“Are you willing to die for what you believe? It might just come to that.”
Identity is a strong thing for a person. What you identify as, will shape you into an entity of ideas that you impose onto the world with force, cause you’re right. And if you’re not, not only your ideas, but you personally will suffer the consequenses.
Identity politics are intertwined with the idea of projecting those not only on yourself to shine a little brighter, they’re also essential to keep up an appearance. When being pushed into question your appearance, a psychological mechanism normally tends to harden your identity, instead of questioning the very ideas you project onto yourself and others.
I know this very well, being brought up in minor subcultures that worked as counter cultures; against conformity, against the mainstream. Speciality coffee was the last of subcultures, and the one least hard to incorporate in a normal life. But unlike other contexts I’ve explored through my identity, it very quickly became both mainstream and conform.
I sometimes read a blog for fun, from a young rather pretentious coffee entrepreneur. He wrote something along the lines of “change of habits is important to develop”. At first I giggled, but then I realized that it’s actually a true way to keep an open mind. Even Marx famously wrote: all solid will melt into air. If holding onto ideas too hard, pragmatism is hard and you’ll try to shape the world according to your beliefs, cause it is seemingly easier than shape your self according to the world.
Speciality coffee has a track record of wanting to educate the customer rather than pleasing her. It’s part of our identity. By accepting our craft, our taste in acidic light bodied coffees, instead of full bodied dark roasted coffee that tastes great with milk and a bagel (a guilty pleasure of mine), you are accepting the messenger. And if you don’t – fuck you!
I sacrificed a lot on that altar of integrity. I’ve worked crazy hours, I’ve worked for minimum wage, I lost a life in paradise and in the end a marriage to be in coffee. My children has grown up in an environment where sick days don’t exist and if they’re sick, they have to come with me to work cause there is no other way to deal with it, simply cause there’s not enough staff to fill in for you. And it has never been my business, I’m talking about being employed in the business. In the end, my integrity for the coffee I’m serving has been a beast of burden for someone elses cause to make money (any business has to, regardless what their coffee is like).
The past ten years, I’ve identified with the chimera that is what it takes to “be in coffee”. I’ve always, for as long as I’ve remembered, been an underdog. When I was young, insecure and ugly, I lived by the motto “if they won’t love you, make them fear you”. That is a destructive way to confront the world, and I am to this date very surprised I made it past 25. In the end it consumes you to be at war with the world.
My wife, who grew up in the deep south of the US, an passionate a meat eather as anyone down there, came home after watching the documentary “The Game Changers” and said: “we’re going vegan”. As someone who has almost her begged her to consider going vegetarian, having banned meat in our house, it was one of the most heartwarming things I’ve heard. But it also made me think of my identity. I’ve been a vegetarian for 16 years, having indoctrinated my kids that we don’t eat dead animals. Now I’m pushing myself away from my own identity as someone who would never give up cheese.
When entering coffee, I gave up a lot of my spiritual search. Being a fringe dweller of the Hare Krishna movement for 12 years shaped my personality to never underestimate in a belief in something greater than what your eye can see, but I studied atheist literature hard at the time of commiting myself to coffee, which made me a very secular being. It lead me astray from a positive mind attitude, and let me watch all my ideals through the bottom of a glass for many years, unwilling to identify with anything but someone who had fought and lost. If there’s no greater being, and the cause of which I commited myself to does not provide what I need to survive, what is left of my identity?
So, abolish the rules made of stone. I once stayed sober for seven years by ditching the AA, who told me I was an alcoholic and said I had no choice in the matter. Instead I bailed, and chose to see myself as someone who had chosen to be sober. When I was a kid and my mom wouldn’t let me stay out with the other kids to drink and raise hell, I found the Straight Edge movement to be my counter culture. I told myself I had chosen this, it gave me an identity, an empowerment instead of feeling crippled.
From Monday I will return to a sXe lifestyle. Reconstructing myself, thinking of myself through a positive mind attitude. Honor myself by chosing creativity and not destructiveness. I chose this identity to survive in a world that will always keep pushing you around. Only this time, I’m pushing back!
NP: Gorilla Biscuits Start Today