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A Specter Of Familism

Roy K. Esaki

The ascetic, sterile room of a week ago, vaguely suggestive of an institutional cell, has since been domesticated by large quantities of files, clothes, and packing material strewn, draped, and hidden around my dorm room. Though I have made myself at home, I do not yet know when this room will truly be my new home. Nor do I even know how I will know if it has become my home.

As a newly migrated fledgling, the concept of “home” intrigues me, as I seek to define my relationship with my place of residence. One could materialistically define a home as the location at which one sleeps, studies, bathes, and does laundry (hypothetically speaking, of course). If we accept such a definition, however, we fail to adequately explore the interpersonal interactions that are integral to the metaphysical construct of a “home”... also, my column would be too short.

Functionally, the home is a quixotic sanctuary, where we may escape the torrent of relentless competition, demands, and judgments of the external world. Free from the hesitations and fears that originate from our self-consciousness and our desire to carefully control our public image, we can allow ourselves to think, act, and exist as we wish at home.

This degree of comfort, however, may exist within a multitude of social entities -- a team, club, fraternity, a close group of friends, a dorm, floor, or suite. If too many homes abound, however, the distinction between the external world and the inner sanctuary becomes hazy, if not moot.

Of course, there need not be only one home. We distinctly feel that we have returned home after returning to the States after an extended trip abroad, upon going back to our family during the holidays, or, from what I have been told, upon returning back to campus after the holidays.

To make the concept of “home” germane, then, we must distill and refine the groups with which we feel comfortable and familiar while allowing enough flexibility to account for social entities on various levels of intimacy. If we consider a home to be the collective residence of a family, we can then accommodate the exclusivity with the flexibility of the concept of the home.

What distinguishes a family from other close-knit entities is that it focuses on the group as the primary unit; the members thereof are incorrigibly associated with, if not defined by, the family. Sharing the same social and emotional volksgeists, family members forge, often without knowing it, a common identity in a particular home. Thus, be it our nationality, our surname, or our immediate and extended residential affiliation, we proudly identify ourselves as a member of our family.

Because the family exists as a unit, there is no direct competition amongst its members, all the members are of inherently equal worth (although some may necessarily be in a position of authority), and the individual units work for the collective betterment of the whole. In essence, we come to the inevitable conclusion that the home is the fundamental expression of, surprisingly, the communist ideal.

Lest my name be registered on the list, let me say that I firmly believe in capitalism, libertarianism, and Objectivism. For a home to be harmonious, comfortable, and enjoyable, however, expression of individuality and self-determination must be balanced with a consciousness and consideration for the family unit. Wherever we live, we must share the same resources, be it the shower or national parks, and it is much more beneficial to everyone if there is a communal respect for the common interests of the group. The most comfortable arrangement occurs when residential location, identifying the common interests of the group, becomes a home.

Applying this concept of a home to my new residence at MIT, I suppose that I will know when my dorm is a home when I accept the sacrifice that must be made. That sacrifice is a privilege (and ultimately self-beneficial) to make, however, as in exchange for unbridled freedom and egoism, I gain a new family, a new home, and a new place to miss in four years.