Digital Ischemia


Open Identity

I hear a lot of discourse about identity—prejudices and preferences, advantages and disadvantages—but, surprise, I don’t identify with any of it. The first twenty or so years of my life, I was desperate to fit in, to belong, to something. I exhausted myself analysing what were the key criteria that I could exhibit and be recognised by. Total fail. Actually, exactly 20 years ago today, I started my first and last ‘proper’ job.

Now I would categorise myself first as ecocentric (please help yourself to obvious puns), intellectual (meaning concerned with thoughts, feelings and ideas, rather than activity, but definitely not superior), Scottish, or possibly European, but at the moment not British and certainly not English… which I know is a petty rejection of my twisted perception of those who shout loudest. And here the trammels of demography warp and perish in the white-heat of my frown.

Does anyone care about my skin colour? Gender? Age? Inevitably these things affect my worldview, but so do the people in my life, of whom not one is the same as me. Some of them are not human.

Being chronically ill is a minority identity I suppose. I’m inside and an outsider. Not in an affected, alternative cliquey way, but in a—sometimes deliberately—perverse way. I’m a pacifist, but I also consider sacrificing myself for a greater good. Sometimes it seems the only way people wake up to a shift in attitude is when humans die.

But I don’t feel any of these things define me. They may give useful context for my words or behaviour. They may give decent cues about whether you are likely to want to engage with me or not. Mostly not.

I’m affected daily by those whom I hear and read, and each changes me a little. I love hearing other perspectives, rationales – thoughts, feelings and ideas. Especially ideas. I love the challenges that cause my brain to yaw queasily in its tank. What joy to look back and see how I’ve learnt, evolved, developed, and to look forward and imagine what else I might be. One thing for sure: open.

I love the über-inclusivity of this recent article, Earthling (we/us) by Eileen Crist:

We are anthropocentrically trained to look past: not only past the fact that there is something rather than nothing, but past the resplendence of the something that there is. As if it were somehow owed to humans to find themselves inhabiting a verdant planet, with uncounted millions of species, variegated seasons, animated soil, cornucopias of vegetables, fruits, and flowers, and wholesome water. …

When one looks past reality, one becomes unmoored and needs something to grab and hold onto. Identity provides a readymade simulacrum of reality for people to grab and hold onto. (Many are simply brainwashed into one.) The most coveted identities—offering irresistible mirages of the real—are sociocultural, or identities shared by groups of people. … Ethnicity, gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation are the ever-shifting historical constructs that appear to give ground and refuge. They are nothing but shells to hide the inconsolable emptiness of having taken Earth for granted, while donning the farcical regalia of lording it over all things nonhuman.

I found this Earthling identity aspirational, and refreshing, but I don’t want to blend in, certainly not with the entire rest of global life. I’m rubbish at blending in. I want to be my individual, idiosyncratic, irrational, inconsistent, ridiculous self. And I want to be someone else tomorrow.

With all the fluidity of spectra these days, recognising how we change over time as well as interpersonal space, I will definitely always be open. Open identity.

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