When someone asks, 'what are you?' They are generally concerned about your nationality. And there are a number of ways to answer this question. In the Old World it was fairly simple, but in the New World things have gotten jumbled up.
You can distill any individual nationality into four categories that are reflective of the four elements: EARTH, WATER, AIR, and FIRE.
First there is EARTH, the lowest energy level that is reflective of the modern notion of the SOLID state of matter. The EARTH aspect of an individual is ones specific ethnic-blood line. Like matter in a solid state, it dose not change. A person who is born a white person will leave his or her body as white person. As of now, it is still impossible to change your ethnic heritage.
The second level is that of WATER, which is the next energy state above matter, aka... LIQUID. This dimension represents language. We all learn different languages that connect us to different nations. Language is like WATER since it conforms to the shape of the container or culture that one is immersed in. It dose not matter what your ethnic heritage is, if you grow up in an English speaking family in London and you happen to have African, Chinese, Arab, or German blood, you will grow up with some kind of London accent. Language shapes the internal architecture of your mind-soul, on the level of proteins and neurons.
For Generation I the Four Elements
have been popularized by a Cartoon
The WATER/LANGUAGE element is often overlooked. The ability to speak a language is like having the ability to swim in an ocean. Most Americans can only swim in the English Ocean, and a few can putz around in the Spanish Ocean. But there are a minority of WATER-minded Americans who can swim and navigate multiple oceans. Thus the US may have the strongest 'Linguistic Navy' of mind.
Even if you only know 10-15 words in Japanese, then you can proverbially play in the Japanese kiddie pool, but if you were thrown in Japan literally you'd linguistically sink to the bottom. You'd have to depend on others for food and shelter. Eventually you'd either learn to swim in Japanese, or you'd have to stay in the Japanese kiddie pool.
If you are reading this then it is likely you and I belong to the same WATER TRIBE: of the English Ocean which is vast and has many seas within it (Scottish Accent, Australian Accent, Etc) All in all, we can swim in each others mind with relative ease.
In the US hardly anyone can swim let alone putz around any of the Native American linguistic Oceans. I can putz around in one Native American kiddie pool because of Dances with Wolves: 'Ta Tanka.' Metaphorically speaking if you put the average American in any Native American kiddie pool they will drown.
The Third element of ones identity is Spirit which makes a harmonious tie with the element of AIR. Clouds, wind, sky, and incense all play a role in most religions, if not now then at some time in their history. Breath is the sign of life. When you cross paths of people of your 'spirit tribe' you will encounter a harmoniously divine spirit, which should feel good. Basically, if a person's speech feels like 'fresh air,' then you are of the same AIR TRIBE. But when people speak and it feels like they are 'polluting your soul' then your are of different AIR TRIBES.
Thus music is a kind a WATER-AIR element like rain or mist.
The Fourth element is FIRE which identifies with ones nationality, which is a political construct of events, ideas, and papers. Two people may have matching AIR, WATER, and EARTH (same religion, language, and ethnic) but yet are totally repulsed by each other. The best examples can be found in the Americas. A white English speaking Irish-German Protestant beer drinking hockey loving Canadian may find is difficult to relate to white English speaking Irish-German Protestant beer drinking hockey loving American because they are in different 'FIRE TRIBES.' They are separated by the passionate element of FIRE...aka NATIONALISM. For the 'Southern Brother' 4th of July is a patriotic holiday, but for the 'Northern Brother' 4th of July is quite unpatriotic. It's a good bet that Canada would never try to enact a law banning the burning of the US-American Flag. A legislator who would do so, would be committing political suicide.
With this rubric the FOUR ELEMENTS are matched to four aspects of identity. There are literally infinite ways to label oneself. With this four pronged system, it should bring a depth of clarity when people ask, 'what are you?' Rather you should respond, "are you asking about my EARTH, AIR, or FIRE-tribal affiliation?'
FIRE - NATIONALITY
AIR - FAITH
EARTH - ETHNIC
I have often ran into people who don't know how to articulate what they are, I hope this helps. In a weird way every individual is one person made up of many different nations. I have created a flag that articulates these differences when people ask or wish to express who they are. It also helps one remember which element of national identity ones belongs to.
For Generation I: this guy can AIR-bend with Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish Magic. He can also WATER-bend with English, Spanish, and some Japanese. He can EARTH-bend with Scottish, Irish, English, Welsh, and African magic. Finally with the most deadly kind of magic: FIRE, this guy can FIRE-bend via US 'fireworks.'
Link to "Four Tribal Elements - Part II"
KEY FOR 'FOUR ELEMENT'S SHIP FLAG'