What do we mean by the words, "we", "us" and "our"?
This is a question of great importance, misconceptions and confusion about which are a constant source of misunderstandings and the cause of most human suffering.
Evolution programmed us to function as members of a group (giving us the need to "belong"), because only in groups do we realise our potential for survival and advantage in the natural environment. As individuals we are weak and not up to much, but in groups we are more than a match for any other animal, and in recent times have achieved wonders. The better the group functioned the greater its advantage in the struggle for survival in the natural environment (which included other, rival, groups of humans). This must be what drove the rapid evolution of the human brain especially in respect to memory, abstract thought and language. However, evolution equipped us to function well in small (family) groups. It has had no time to adapt our behaviour to the much larger social units of human civilisations, which have only arisen in the past few thousand years. This is why "advanced" human societies, notwithstanding their achievements, have always been and still are, in many ways, so dysfunctional.
Leaders (whether the chieftain of a small tribe, a medieval monarch, or the President of the United States) have always, naturally enough, exploited man's behavioural programming, seeking the loyalty and cooperation (or obedience) of other group members using the words "we", "us" and "our", supplemented to a greater or lesser extent by the use (or threat) of force/power: social status, fist, sword, gun, or money. It enabled a tribal chieftain to organise a hunting (or raiding) party, a medieval monarch to wage a war, and the American President to put a man on the Moon.
Who I really am is ultimately a mystery, even - and most relevantly - to myself. Perhaps I am no more than just a pattern of changing thoughts, feelings, sensations and memories in my brain, thus creating the illusion of "I". Perhaps. But I prefer to assume that there is more to me (and others) than that.
Who we are is closely related to our identity, which, along with the availability and reliability of information relating to it, is fundamental to virtually every human relationship: the relationship with oneself, with God (?), with family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, strangers, the local community and with society at large.
What is this information relating to our identity, and what rights, if any, do others have to it?
The most basic and important thing I want to know about someone is whether they are "friend" or "foe", i.e. whether they are disposed to help, exploit or harm me.
A smile says, I won't hurt or exploit you, but help you if I can. But it can be used deceptively, as a ploy to get close enough to exploit or hurt you: the salesman will smile to win your confidence and sell his wares (whether they are good for you or not), the criminal or terrorist to evade detection before robbing you or letting off his bomb.
Why should I want to help someone else? Because circumstances may arise in which I need their help; and because it gives me pleasure and satisfaction to do so.
Identity is not just about who I am (as I've already said, I'm not too sure of that even myself), but also about who or what I am NOT. Living in London, with its countless racial, cultural, national and religious minorities, none of which I belong to, I am acutely aware of that. I'm one of the rapidly diminishing number of natives (as in native American), who has observed how over the past 40 odd years non-European immigrants from all over the globe have moved in and natives moved out. Officially, apart for a few wicked "racists", we natives are all supposed to love the diversity that mass immigration and multicultural society has brought to our country, but it is curious to observe that instead of hanging around to enjoy it, most natives move away, making room for even more immigrants. Like the immigrants themselves, who tend to group together, the natives too seem to prefer their own company, but no one is allowed to say so out loud, because that would be "racist" and call into question the whole idea of large-scale immigration and multi-racial/multi-cultural society.
Work in progress
(see Nonymous Society)