Conflicts in Identity

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not that which you irrationally attach to. You must not take what is unreal for real0, falsity for truth, lest you fall into personal psychological sophistry, and therefore, self-deception. Our happiness, self-worth, sense of meaning in life is not dependent on the OOA. Time and again we hear that happiness comes from withIn but we do not fully understand the implications of taking the opposite view0.
When a thought, whether pleasant or unpleasant, is born, do not let yourselves be trapped by it, do not become slaves to it. Observe it with detachment and let it go…If you let your thoughts grow, they become very powerful, take possession of you and make you their slaves (Giacobbe 2005: 67).
This is a valuable psychological tactic, if only to address suffering explained by misidentification. Detached observation of thoughts involves observing your thoughts as they enter you awareness (doing nothing but observing them) and letting them pass. This in turn (ideally) means you have made a commitment not to psychologically attach yourself to one or more thoughts, memories, experiences, etc. You are the observer (of your thoughts), not the observed.0

The success of this psychological tactic will vary by degree, and may not work in certain situations, but it can be useful for individuals suffering from insecurities (many of us) and self-deprecating or persistent self-defeating thoughts. A person with mild Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), or a guilt-stricken individual (similar to the example of morally virtuosity described at the beginning of this section), for example, may benefit from detached observation. How often do we pine over a fear, mistake, or a lost opportunity, feeling regret and kicking ourselves after the fact? Do we feel better afterward? No, we feel worse. We are not thinking rationally when we harp on fear, guilt, or regret. Doing so does not allow us to move on and improve ourselves and our lives. Guilt is normal and healthy, indicative of a moral mind, but the depth and persistence of the guilt is what leads to psychological suffering. Feel guilt as you would, but come to understand it (the emotion and the action(s)) and its causes so that personal forgiveness and positive change is possible. Do not cling to it (or the harm done0) such that you persist in belittling yourself. In the next section I offer two real-world scenarios explained in terms of misidentification.

You have OCD0 and experience disturbing thoughts, attaching to a particularly unpleasant thought, say of harming a loved one.0 It is a shock to your psyche and sense of morality, and irrational “thought reactions” take place.0 You question yourself: “I’m a bad person. I’m evil. I want to hurt them. Will I?” You become ashamed, fearful, and self-hating. (I suspect many instances in which we are stuck in a self-hating mode can be explained in terms of misidentification). Our Ego identifies with our thoughts (Giacobbe 2005). Here, the attachment is not to something you believe will make you happy or will positively contribute to your identity, but to something you fear (harming a loved one). You attach to, or excessively focus on, it because it is terrifying. You feel you must preserve your identity as not being (or manifesting) the OOA by, say, engaging in certain repetitive behaviors. We have a reversal, so to speak.

Previously suffering was caused by the loss of those seemingly positive or pleasant objects we misidentify with. Now suffering is caused by (a) the vicinity of an unpleasant, negative or harmful OOA and (b) the degree to which we (falsely) believe the OOA is a reflection of our self. The individual identifies with a thought and believes they are, will or may become (or perform) the action depicted by the thought. To remove this mental state, the Buddhist psychological method would have you observe your thoughts as only thoughts understanding that they will not force you to do anything. Indeed, being human involves willful action. The aim is to observe them as you observe a squirrel run by your lawn. Do not let them have any causal effect on your being, nor your actions.

Thus, the entities we attach to may be both things we enjoy and things we fear, or find repugnant. As Giacobbe accurately states, for many situations “suffering derives either from separation from what we love or union with what we hate” (Giacobbe 2005). If we identify with something we dislike or fear and believe it to be a real representative of our identity, then we suffer. We dislike ourselves because we are thinking that we are (or have become) that which we find offensive, wrong, disgusting, etc. Thus, the way out of this dilemma is through understanding.

What must accompany understanding (a) that our self is not determined by others (what they think, say, or document0), (b) that we are fallible beings, and (c) that those failings or wrongs (or alternatively individual successes or achievements) do not correspond to what or who we are as humans, is (d) the natural human desire and drive to self-betterment, to positively develop oneself morally, creatively, and interpersonally.

