Monday, October 12, 2009

Finding My Identity
Keith Farnish, Culture Change

I have found an identity. Is that really such a big deal? The thing is, I didn’t realize I was missing one. There are so many things I could call myself: a human, male, a father, a husband, a writer, a thinker, a gardener, a campaigner... so many things that I feel pretty comfortable with, yet until a couple of weeks ago I didn’t realize there was something missing; something that yawned inside me, empty and lacking substance.


What is Mr. Farnish's answer? Here it is:

Who Am I?

Not only must we find something so we are able to resist the often delicious attraction of the consumer culture, but we need something else because without identity we are less human. The evidence for this is compelling: identity from the dawn of humanity is written across the ground, the walls and the artefacts of everyone who has ever been part of a tribe or close community. The tongues of countless people have spoken, and still try to speak in myriad different languages, dialects and accents. The way we have dressed; the way we have expressed ourselves; the way we have made our lives different in so many subtle and deliberate ways shouts of the need for an identity, a commonality in our local culture that ensures the survival and enhances the success of each group that shares that identity.

I willingly retain the labels “human,” “male,” “father,” “husband,” “writer,” “thinker,” “gardener,” “campaigner”: they say what I do and, in part, what is important to me. They also help me to start constructing a new identity for myself, for in the absence of a tribe, or even a close community that I can become part of -- being a non-consumer in the middle of a consumer world -- finding true identity will always be a struggle. The pieces are coming together, though. I have discovered my Englishness, possibly the nearest I can currently get to a physical, tribal identity. I have the writer Paul Kingsnorth to thank for that:

Many of the people I met during my travels exhibited a solid, quiet Englishness that had nothing to do with pained intellectual definitions and everything to do with belonging to the historical landscape they were part of. This, it seems to me, is crucial. Landscape and belonging are tied inextricably together. Englishness, as an identity comes not from institutions or vague ideas about ‘values’ but from place.

I was born in England and I have lived here all my life. I love this country as a place, and I am content to root myself in the soil from which its life emerges. I have, very recently, also realized that a large part of what I write and speak about is rooted in Anarchy; the simple and natural concept that there is no place for arbitrary authority nor a self-selected hierarchy -- the kind that the political and corporate milieu utilize to ensure we remain good Consumers. In that sense, Anarchist is the antithesis of Consumer, and I know which identity I am more comfortable with.

There are many other pieces for me to find; some of them may shuffle around and some may come and go over time, but at least I am now able to choose my identity for myself. That is a wonderful thing, one that we owe it to ourselves to fight for.

His identity is rooted in his roles and in a place, England. What of English culture? Can this be maintained, as a link to his past and his people? Or is traditional culture in the West doomed to be lost, replaced by nothing substantial?

His book: Time's Up! An Uncivilized Solution To A Global Crisis.

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