Identity. What creates it? Is it who you are; is it who you think you are; is it who others think you are, and what makes these things?
Addiction. My definition (and definitions, like experiences and like language can be personal): something that a body experiences and either psychologically or physically craves and consumes or experiences to the point of damage to that body and its community.
I'm sure plenty of people reading that will disagree or correct me. So I'll explain what those sentences mean.
Identity is tied up in so much. How you identify yourself; how others interpret your identity; how your community identifies you and your relationship with your community. And how your identity is part of what is sold to you- how those who own the media/run society sell back your identity to you and how you engage with that.
This self indulgent post will create an image of me, in your head, if you can read the whole thing.
|2011 - in need of a change.. I have been Elvis....|
Some lessons take years- generations- millennia. And in our limited time, our relationship, our interface with the world-our identity, in my opinion, at this moment in my life; is ever changing. At times imperceptibly; or at times change comes quickly, to do with circumstance, health, relationships, and your geographical position, family and other outside influences change you. But there are somethings we cling to, whether they be music, clothes, words or addictions. Addictions we poison ourselves with or addictions our society, economy or our class -or other classes- impose on us- force on us.
|The political image I wanted to convey... but me?|
When I was younger, I knew more than the slow, boring old men and women around me. I ruled the world around me, yet didn't control anything only my wild nihilism... Sometimes...
|Me (centre) - beer, smoke and peace... or something... (1994-ish)|
But slowly they died. And from my thirties onwards, so did quite a few of my peers who filled their lives in the ways we working class people were conditioned to believe we should.
I smoked, I drank, I longed for a good steak, a Chinese and a fish supper. And sugar and drugs and fast food and pizza and Coca Cola and vodka and meat twice a day (at least).
|Nursing a working class hangover at the G8, 2005.|
And I learned. I learned that smoking would kill me. Not through reading about it or on the packets- I learned through watching people die, losing limbs, hacking coughs, leathered skin, yellowed eyes. And I didn't want that, so I fought my working class want to socialise during work with other smokers. I kidded myself for a while, that some tobacco was healthier than others, roll ups and low tar, white tipped pure looking boxes. I was persuaded by corporations their product would be less fatal and persuaded over drinks that I was a woose for smoking nothing but the full fat fags. "you'll die of something- you may as well enjoy yourself." Then my coughing doubled me over and I watched as around me my contemporaries wheezed and slowly, slowly ground to a halt "enjoying themselves," unable to run, walk and in the end live. I learned. And I quit.
|Circa 1985? A few months of health to train for a few runs...|
I lectured and machine gun-like quoted facts, philosophy's and ideology. I shouted about being the change I want to see in the world, yet comfortably slipped on the cloak of "the system." The system we can't change unless we all rise up- I'll justify my next Big Mac because that's the world I live in. I'll justify my primark teeshirts produced by children in a factory at a machine where they can't leave to piss when they need to. My coffees and chocolate produced by the bleeding hands of farmers forced to live in debt as they are exploited by the corporations we can't bring down until we all hoist the red flag over the White House. I shouted about change, but consume "as a victim of capitalism; a rat in a race; a health time bomb created by a class unable to break the chains of the crap being forced down our throats - consent of our imminent early graves manufactured by fit, rich, tanned Gods on Necker Island or on floating palaces in the Caribbean."
|image in food...|
|...And vegan Scandinavian "Herring" meals...|
And all of those holding their fists up, all of the comrades unable to act -unable to create change because we have trapped ourselves in our working class cages.
Unable, not wanting, to change. Stuffing dead, fattened, tortured animals down our throats, wearing clothing created by kids chained to desks for our sartorial pleasure, smoking tobacco made by companies that grew in power and wealth using kidnapped people from Africa, Scotland, Ireland... Digesting sugar harvested by modern day slaves...
We are killing them. They are killing us.
And someone lights a Cuban Cigar on their yacht, toasting the media they own for telling us how working class people should behave. What cheaply processed "foodstuffs" we should identify with and clog up our bodies with.
|Image in music...|
|Image in comics...|
How we rebel, nihilistically- how we consume and rant about capitalism and die its victims, taking many thousands with us.