Crocker, Lee, and Park (2004) describe how the pursuit of self-esteem and self-worth can psychologically and behaviorally affect a person.
A study of college students majoring in psychology and engineering found that those who were highly contingent on academic competence showed greater drops in self-esteem on days they received worse than expected grades, compared to students who were less contingent on academic competence (Crocker et al.: 6).
In other words, students whose sense of self-esteem0 was dependent on their academic performance reported a lower feeling of self-esteem when their grades were lower than expected. They also say that “when self-worth is on the line, attention is focused on the self, often at the expense of others’ needs and feelings (Crocker et al.: 5)”. This demonstrates that what we attach to or depend on does have external consequences. By extension, attaching things to our entire sense of self will have similar consequences.

The students in the study are, if only in part, misidentifying themselves with something that is clearly contingent and mutable. While being proud or disappointed at an exam score is normal, there should be no profound or irrational effect on one’s self-esteem.0 Experience and acknowledge pride and disappointment, but let them go (as in do not be preoccupied by them) soon after. Do not attach to them or to what you falsely believe to be the determining factor of your self-worth.

This is not to say that the student must not care about their marks, only that they should not harmfully obsess over failure or success. Obsessing will not lead to anything positive; it will only prevent you from discovering and taking the proper steps to improve. There is a difference between caring for something and irrationally attaching to, depending on, or identifying with it. The former is healthy, but the latter will produce suffering. Failure is no reason to believe one’s self is a failure, but it is reason to get back up and try again (hopefully with more insight).

With misidentification, the aspiration to rationally better oneself, and thus change oneself (part of what it is to be human), is overshadowed by the false idea that you are something you are not. You fall into a psychological ditch which will likely affect your daily life. Fear, doubt, despair, and self-deprecation resulting from misidentification dominate, blinding the mind to reason. Personal betterment implies change. Identification with permanence, or the semblance of permanence, does not afford change, and thus does not afford self-improvement. Change is forced upon the psyche as you experience suffering at the “loss” of “yourself”. In reality there is no actual loss, but it will be so if you permit0 it. In suffering caused by misidentification, then, you are thrown into impermanence—the opposite of what you clung to before…an ironic twist.

I hope to have clearly communicated the preceding ideas so we can (a) understand our thoughts and behaviors further (if only in specific situations), and (b) help alleviate and prevent unnecessary psychological suffering. If the reader finds these ideas useless (or harmful), then discard them, but if they can help without producing harm, then our humanity dictates we should give them credence, or at least some attention. In short, I suggested that (a) some psychological suffering is at least explained by misidentifying what we believe our self to be with that which it is not, and (b) that we must not irrationally identify our self with that which it is not. Situations of misidentification are those involving harmful psychological dependence, and (irrational) forms of thinking and behaving that separate the mind from reason in such a way that prevents the individual from positively developing themselves and helping others to do so. While the question of our true self is beyond the scope of this paper, allow me to close with a few thoughts on the matter.
The uniqueness of humanity is our ability to shape ourselves. Our human identity rests in our self-consciousness, our creativity, and our capacity to reason0, all of which go hand-in-hand. Morality, itself, is not something separate from these, but is part of the unity of the human being. Your identity is, at least, that of a self-conscious, rational, and creative being. Your identity is in the existence of that self-consciousness in so far as it is willfully in accord with reason. Each individual has different experiences, often accumulating knowledge others do not have. Every individual is capable of reflecting on their experiences and applying that knowledge rationally, in unique ways that can contribute to the positive development of themselves, their loved-ones, or humanity as a whole.0 Each individual is unique in this way. As we have seen there are a number of situations and factors that can act against our rationality. Yet even when irrational behavior or thinking takes hold, there remains the capacity to be in accordance with reason. Find solace in the fact that you are a self-conscious creative being, capable of change and directed toward positive development (even when you believe the opposite in your darkest moments0). Do not place chains on yourself, and where they exist, shatter them.
My sincerest thanks to my family, friends and colleagues at the UB Philosophy Department, for their time, helpful comments, and constructive criticisms.


