I won’t be surprised if I’m asked for my birth certificate, passport, and SSN at the supermarket tomorrow.
Everywhere I fucking go I need identification. I am told it is a result of living in a “post 9-11 world” as if it was the death of three thousand people and the destruction of two skyscrapers which caused a world of ~seven billion to suddenly change everything about their perspective. That’s a difference of 10^9 in magnitude, folks. That’s like changing everything about your habits and identity because you lost *a* skin cell. Not even a hair or a tooth. But whatever, I don’t mind its absolute existence too much because I don’t particularly know what the world was like before. (Imagining how its existence has destroyed many nice things in the world is fairly easy, but I just wrote an entry on that.) The problem is its inconsistency.
It’s not really about identification. They’re shitting out the nose with this one.
A couple of months back I got fairly sick and disoriented and my roommate drove me over to the local CVS. Picked out a random cough medicine, went to the counter. “Can I see identification, please?” I didn’t have it on me, it’s not a habit I make. A little bit of discontent, but it’s expected; have heard on and off about how the US government has been making stricter the regulations on drugs because of meth creation and overdose. Before I think any further though my roommate comes up and makes an offer: “I have ID, I could buy it for him”. He did drive me here, it made sense he had at least his driver’s license.
“I’m sorry… we can’t do that. You’ll have to come back.
“Fuck that.” Walked out the door without another look or another word. Decided I wouldn’t pay any visits to CVS for the next century, isolated incident, bitch cashier, that was that. It’s not as if it made any sense. Let us assume it’s a given that the purchase of any item in this drug category requires both money and ID. Both were present. Who cares if it’s clear that he’s not buying it for himself? Your wife can’t buy your clothes and you can’t buy toys for your son now? The requirements are present, give him/me the fucking drugs. Let’s even say we intend to cook meth with it, and it’s clear somehow, like we’re all wearing Breaking Bad T-shirts. So what if we do? You asked for our ID, and we gave it. I just wrote it off as CVS being a shitty chain with shitty training for its customer service and left it at that.
But then today I walk into the university bookstore to buy a book. One hundred and fifty dollars – sixty for online access to some program for a quarter or semester long, and ninety for a “loose leaf” textbook (that means the book comes without binding. No hardcover, no softcover, not even three rings to hold it together). Again I do not carry identification on me because I could care less. I do not do anything that does or reasonable requires government control. No driving, no drugs, and I don’t have a job. I take one of the cellophane-wrapped text”books” and walk up to the cashier when it’s my turn after waiting in the long line, “Would you like to join our rewards program”. No, “Return policy by friday (today is tuesday) and no returns after the wrap is taken off”. Then what the fuck is the point in telling me this, “That will be a hundred fifty dollars and [something I didn’t care to hear]”.
I hand her my school ID card. It has my face on the front along with my ID#, a set of random numbers, and another set of random numbers accompanied by a barcode which serves as a library card. Of course, it also has all the fancy stuff to signal that this card was made by the university I attend. On the back there is a magnetic strip, some pleasantries from the school code or something, emergency call numbers, and some stuff which indicates this card can serve as a US Bank debit card and credit card. Or maybe it was one of the two; I forget what they tried to sell us at freshman orientation.
“Can I see another form of identification please?”
“FUCKING retarded.” Snatched the card out of her hand, walked out the door.
Let’s make something very clear:
Identification IS a card.
Let’s use the most common mid-level scenario, getting pulled over by a police officer. What occurs when the officer looks at your driver’s license? Visual verification that the face on the card matches your face. Look for the shiny and complicated patterns they print, maybe a state seal in some specific color. Then, they go back to their cruiser, and type one of the things on the card into a computer, wait for the information to be retrieved through the internet, and see if all the other things on your card match. If it does, congratulations – you are now you. Because some random person you’ve never seen before decided that a picture on a card and your face were similar enough for them, and a computer hard drive somewhere.
I’m not going to get into all the different ways these things can be falsified, but that is the structure. It is unavoidable: unless you know someone so well your ears are attuned to their voice and your nose their scent, or someone you do know that well gives a word to vouch for this certain person, you are going to be relying on papers to identify someone. If you are the gatekeeper, the identifier for whatever organization or purpose, what you will need are official papers. It matters not if those papers have wax seals that are verified visually, or if it’s a barcode on the back of a card, or if it’s a biological passport, your power lies only in the enforcement of what the outcome of that verification tells you.
If you a business owner in Los Angeles and you are checking the driver’s license of a Mexican and all the information on the computer matches saying he’s been a resident his whole life, who are you to say that the ID is fake? You can go ahead and not hire him for other reasons and that’s perfectly fine, but you can’t say the ID is fake. Because it checks out. You don’t “know” whether or not this card is “actually” real or just “looks” real. Maybe there’s plenty of reason to believe that this guy hopped over the border fence, maybe you even saw him the night he did it. But here he is now, and even going to the DMV in person has government officials telling you everything is in order. We can drive the same issue back to the senses as well, as in the end they are simply a different kind of scanner for a different kind of ID card. If technology made it possible to don on someone else’s face, their nonconscious muscle twitches, their DNA, their speech patterns, and everything else about them, how would you be able to tell that they are imposters? It’s basically the brain in a jar / “Do we actually live in a Matrix” from the first lecture of Philosophy 001.
So it wants “identification” of everything. “Let me see your identification, please?”; like the cashiers could with one glance at the rectangle you have in your wallet behind a plastic cover could tell whether or not that blurry picture is actually of your face, or if it’s actually a card and not just the result of a high-quality laser printer. But it’s fine, because they don’t actually care about whether or not you are the person you claim they are… they just want the comfort of believing that you have been identified, that they’ve done “the right thing”. There’s a difference there. The bitch at CVS wasn’t interested in following policy or written codes of law, she was worried that she might be pulled to court and thrown in jail or lose her job or get involved in whatever she saw on Breaking Bad because things didn’t happen exactly as she expected them to. The university bookstore slut wasn’t interested in the complete contradiction she was creating by denying the identification card I was given by the institution that hired her, she wanted certainty, in the form of another random card. As if two cards, holding or leading to the exact same information, has “greater security” than just one.
Why not three or five, or a hundred? It’s not as if changes the fundamental problem.
This is what we get for abandoning faith: imbeciles and infantile behavior.