The curious ecology of identity

I saw a charming meme not so long ago. It said: You aren’t stuck in traffic, you are traffic. How we name, describe and explain our experiences helps create our sense of reality. If we tell ourselves we’re stuck in traffic, we’re reinforcing the idea that our journey was necessary, reasonable and justified. The ‘traffic’ is someone else’s fault, and we are distinct and separate from it. The main effect of the ‘stuck in traffic’ version is to keep us from questioning our own role in *being* traffic.

It’s only when we recognise that we are *being* the problem – the source of air pollution, light pollution, noise pollution, part of the terrible crowd, the traffic jam, that we can change our involvement. So long as we think the problem is other people, we’ll carry right on as we are. Hoping someone else will change and fix things is a weak strategy.

The air pollution in London contributes to a lot of deaths every year. Much of this is due to London traffic. But just as we’re ‘in traffic’ we’re ‘in the air pollution’ – someone else’s car is poisoning us. And yes, every driver will have a good, convincing set of reason s why they couldn’t possibly be expected to do any differently, why they need, and they must and it’s important and really the government or the mayor or someone else should sort it all out. It’s this approach, here and in most other situations, that helps us stay put.

Grass roots action can make real change. If enough people take responsibility for making change, everything changes. There’s no point waiting for someone else to get the ball rolling, either. However small your gesture seems, however futile in face of all the other people doing it wrong… act. Stop being traffic. If enough people choose it, congestion could be a thing of the past. If enough people choose clean energy providers, if enough people cut down on household waste, if enough people refuse to buy bee killing chemicals… that’s all it takes.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

3 responses to “The curious ecology of identity

  • garycohenblog

    I thought this was a wonderful post. I was reminded of the zen monk Thich Naht Hahn who speaks of interrelatedness and looking deeply at issues so as to be mindful of the part we all play in our relationships and environment.
    I found this post very helpful. Thank you for sharing. I really enjoyed reading.

  • siobhanwaters

    A recent convo with my Uncle: ‘Why should I recycle/cut down waste/drive less/do anything to help the environment when the USA and China are doing x, y, z and even a?’ My response at the time was uncoordinated and angry, but Staircase Wit gave me the following. Because the US, China, and everyone else, nations and ordinary people, contributing to any kind of negative circumstance, is sat thinking ‘Why should I?’

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