Crocker, J., S. Lee & L. Park. 2004. The Pursuit of Self-esteem: Implications for Good and Evil. In The Social Psychology of Good and Evil, edited by A. Miller, pp. 271-302, Guildford Press, New York.

Giacobbe, G. 2005. Come diventare un Buddha in cinque settimane [How to become a Buddhist in five weeks]. Ponte Alle Grazie.

Ingvar, J. 2004. Ontolotical Investigations: An Inquiry into the Categories of Nature, Man and Society. Ontos verlag, Frankfurt.

Chapter 10

In the Solidarity of Exclusion: The Symbols of Identity, Community and Violence
Mia M. Jorgensen


Human history is a perpetuation of material expressions of communitarian constructions that exclude or define one’s place within society be it gender, kinship, socioeconomic, or ethnic. These material manifestations when explored through contexts such as Nazi Germany, Poland’s workers’ Protests of the 1970’s, and the role of freemasons in the post-Revolutionary climate of the United States will demonstrate the complex nature of symbols and their role as identity markers of state affiliation and/or dissonance. In exploring the use of symbols in the legitimization or deconstruction of states, community identifications will examine Amartya Sen’s (2006) assertion that solidarity not only serves to unify groups but results in the discord and violence witnessed by Bosnia, Rwanda, Timor and Kosovo. By defining the “Us” and “Them” that is ever pervasive in the exclusionary contexts of community identifications that serve as the baseline justification for violence and state solidarity, this paper will explore possible material evidence that exists in the past to answer questions related to the changing political climates of Germany, Poland and the United States.

Communitarian identities permeate historical creation, societal construction and the discourse of dissonance. Encoded within the structural nature of cultural expressions are the symbols that facilitate language, society, nations, boundaries, religion, gender, ethnicity, commerce and the state. Material manifestations of this reality are inextricably imbued with symbolic meaning that transcends socio-cultural borders with its humanity despite the violence that often ensues from its preservation as is witnessed by Bosnia, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Israel-Palestine, Timor and Kosovo (Brubaker and Laitin 1998; Mirković 1996; Sadowski 1998; Sen 2006; Slack and Doyon 2001). The bloodshed ensuing from such identifications of an “us” at the expense of a “them” is evident in the post cold-war era where the break-down of states resulted in the competition of resources and power from already existing groups (Mirković 1996: 192).

Identity’s role in facilitating resource derived conflict has been considered within fields such as archaeology (Bourget 2005; Fleury-Ilett 1996; Graves-Brown 1996; Hodder 1982; Jones 1997; Jones and Graves-Brown 1996; Renfrew 1996; Reycraft 2005), cultural anthropology (Cohen 1985: 12; Mach 1993) philosophy (Appiah 2005; Sen 2006) and sociology (Bloch and Solomos 2010; Burke 1989; Hutchinson 2007; Hynes 2010; Kubik 1994). Its consideration of the symbolic nature of material remains provides a bridge from which social scientists may begin to locate modern expressions of group conflict in order to prevent future violence. Hodder’s (1982) observations affirm the plausibility of this scenario among groups in the Baringo area, as the “cultural differences are maintained because it is the differences that ensure one’s security and justify the competitive access to resources” (31). Sen (2006) however, perceives identity as a resource where differences are the result of how “identity can firmly exclude many people even as it warmly embraces others” (2). This paper will explore Sen’s (2006) communitarian philosophy (33) within the context of the changing political climates of Nazi Germany, the Polish solidarity movement, and the post-revolutionary period of the United States. Symbols, which are inescapable constructs of modern and past societies (Mach 1993: 22), will emerge as indicators of societal cohesion and social dissent.