You can't unlearn. But you can break the circle of consuming. You can stop your consuming. You can do without the "working class" football tops and the sugary fizzy drink. You can do without the addictive substances, and you can live and give the finger to the yacht. The "viccy" to the billionaire owned media. You can find people to work with- on equal terms- and share your fun, healthy, alternatives to this packaged working class mortality rate.
I told my pal, "if you make us a salad I'll throw it at you." It was his turn to cook for those of us who had signed up to one night a week feeding each other. It meant we only slaved over a cooker one evening a week-and it worked out cheaper. Students needed every penny they could get. That was over twenty years ago. I don't eat meat now. At all. I learned and couldn't unlearn- about health and about environmental destruction and then finally about the fact that animals I ate loved their young - and their friends and life every bit as much as I do.
|Image in teeshirts...|
On Friday nights during the seventies, we ate sweet after sweet given to us by both sets of grandparents and I buzzed and sometimes felt ill. So I knew sweets, those shiny, scrummy, brightly packaged things aimed at children; aimed to addict us, made me feel ill.
When I was in my teens and twenties, I
ran and cycled and during short bursts of training lasting a few months, I would quit sweets, crisps and crap and eat as healthily as I could. I rarely felt ill or tired during those times. My skin cleared up. I was not short tempered.
I realised that crap made me feel bad, short tempered, tired, sluggish.
So I had periods of my life in which I gave things up for a year- sugar, alcohol, meat. And I felt good, but socially excluded. Like when I no longer shared the conspirital , cool, sarcastic, sardonic, nihilistic smoke break. Or the laugh at the bar. Or the speed of the burger or the chippy or KFC... So inevitably, sugary foods bought by someone to share, were shared. A pie or a McDonalds was quick, easy. A pint with pals felt good- and I would push my healthy lifestyle change to somewhere in the future.
But then photos of me made me think "heart attack," stroke," "cancer," early death. And my mood and coping mechanism was shot. Drudgery, work, chores, bed, -- look forward to that booze on a Friday night after work; Thursday after work, Friday after work, Saturday because it is Saturday... Wednesday because it is the turn of the week; beer every night on a holiday from the drudge... Drink the free bar dry; wheeze and sweat my way to the bar... My identity- my working class health nihilism; food on the go from Greggs, full fat everything and victory in volume... was killing me. One more beer- it's only water and grains... And then you realise it is sugar; it is storing around your internal organs; it is pushing sugar levels to huge heights; it is making you sweat and it is in control as you run to the shop to ensure you get there before 10pm to get three more litres of fizzy lager...
My identity was, both from my point of view and the point of view of others, tied up in alcohol.
Roll us another one, Kev. Make it a good one. He laughs and looks at me through his lank, long greasy hair as he sprinkles the tarry substance amongst the tobacco from the Marlboro.
We smoke all day from waking at midday;
people visit and join us for joint after joint as day turns to night and eventually we all head back to our rooms. I'm last out; first there tomorrow.
For a few years, my identity was tied up with my long, dyed hair, shaved up the sides; my colourful clothes; my not give a fuck, lefty, Irish hippy, charity shop and "man" flecked sentences; chill... Roll another one. My identity. Days wasted, but not wasted - learning.
Calimotxo, metaxa, Czech beer at source, ricard, stroh rum, Havana rum... Necked at source in all those countries.
Alcohol, nihilism, drugs, all part of my identity- an identity found at 17- drinking beer outside with my mates before hitting the pub or club. An identity with its roots in my high school- my rebellion- my statement to a friend that I wanted to find out all the secrets. An identity hard to shake.
But what is learned cannot be unlearned and as community crumbles; body function begins to fail- addictions need to be faced. And the person I want to be rather than expected to be as a working class baldy pasty, fat white bloke, must be faced. The future embraced. A new identity formed from better informed me.
I don't drink, I don't smoke, what do I do?
I be. The vegan, clean living, very, very flawed, husband, dad, cycling, dog walking, coffee drinking, comic/novel/biography reading, political 50 year old me.
|Constructed image- what is real?|