It’s to be expected from the govgoons and burricrats, of course—it is part and parcel of their desire to track, and to be efficacious in tracking, individuals throughout all their activities, across all their days. But I have seen the cry echoed across one too many a private place. “You should have to use your real name!” squawk the parroting, semi-non-thinking plebes. Well, pray tell me this first: what is a real name—and what is real about a name?
A name is like any other word—it is a symbol to facilitate identification and communication. It might be a referent to a particular thing, or to a class of very similar objects or ideas. Names are just labels we place on things. Many of our modern names have interesting etymological roots that, for some, have value and add inherent meaning, but fundamentally, all words come down to someone, somewhere, somewhen deciding that a certain combination of sounds refers to X, and some others agreeing with that convention. Or is someone seriously going to argue with me that lulushtrydhe, fraise, zemene, mansikka, mefusen, aarbei, клубника, jordbær, fresa, truskawka, and strawberry don’t all refer to the same thing?
So, which of those names is more—or less—real than the others?
Does it make any difference whatsoever if we shift the consideration from that fruit to individuals? I submit that it does not. My name is a label I and others use to refer to me. It is not me, and it doesn’t necessarily describe me. (I recall Snolf the First being very confused upon meeting his second “Bob”—he couldn’t figure out what Bob #1 and Bob #2 had in common, in order to have the same label attached to them.) If I were to decide tomorrow that I preferred to be known as something else (I am weary of my name being misconstrued and mispronounced, largely because of the troubles in the Middle East, after all—and we are not going to revive that old “Sunni triangle” joke, okay?), and requested that others start calling me Sarah, or Barnaby, or even Lightning-in-a-Jar, how would that harm anyone?
Ah, but the new name wouldn’t be your legal name!, comes the objection. Well, fuck that. As largely construed and acted upon in today’s USSA, “legal” is nothing more than a sly way to refer to the guns of the coercive state pointed at one’s head. The legal name has become a means of tracking and pigeonholing individuals, so that the state can keep its claws in our lives—or for the corporatocracy to create consumer databases with, to mine and sell. I am not the least bit interested in cooperating with those schemes, much less advancing them. (Although I do have one small objection to otherwise excellent case Per Bylund lays out: I do not wish to provide a platform for spammers, here or in the forum where I am an owner.)
We’ve had a skirmish or two ’round here before on the “real name” issue; I think that exchange is illustrative of one of the reasons why disparaging nyms has become so commonplace. For some indivduals, names have more meaning than simple labels; and when such individuals come up against others who don’t similarly value a label, it can be problematic. In other cases, I think it’s used as a feint: This person can’t be arsed to use his real name, so I don’t have to take his question/criticism/point seriously. To which I say, Grow up already! Or, if I’m feeling a little less constrained by my jar, I might point one to this Thomas Paine quotation, which I almost always take the time to read when I'm at B.W.’s place:
Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the DOCTRINE ITSELF, not the MAN.
The ideas should matter above the individual expressing them in most typical situations. And anyone who thinks that these times aren’t trying enough to call for some discretion in speaking against the powercrats (or discussing one’s non-mainstream interests or practices) simply isn’t paying sufficient attention.
There are times, though, when knowing more about the entity behind the label can be helpful, even critical. This commenter here wants to be taken seriously as a representative of a specific company; yet nothing in the comment (nor in the information provided when the person signed on here) provides any evidence that the person is, in fact, part of the company. I do think it’s highly likely to be a legitimate post—but then, spies and moles work very hard at creating such façades. That just underscores my point: a name, in and of itself, does not confer trust—or mistrust. Yet how much of many individuals’ lives is wasted trying to wrangle that understanding from the Thousands Standing Around and their bureaucratic overseers?
To be completely honest with you about this, I am much less interested in the label your parents stuck on you when you were freshly born (or thereabouts) than I am the labels you might choose for yourself. Those would provide a better idea of the entity behind the label. Do we really need to know so much about whom we converse with—especially online, when we can crisscross each other in various fora—or can we have fun with our labels, as I envisioned in my contribution to National Identification Systems: Essays in Opposition?:
And indeed, if the purpose is not to defraud or harm anyone, does it really matter if an individual works as a computer analyst by the name of “Mason Jackson” by day, and is a stripper—“Ticonderoga Dick”—at a bar by night? By using various labels for different aspects of activities, an individual thus affords him- or herself more privacy than the one-size-constricts-all system ...
I encourage all free-thinking individuals to let go of this “real name” fetish and allow whimsy, frustration, or stealth meme-dropping to stand in wherever and whenever appropriate. The recyclocrats or used-oil nannies might be surprised to learn how much stuff Dolly Madison and Robert Morris toss out. Or maybe it’s Ticonderoga Dick’s turn ...