Monday, January 24, 2011

Identity

Identifiers are something we ignore quite regularly yet live with and use everyday multiple times. Most times identifiers are just simple and harmless, sometimes they are mean and hateful. Overall they serve the simple purpose of establishing or indicating who or what (someone or something) is. So why have i decided to ramble on about this chunk of language? Because identifiers are under attack, in fact it seems that anything that would separate an individual from the masses is under attack. I may sound like an angsty teenager when I say this, but society seems to want to make us all copies. 
Think I'm going to go buy some Swedish furniture and a nice pair of khakis.
Identifiers come in a variety of forms, the most obvious of which is our names. If a friend of yours comes up to you and says "have you seen Sam today," you mind is instantly able to narrow the list of people this could be, most likely do to unspecified clues you will instantly be able to astablish exactly which individual your friend is asking about. These unspoken clues are simple and minimize the need for identifiers, example: you are at work and you work with a person named Sam, your friend is good friends with Sam so your assumption would be that co-worker Sam is whom the question is about. So with one identifier we easily narrowed down the list of possible individuals from everyone to everyone named Sam, with some simple contextual clues we were able to establish that the Sam in question was your co-worker. 

Now where more complex identifiers come into play is if we need to specify between two individuals. Say you work with two individuals named Sam, now you may questions your friend to figure out which Sam they are seeking. your friend specifies "Sam the girl from advertising," that's two additional identifiers, girl and from advertising. With these three clues plus some additional understood clues you are easily able to establish the link between who Sam is and if you have seen her. 
(I specifically used Sam as the name to prove a point, people who are more familiar with male Sam's probably assumed Sam stood for Samuel whereas people more familiar with female Sam's probably assumed Samantha)
One of these pictures want you to join the army to protect the others right to have a "Chair Blog"-just sayin'


So everything I have said so far is quiet obvious and you have no idea where I am going to make a point.

...Now


Identifiers are used everyday to differentiate one person from a group of people, names are the most obvious and thus the least likely to cause controversy. It's when we don't have a name or need to use additional identifiers to describe individuals that we seem to get into a little grey (apparently I am Canadian or British with my spelling of the word, if this offends you then here: GRAY) area. I personally don't tend to doddle in the grey areas of life, I am a very black and white type person so being politically correct just pisses me right off. 


A black man robbed the store. =Not racist
A black man robbed the store stealing malt liquor and watermelon sour patch kids. =Not racist
A black man robbed the store, because all black people are theives.=First part not racist, second part racist. 

Racist?
A lot of controversy comes when a news report says that "a black man" committed a crime, it is even worse if another segment leaves out race when specifying the perpetrator of another crime who was white. But this isn't that illogical. 
I use to live in Altoona, PA, their are very few places in America with less diversity then central Pennsylvania. If I was walking home from class one day and was robbed and was describing the incident, I might find it unnecessary to specify the race of a white individual as the assumption by anyone hearing my story would be that the man was white because nearly everyone is white in Altoona, also by not specifying his race I am suggesting that such a detail does not greatly narrow the lists of suspects. 
I also use to live in North Hills, CA, a mainly Hispanic population, in fact of the lists of names on mailboxes at my apartment complex every name was Hispanic except for my apartment and a black/white couple. If my neighbor was robbed on her way home from the store she probably would leave out that the man was Hispanic, because nearly everyone was Hispanic in that neighborhood. (Why did my neighbor get robbed in example two? because she was Hispanic and thus made more sense that she wouldn't specify a race that was her own in a Hispanic part of town, I however being white and growing up in primarily Caucasian settings would be more likely to specify race).
We could also make examples about primarily Black or Asian neighborhoods and have similar outcomes. 

My point is that when someone is part of the overwhelming majority (in terms of race) then the race identifier is weakened and new identifiers are necessary to differentiate the individual from everyone else.

A lot of people try to build identifiers around themselves, the class clown, the prom queen, the slut, the jock, the geek, the musician, the artist, the drama queen. And that I support (yes even the slut) because people understand that attaching yourself to an activity or a lifestyle is a way of differentiating yourself from everyone else. Would you rather be "Matt, you know the kid from class, has brown hair, doesn't talk much, you know Matt from class damnit!" or "Matt, the kid with his forehead pierced." Not matter what your personal feelings on facial piercing is you want to be notice so you want to have something that people notice you for, if you didn't you wouldn't try to fit into a style or have a facebook page filled with pictures of yourself in the mirror. Identifiers are good because they separate people based on who they are. If we get to a point where we have to just say a persons name loader and loader frustratedly trying to get someone to figure out who we are talking about, shit is going to get a lot less efficient, and everyone is going to have a headache. 

"Can I speak to Tim please?" "Who" "Tim" "Tim?" "Yes TIM" "nope doesn't ring any bells" "you know TIM damnit" "nope" "TIM, TIM, TIMMMMMM"


STMTZ



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