The existence of individual(s) identity’s are contingent upon societal constructions in the form of nations, states, and communities. Group success is consequently tied to individual acceptance of group membership on the appropriate social scale needed to hold together the social order while negotiating the dynamics involved in interaction. Resulting in tacit, passive and explicit symbols where the individual is distinguished within particular and multiple social circles reflective of larger cohesive community identification. Categories such as “age, life, father, purity, gender, death, doctor, are all symbols shared by those who use the same language, or participate in the same symbolic behavior through which these categories are expressed and marked” (Cohen1985: 14). The potential for cultures, societies and communities to create bonds of familiarity and express difference through everyday action (Renfrew 1996: 129, 130; Wilkie and Farnsworth 2005: 7) has important implications for interpretations of the ancient past, present, and future. Memory and the construction of communal identity are cohesive mechanisms derived from conflict, self-identity, and consolidation.

Its construction through identifying with an increasingly cohesive community is where “publically visible assertions of shared practice” (Wilkie and Farnsworth 2005: 11), are marked. Evidence for this exists within the enslaved Bahaman community of Clifton where people were gathered having been uprooted from diverse African communities from Sierra Leone, Central Africa, Biafra, and Senegambia. In their displacement, they constructed a communal identity from which they were able to combat the cruelties and deprivations of their enslavement (Wilkie and Farnsworth 2005: 7-11). Using practices that traversed African ethnic boundaries, they managed to express “solidarity through shared materiality” (Wilkie and Farnsworth 2005: 11), while maintaining ethnic, status, class and occupational identities. Wilkie and Farnsworth (2005) attribute these expressions to the use of consumer goods such as textiles, ceramics, pipes, and ornaments (313). The means by which they were able to convey their multiple self-identifications within the community demonstrates the usefulness of conflict models and material evidence for their expressions. In recognizing the complex nature of individual identifications with gender, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation among others, Sen (2006) recognizes the role of belonging through conflict and distancing with other groups (1-33). Understanding how this happens may provide us with new insights into the nature of societal consolidation and “between-group discords” (Sen 2006: 2).

The means by which this can be achieved may be found with the Robber’s Cave Study. This study was undertaken in 1953 by researchers’ intent on discovering within and between group identity based interactions. Two groups of boys around eleven years of age were divided into separate campsites in Robber’s Cave State Park, Oklahoma. The groups upon introduction immediately began to challenge each other through sports, which resulted in discord and self identification as either Rattlers or Eagles. They began to conduct raids that involved capturing, burning and shredding each others’ flags, and stealing trophies (Appiah 62-113). The Rattlers identified themselves as tough and stoic exhibiting their toughness through increased swearing, which further divided them from the Eagles who having won a baseball game after a group prayer became pious. They stopped swearing, yelling, and bragging especially in front of the Rattlers. This intergroup competitive community was quickly dissolved when researchers created an opportunity for “shared superordinate goals” (Appiah 2005: 113). The researchers found that not one single crisis in and of itself was enough to unite them, however a series of crises not only dissolved their between group discords but created a genuine sense of solidarity (Appiah 62-113).

Insinuating that all of those horrible science fiction movies where alien invasions manage to unite world powers against a joint enemy may not be so far off from ideas to world peace. As scary as that prospective is, the Robbers Cave Case study has important implications for interpreting the complex manifestations of multiply expressed identities in the past, societal interactions, consolidation, and the rise of states. The potential for the conception of identity and community to draw attention to the mechanisms involved in major historical transitions are central to understandings of the workings of society as evidenced by surmounting publications in recent years (Augoustinos and Riggs 2007; Bawden 2005; Bayly 2004; Bloch and Solomos 2010; Bourget 2005; Conversi 2007; Ferdinand 2007; Garman 2007; Grosby 2007; Hutchinson 2007; Hynes and Sales 2010; Janusek 2005; Joffe 2007; Liu and László 2007; McLaughlin 2010; Orr 2007; Reycraft 2005; Risse 2010; Schöpflin 2000; Stone and Rizova 2007; Thomas 2010). Yet they are intangible concepts (Cohen 1985: 11; Risse 2010: 19), which are laden with complex relations while simultaneously existing as contradictory self identifications (Bloch and Solomos 2010: 7) such as multi-ethnicity (Schöpflin 2000: 46).

