What Do Identity Politics Mean When You Don’t Have An Identity?

maskI had a friend in college who told me that statistically I didn’t exist. And maybe I don’t.

He said it because as an American I’m a bit of an anomaly. But the truth of his off-hand comment has lingered with me for years. Beyond the demographic categories I can’t escape, I’ve tried identities on for size—with varying degrees of accuracy.

But let me go back.

My childhood doesn’t fit me. The child I was is incongruent with how I see myself now. I know I lived through grade school, through college, through job after job after job. Through labels—grounds crew, barista, teaching assistant, cashier, first grader, freshman, senior, summa cum laude, employee of the month, girlfriend, single.

But was I any of those things? Was I an archivist? A graduate student? A partner? A mentor?  Continue reading

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Maybe I'm Just Paranoid

I’m not sure what this says about my general psychological state, but whenever I hear about new technology, I immediately think of all the ways it could be used for untoward activity.

For instance, there is a feature on Google Maps that allows you to have a street view of the address you search.  Now, I can see why this might be helpful. Suppose I wanted to get to the U.S. Post Office in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.  I can see why someone not great with directions might want the visual aid.

From that angle, it looks more like a prison.

But, what if this was your house? There is a feature on Google Maps that allows you to “walk” along the street. Any creep who knows the general area in which you live can easily find what your house looks like. If your car was in the driveway at the time the image was gathered, anyone can see what you drive, as well. While only street views are provided (and not your backyard), it still seems like a burglar could still reasonably case your house for possible points of entry.

Is this really a good idea?

It doesn’t end at Google Maps, either. Most communication-based technology frightens me. Look at cell phones, for instance, are they really anything more than devices with which the government can spy on you and track your location?

Seriously, though, there are a lot of really disturbing web applications and pages that blur the line between public information and the implied right to privacy the Supreme Court has ruled can be found in the U.S. Constitution. Having your phone number in the white pages of a phone book in 1985 wasn’t a big deal. The people in your home town could call you. If you didn’t want this, you could have your number unlisted.

Now, anyone in the world can find information on you by typing your name into a search engine. Threats of identity theft abound, but this information could be used for even more unsavory purposes.

There are many upsides to being able to connect to people all over the world through the World Wide Web, but at what cost?

The Best Policy

When I’m not being sarcastic, I’m an honest person.

I’m usually tactful, but I can be blunt on occasion.

I get mixed reactions from this. I think it frightens some people. Not to mention, I think we’re so used to being lied to, people just don’t believe me most of the time. Of course, it’s also possible that I’m so good at being sarcastic that no one can tell the difference.

People always claim to value honesty, but I think that’s  a lie.

Honesty is scary.

Honesty is ugly.

Honesty can hurt.

One of the problems with being honest is that sometimes what is truthful in some circumstances isn’t truthful in other circumstances. Going back and reading my own old blog entries, I sometimes question my ideas and motivations behind them, even though they were honest when I wrote them.

Maybe that’s what’s so scary about honesty. If there is no absolute truth, then what’s true changes. With lies, we can construct an absolute truth and we can cling to it and let it protect us from the scary, the ugly and the painful.

I think the hardest person to be honest with is yourself. It’s hard to uncover all the layers of your ideas and influences and all the things that other people have told you that have shaped who you are. Sometimes I wonder, is there even anything left?

Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln.