously did not disappoint you either! In fact, you are a perfect example of how nurture defies nature blatantly! The African woman, by nature, is never expected to speak out in public, her opinion is never asked for, even when obviously needed. And yet, here you are airing your opinions in the widest, most accessible public space on earth, the internet. Even though nature expects you to be sweating away in a smoky kitchen, pounding yam and frying snails plucked from your backyard! If that isn’t defiance, then what is?!

        But like I said before, there is no conclusive resolution on any debate concerning identity, because it is unique and relative to each and every individual. Your focus was on personal attributes and character, but wouldn’t you agree that even this is developed as a result of the nature of your birth, and the nurture you received and acquired for yourself over the years?

        I hope I haven’t digressed too far from your original focus for this post, I tend to do that a lot!

        P.S. where did you get your law degree?!! You drive a hard argument, young lady! 🙂

  10. skuteczne odchudzanie

    May 13, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read something like this before. So nice to seek out someone with some authentic thoughts on this subject. realy thank you for starting this up. this website is something that is wanted on the internet, somebody with a bit of originality. useful job for bringing one thing new to the internet!

    • journalofacomplexmind

      May 13, 2013 at 3:15 pm

      Well, thank you Skuteczne Odchudzanie (I hope I got the name right).

      Its good to know I am being original with my thoughts as intended.

      I hope we see more of you here.

      Thanks again


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