Schöpflin (2000) identifies part of the problem of conflicting and complex identity relations within the context of multi-ethnicity. “Multi-ethnicity creates a whole set of problems that exacerbate the difficulties of generating consent… The heart of the problem is that the codes of solidarity and cohesiveness, the nature of reciprocal loyalties and bonds, implicit communication, the construction of what is regarded as ‘normal and natural’ are all located in ethnic identity and, obviously, these will vary in their expression from one ethnic group to another. Here one finds fertile ground for suspicion and distrust” (46). While multi-ethnicity could potentially create grounds for mistrust, it is also a source of individual acceptance into multiple ethnic groups, which may exclude “outsiders” entirely. Understanding the intricacies of interactions between groups indicates the level of mistrust involved in the facilitation of internal and external conflict, while indicative of inclusionary practices that incorporate multiethnic individuals between groups.

As the daughter of a first generation Mexican immigrant to the United States whose father’s grandparents emigrated from Scandinavian countries such as Norway and Denmark, I have encountered both exclusionary and inclusive memberships that while opening some doors have closed others. Witnessing ethnocentrism from all sides, inclusion often involves exclusion, sometimes simultaneously, from both groups as my aunt’s husband explained to me one day, “Tu eres buena y mala porque eres Mexicana y Americana.” While accepting me in affect he also excluded me, but for all intents and purposes because of my heritage I am a member of his group as he identifies me as Mexican, family, niece, and eventually friend. What this means is that in spite of the intangibility of identity and community as concepts (Cohen 1985: 11; Risse 2010: 19), they exist, are felt, and are very real social constructions that impact interacting groups.

While individual identities may exist as contradictory sources of conflict, they are also the foundations for unity and understanding. Material markers of multiple identifications are as easily recognizable as exploring my kitchen where you would find the cooking implements specific to making tortillas or lepsa. All of which are symbolic manifestations of heritage that are entrenched in memories of my mother and grandmother’s cooking. In identifying with memory, the act of making tortillas or lepsa re-affirms membership in the same way as Liu and László (2007) describe the memory of wars. Collective memories of war are refreshed by new conflicts, and behavior as war weighs heavily on attitudes toward nationalities as illustrated by internationally negative perceptions of America in the wake of the Iraq war. In extreme cases of protracted conflict, as Israel, the collective emotional orientation may become contaminated by fear, producing a societal ethos characterized by deep mistrust of the out-group and perpetual readiness for conflict. More generally, the extent to which the social identities of peoples are forged in the crucible of conflict and defined by their behavior in war may be a product of long-term trends in evolution of social power, particularly the development of the state (89, 90).

War unlike the act of cooking reaffirms group membership, where long standing conflicts between groups both maintains identity and further excludes outsiders. Symbols as objects or events are assigned meaning by the members of particular societies (Childe 1965: 45) and these symbols are strengthened through periods that are rift with political unrest. In discussing how unrest facilitates solidarity even through atrocity, the symbols of identity affiliated with Nazi Germany, the Polish solidarity movement, and the post-revolutionary climate of the United States will be examined, extrapolated and considered in light of more recent conflicts. The purpose of which is to discover how symbols can be used to pinpoint and prevent potential areas of violent social unrest while exploring the material manifestations of symbolic meaning.


Germany’s post World War I economic climate left an opening from which Hitler could exploit the racial prejudices and national phobias among the working class (Burke 1989: 211; Lüdtke 1994: 73). Cohesion came at the cost of the literal marking of people as an “Us” and a “Them.” Including some and killing many. For those included within Hitler’s vision of society, Lüdtke (1994) asserts that work tools became everyday symbols of opportunity, “symbols of satisfactions and failures, which ‘colored’ survival in the work place. For men these tools were linked with practice, with their livelihood and manliness” (73). Hitler’s use of propaganda effectively “presented an image of society that had successively manufactured a ‘national community’ by transcending social and class divisiveness through a new ethnic unity based on ‘true’ German values (Welch 2004: 213). “The idea of the Volk, resting on the purity of race and sustained by permanent struggle became progressively exclusionary” at the expense of individuals who did not fit the community model (Welch 2004: 237).

