By educating and providing us with social, political, economic, national, religious and cultural milieu, society offers us a wide spectrum of roles to play, and we are rewarded if we play these roles as well as possible – roles of teenagers, workers, business people, politicians, priests, doctors, spouses, parents, pensioners, Russians, Australians.
The traditions, the dispositions and the country where we live – they also push us to play certain roles. This push, sometimes subtle and gentle, sometimes blunt and insolent, forcibly imposed or voluntarily accepted, moulds our nature up to a degree that we may become fully identified with the designated roles. We may even stop to notice that we are playing roles, assuming that what we are doing is participating in a genuine and authentic life. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Each role inevitably epitomises some fixed identity. Society prefers to operate with fixed identities – they help to divide people into groups, to ‘push’ the groups into separated “boxes” and computer files (hierarchical or nested into one another), to label these boxes and files with names, numbers and codes, and then to do with them all sorts of manipulations. And above all, to exercise control.
Social control cannot function without building a well-structured system of fixed identities. It is easier to exercise control over fixed group identities than over variable individual identities which are elusive, flexible, resistant to control, open for change, evolution and growth. When squeezed into a fixed group identity, individual identity is in danger to lose its uniqueness and to become a mediocre entity in a majority of ‘they-say’ people, easily susceptible for manipulation and corruption.
Living individual identities are chaotic – extremely sensitive to changes (however tiny they might appear) occurring in both external and internal human conditions, unpredictable and, therefore, free. Fixed identities are locked into pre-designed ordered patterns – insensitive to changes, easily predictable and, therefore, unfree.
All kinds of control tools like tax file numbers, licence numbers, passports, identity cards, certificates, permission for residence, visas, etc. are extensively put into operation in to-day’s society in order to keep human identities fixed.
Any fixed identity easily becomes a string of alphanumeric characters compressed to satisfy the requirements of a variety of computer data bases. Once captured by the computer, human identities become imprisoned for life in a System from which no escape exists. This is The System of Fixed Identities – a great relief for all kinds of surveillance authorities in human society. For such authorities each fixed identity has only one interpretation – potentially it is an identity of a criminal: if not behaving as the Rules of the System require, people are automatically treated as criminals – in The System everybody must obey The Rules.
The System is a procrustean bed for living individual identities. Remember Procrustes from the ancient Greek legends – that brigand who used to stretch or mutilate his victims to make them conform to the length of his bed. The same is happening with our individual identities in to-day’s society – they must fit certain procrustean beds. If not, there are forces in society powerful enough to make us fit the bed. Once there, we are predictable, it is easy to deal with us – to wash our brains, to manipulate us, to delude and exploit us.