Where does our identity come from?

The other day I was listening to a panel podcast about the gap between politics and reality. Naturally, because it was something I was listening to, it was through the lense of how these things are portrayed in the theatre – would I really listen to a political podcast unless it was from a stagey standpoint? Especially when I’m feeling particularly exhausted by the past few years of unrelenting political nonsense! But anyways, the groundwork for the panel’s discussion began with trying to explain why there is such a polarising difference within our society (the podcast looks specifically at UK and American cultures).

The podcast was talking about why there seems to be polarising political views in our society and an author called David Goodhart suggested it comes down to identity – he suggests that there is two different types of people now; the flexible people with achieved-identity who could be from Anywhere, and the marginalized, roots-based identity of the people from Somewhere specific.

I found it quite interesting to consider that if we value our identity by what we do and what me achieve e.g. ‘I am a qualified professional who does [insert occupation]’ which are things that you can adapt, change and improve. As opposed to identifying as the stable adjective characteristics that we cannot change e.g. white, man, English, brown hair, blue eyes etc.

I guess its kinda similar to the concept of growth and fixed mindset but it looks a bit closer at things like culture and how this will then go on to affect our decisions in life like viewpoints and political beliefs. I think this concept does do quite a good job at explaining the societal gap we have.

Generally younger generations tend to be achievement based, while older generations were brought up with a roots-based identity. This is due to the fact that we have grown up in completely different environments. Culture lines are blurred the more that technology develops and connects the world. Younger generations are more likely to feel less attached to their roots and more to what they can make for themselves. Although I can’t remember where it was, I remember hearing a speaker say that we are part of the “slash generation” – and as much as I kinda wish that means we all have the curly hair and a top hat, but we are not all 80’s rock legends. It basically means that rather than picking one profession we now identify ourselves with several different titles. E.g. I am a student/dancer/bartender/customer host/blogger etc.

Identity is complex. It is tied to the past, where you’re from, what you’ve done, where you’ve been. I think how we view the future is key to our identity. I’m a person who wants to engage fully with the world, so that needs an openness to change and a willingness to participate in new experiences, as a result my identity will continue to evolve and develop. It seems to me that focussing on drawing your identity from an adaptable achievement basis then it makes for a more agreeable and pleasant people to encounter.

If you’re interested in listening to the podcast look up The Reality Gap episode of the NT Talks podcast from the National Theatre which can be found iTunes and or you can listen to it here. Moreover, David Goodhart’s novel is called The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics if you’d like to read into his concept in further detail.

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