While Hitler’s anti-Jewish and anti-gypsy policy institutionalized ethnic hatred. His eugenics program targeted individual bodies with the sterilization law of 1935. An outright attack on individuals considered racially inferior, Hitler’s policies violated a people, but the people resisted. Bock (1994) notes that “Woman as well as men protested against their stigmatization as “second-class human beings” – in thousands of letters to the sterilization courts that have been preserved- but women complained of resulting childlessness far oftener than men, especially young women. Many tried to get pregnant before sterilization, and this resistance was important enough for the authorities to give the phenomenon a special name: ‘protest pregnancies’ … The protest pregnancies were an important reason for extending the sterilization law in 1935, into an abortion law” (117). The symbolic sterilization of women’s bodies against their will, painfully etched the power of the state on the body. Pregnancy prior to the abortion law empowered Jewish woman to regain some of the control they would lose over their own fertility.

Dissenting voices were not only heard from the symbolic protests of female pregnancy but in the actions of Germans who risked their own lives to save Jews targeted for genocide. Monroe (2003) attributes their opposition to the state with individual identifications with a higher moral consciousness that included valuing the tolerance of differences, caring, individuality, and separateness (408). While their fellow citizens may have symbolized their consent to the policies of the Nazi state through the participation of ritual, marching, flags, and uniforms (Bosmajian 1966: 116), dissenters took on roles counter to the state ideology. This splintering of German identities during the Nazi government has a profound effect on emphasizing the problematic nature of discerning identity and dissent through symbols alone as there are dissenters who played the role of the model citizen, ambivalence that presents itself as apathy and multi-ethnic Jews who were accepted as non-Jews (Hartshorne 1941: 630; Welch 2004: 237). Despite the problematic nature of discerning identity from indifference or quiet dissent, symbols offer a means of discriminating group affiliations.


Recognizing apathy, individuality and ethnocentrism within the confines of Nazi Germany, it is easily apparent that in order to eradicate genocide and ethnic cleansing there is no room for conformity, indifference or the misidentification with states targeting partial self-identifications. Symbols during Nazi Germany reflective of the discord within signs of unification presents an alternative to what is visible during the Polish solidarity movement. Solidarity in Poland began in 1976 (Cirtautas 1997: 8; Kubik 1994: 17; Mach 1993: 163, 164). Protests initiated by a trade union intent on protecting state workers united the people as a “symbolic unit” (Mach 1993: 164). Of interest here however, are the protestors’ use of religious and national symbols (Ackerman and Kruegler 1994: 290) against the communist state.

During the Polish worker protests symbols of unity emerged such as flowers, the cross, white eagles with crowns, the pope, and the Virgin Mary. Religious symbolism such as the cross was one of the most noticeable symbols of the strike and it became a permanent emblem of worker solidarity. Today the cross, which is symbolic of Christianity and Christ’s sacrifice, is also a political symbol of Polish nationalism. Initially used as a sign of defiance against communism and the authorities it became a “metaphor of national martyrdom” and “a symbol of Poland as the Messiah of nations” (Kubik 1994: 189). Whereas the cross became the marker of social dissent, the flowers that lined Gate two of the Shipyard “became the symbolic threshold between the outside world ruled by the communist authorities and the communitas of the shipyard (Kubik 1994: 195).”

Flowers were left at the shipyard by supporters of the strike and the striking workers used them as a symbol of the non-violent and non-confrontational nature of their protest (Kubik 1994: 195). Kubik (1994) argues that it is within these situations where the possibility that the sociopolitical order can be contested, fall apart, or be replaced that ceremonies “directly challenge the status quo… by symbolically rejecting the existing rules and producing new symbols” which embody new or revive old principals (246, 247) such as national symbols. Mach (1993) asserts that many national symbols were also revived in opposition to state governance similar to the recent reemergence of the cross and the crescent during the Egyptian protests (Ghazal 2011).

National symbols, much like their religious counterparts, such as the flag and national anthem both legitimated state power and were signs of resistance. Letters on the solidarity banner were painted with Poland’s national colors (Mach 1993: 163). Indicative that within resistance was the existing symbols of state power. Solidarity within this context was a struggle toward democracy, accountability, equal rights and dignity for workers against the communist state employer (Cirtautas 1997: 6). The resulting communist disruption resulted in new governance of the Polish state. However, in the process much of the symbolic unity of the movement fell apart once the people no longer shared a “common enemy” that they could fight against as the people that came together during the protests were as “different politically as they were similar symbolically” (Kubik 1994: 268). Recalling the results from the Robber’s Cave Case Study, the Solidarity Movement is an instance of unison in the face of a larger objective. The symbols that emerge from the American Revolution, in spite of the disparate personalities involved, present a third case of cohesion following the removal of a common enemy.


The American Revolution which began with a few revolutionaries became a well-organized and pervasive force of dissent that won our nation’s freedom from British rule. Much like the cross today is a tracing of Polish nationalism, our nations symbols are laced with the religious undertones of Masonic symbols that exploded after the American Revolution (Bullock 1999; Curl 1999). According to Bullock (1999) Masonry’s influence is evident in “The Masonic Minstrel.”

Three pillars of different architectural orders dominate the upper part of the engraving, symbolizing wisdom, strength and beauty. The various building tools strewn on the floor, recalling masonry’s craft origins, also possesses moral meanings. The square represents uprightness; the compass circumspection. The all-seeing eye which graces the right medallion, suggesting God’s constant watchfulness. In the left background is Solomon’s Temple, pre-classical antiquity’s most impressive building and the legendary center of the ancient craft (Bullock 1999: 178-180).

In his discussion of the symbolic nature of Solomon’s Temple, Curl (1999) points toward the role of memory in symbolic replication as “the lodge itself was a mnemonic of the Temple of Solomon, the lost ideal. The two so-called pillars of freemasonry were the media by which secret knowledge was preserved from destruction by fire and water, and, by the process of syncretism (which) became identified as Solomonic pillars of brass (216).”

A broader examination of the way that these symbols embodied the cultural values of the post-revolutionary climate explains why officials used these images to dedicate state buildings and monuments with a cornerstone laying (Bullock 1999: 180, 181). According to Bullock (1999) Masonic symbols began to appear on public buildings as “The fraternity’s images intersected with the republic at three crucial points. They shaped a social and national identity that followed Revolutionary expectations. They offered an education that conformed to Enlightenment theory. And they provided a visual language of morality that was both elevated and universal” (181). Archaeologists may find this particularly interesting as the Masons actively sought to imprint their moral symbols not only on cornerstones but on non-ritual objects such as pitchers, ceramics, painted Chinese porcelaIn Japanese lacquered boxes, handkerchiefs, coverlets, powder horns, and liquor flasks (Bullock 1999: 197). The relevance of this to the field of archaeology particularly is the problem such material evidence poses to interpretations of ancient state symbols where the potential for Masonic like societies exists. Cultural anthropologists, sociologists and political scientists who are socially conscious of modern examples of genocide may be interested in these material manifestations of societal unity as a starting point from which to begin to identify potential markers of group affiliation.


Conflict (Sen 2006: 1-34; Appiah 2005: 62-63), self-identity (Croucher and Wynne Jones 2006: 106-108; Giddens 1991: 5), and societal consolidation (Hodder 1979: 450) are the mechanisms through which changing symbols are reflected. Constitutive of the material manifestations are the effects of cultural exchange, transitions, and movement through time which discern the development and interactions of ‘state’ level societies in relation to other groups with other forms of socio-political organizations. A modern example, from which this is apparent, can be taken from the symbolic enforcement of unity by the European Committee or European Union. In an endeavor to capture the loyalty of Europe’s citizens, the European Committee perceived that average Europeans needed a collective heritage, consciousness and identity (Shore 1996: 102). Equating integration with identity formation (Shore 1996: 112), the European Committee has adopted images of a harmonious European amalgamation of cultures and identities through shared history, ideas, and values reflective of old nation-states and “exclusive definitions of Europe versus the rest” (Jones and Graves Brown 1996: 3).

In its undertaking, the Committee recommended a number of symbolic measures that would enhance its community profile, which resulted in a new emblem and a flag. When the flag was raised for the first time in June of 1985 there was much ceremony surrounding the event. The flag’s emblem of twelve stars against a blue background borrowed several meanings from a number of religious sources. The number twelve was symbolic of the apostles, the sons of Jacob, Roman tables, Hercules labors, the months of the year, hours in a day, and the zodiac signs. Placed in a circle the twelve stars were symbolic of the European Union. The European Committee recognizing that the flag cannot by itself express group affiliation, created other mechanisms by which to express community identification, which is rather similar to the Mason’s manipulation of multiple material mediums of expressing identity. The European Committee similarly expressed European identity with postage stamps, a passport, driver’s license, car plates, trophies, maps, coins and an anthem (Shore 1996: 101-112). The new Europe was effectively constructed through the physical manifestations of the same symbolic effects of old nations and states. Flags, anthems, passports, trophies, maps, and coins became icons “evoking the presence of the emergent state, only instead of ‘national sovereignty’ it is the legitimacy of EC institutions that is being emphasized and endorsed (Shore 1996: 103).”

The European Committee’s endorsement of its symbols and history through political manifestations within their flag, coIn and anthem expressions reflect a means by which ancient and modern states may have begun to enact their own identities. When these identifying indicators appear on your coffee cup, they are marking a transition into the well established incorporation of state symbols as expressions of individual identification with the larger community. They are not, however, the only means by which we can understand the development and interactions of states. This is clear from the actions taken by German rescuers during the Nazi governance, which reveals that action and the seeming acceptance of the state ideology have the potential for disconnect.

Ideology, symbols, and power when considered within such competing identifications play a role in defining the boundaries of the individual while negotiating group membership. Perhaps some of us have escaped national symbols as found on coffee mugs, t-shirts, or key chains, but what about currency? Or Family vacation photos in front of national monuments? What we buy, consume, manufacture and sell is laden with symbolic meaning that identifies us in some way (Levy 1999a: 205; Levy 1999b: 213; Levy 1999c: 223). Some symbols may be unintentionally consumed such as the all-seeing eye found on your dollar bills whereas others such as the cross used during the Polish solidarity movement was purposeful. Apter (1964) perceives that “various sorts of cultural symbol-systems are extrinsic sources of information in terms of which human life can be patterned- extrapersonal mechanism for the perception, understanding, judgment, and manipulation of the world” (63). Symbols are thus inescapable constructs that motivate action (Schöpflin 2000: 41) while facilitating solidarity and exclusion (Sen 2006: 2). In recognizing identity’s role in fueling conflict, we have a responsibility to identify potential markers of within state discord that result in Nazi driven genocide of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and other groups in the 1930’s and 1940’s (Jones and Graves-Brown 1996: 7) and the ethnic and nationalist violence witnessed by states such as Rwanda (Brubaker 1998: 424), Bosnia (Slack and Doyon 2001: 140) and the former Yugoslavia (Mirković 1996: 191-199).


Problems will arise in addressing identifying markers of within state violence, however unless an attempt is made the perpetuation of genocidal violence will not end. Recognizing the many ways dissenting actions are expressed such as within the historical milieu of the Polish Solidarity Movement and Nazi Germany we may not be able to fully assess symbolic identity within the ancient past as the role of the Masonic symbols in the post-revolutionary climate of the United States indicates. As social scientists, however we need to explore these symbols, identity, and the identifying of “others” as we need to address the present. We need to address the hatred, injustice, and violence today. We need to understand the complex nature of identity and how it is a source of unification and conflict.


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