Volume 0, Issue 0

The Book of Dead Names

In Discussion on 2015/06/27 at 4:21 pm
The Cranium. Leonardo Da Vinci, April 2, 1498

The Cranium. Leonardo Da Vinci, April 2, 1498

Welcome back to high school. In this nightmare, it’s the ninth grade again. You’ve made it through the lunch line, maybe bought some milk to go with the sandwich you brought from home to save you from having to face green beans that were harvested when Nixon was president, imprisoned since then in a can large enough to have contained an adult human’s head, decanted along with nine other identical cans into a huge steel vat, and boiled for six hours or until spreadable.

Now it’s time to choose a table. For those of you who need it, here’s a hint. This is a metaphor for being born.

You see the cool kids’ table and know better than to try. Something tells you that you’d need an invitation, and you’re right. You watch and you listen, and you one of them declare a petitioner a nerd and wave her off in the direction of the Nerd Section. So now you try to work out the map and the rules.

Cool kids. Preppies. Jocks. Gearheads. Nerds. Band geeks. Weirdos. Burnouts. Druggies. Other categories whose names aren’t speakable aloud. It’s obvious there’s a ranking system – some groups are cooler than others. There are ranks interior to the groups, too. But there’s a map that competes with the ranking of the groups, a roadway that lets kids change groups if they’re willing to change uniforms. Money, subservience, attractiveness. If you’re gorgeous or wealthy or willing to humiliate yourself to please others, it’s hard to stay in the lower echelons. In general, though, once you’re given your Name by the cool kids, it sticks. And now the only way to not be a complete outsider is to make it past the assigned group’s sentries. It’s amazing how kids will police the membership rolls of their own group of rejects to enforce the status quo set up, often in a pretty offhand manner, by the cool kids.

It’s all bullshit and everyone knows it. But what can you do? It’s gone on so long that not even the cool kids can change it anymore, even if they wanted to. Some kids are proud of being something other than one of those asshole cool kids – and maybe they ought to be.

Remember, you’re not actually in grade school here. This is a metaphor.

In the real world you’re expected to know how things work well enough to choose your own Names. The most obvious one is race. If you can pass for whatever white is, you motherfucking do it, because you damn well know the cool kids’ table is in there, where the wealthiest and prettiest sit and judge. If trying to pass there is too big of a risk – and you better believe the walls to that compound are heavily patrolled – you pull up the list of other “races” that maps the distance between whatever you look like and “white” and try your luck fitting in there. Unless you are gorgeous or wealthy or prepared to do just about anything for whoever you can get to be your sponsor. You can use that to get in, but you know damned well that the length of your stay in the White Castle will only last as long as your money or your beauty or your willingness to eat shit.

You’re expected to analyze your traits and beliefs and tendencies to try to find your other Names, your other group memberships. You declare yourself Male or Female, though if you don’t have the genitals to prove it, prepare for a huge fight for acceptance. You can take a Name from a large and growing list of “not straight, sexually speaking” categories if you can’t or don’t want to pass for a breeder – and you can guarantee that that will get you barred from any “cool kids table” that enjoys any real power, though the usual exceptions for money and attractiveness or subservience still apply. You can Name yourself a member of any particular religion as long as you’re willing to pretend to believe whatever magical madness they’re serving at their tables – though you’re more likely to choose whichever one you were brought up in, seeing as that’s the brand of madness you’ll most likely believe is “normal”. And if you choose a different religion than the one your family subscribes to, they will be the ones kicking you out like you’re the one who’s gone crazy.

You can pick a Name from your nation or your city or your geographic region. You can Name yourself from a political party – but understand the same rules apply there as apply to religions. You can Name yourself from your hobbies or favorite sports teams or fanatical interests. You can Name yourself from your career or occupation. You can Name yourself a father or a mother, but people will police that group pretty hard if they don’t think your gender matches the title or you forgot to produce some child or other as evidence and/or a membership token. You can Name yourself by any family relationship, as spouse or sibling or BFF.

And every Name you take, every Name you are given, every Name you earn, every Name you are allowed to keep by the various membership police comes with a list of rules, of Dos and Don’ts. And you can get in trouble with the membership police if the rules associated with one of your Names conflicts with the rules of another Name. Your collected Names are your Identity. They make up Who You Are. That aggregated list of rules is the scheme by which you do anything and everything you do, and losing a Name or changing a Name is a wound, an injury, a broken bone. It causes physical pain. It requires convalesence. An Identity crisis can kill.

And it’s all still grade school bullshit.

The Names are made-up. The rules associated with the Names are made-up. The people who invented most of the Names are long dead. The new Names society makes up on a daily basis as we go along and struggle for a seat as close to the cool kids’ table as possible – those are all phantoms. You are susceptible to them because you have listened to stories all your life about people who have had those Names and have been rewarded for following the rules of the Name in question – and those stories are all written and published and blessed by history’s endless parade of cool kids. Names have Role Models who demonstrate the rules and show that the rules have rewards, and it’s all made-up.

All names are dead names in a dead book and the book is fiction.

The cool kids’ table, from the ninth grade all the way to a couple hundred thousand years of primate society, is the core of a machine to control who gets to have sex with whom and to decide who gets the best food and the prime sleeping spots, and that’s the most pathetic statement anyone could ever make about modern society. It is all the evidence we’d ever need that humans are absolutely 100% still apes. Names are the gears of the machine. Following the rules of your Names is how we all turn the crank of the machine. Calling people Names, choosing a Name and forcing it on someone else, is how we establish dominance and hogtie or manipulate others into following the rules we want other people to follow for our own satisfaction. Calling people garbage-Names is how we tell other people we’d like them to die, and if we can get them to take those Names to themselves, we really can get them to die.

You can murder someone by policing them out of their groups, by causing an Identity crisis, by sticking them with a garbage Name – and after that you just sit back and wait for autothysis. And walk away with clean hands. It’s the blackest form of black magic and we’re trained on how to do it from birth. Acceptance heals; rejection kills. But we’re not taught how to resist it or control it. That would undermine the authority of the cool kids’ table.

You can achieve a kind of sainthood by accepting everyone regardless of their Names. You can protect yourself from manipulation and control and the effects of harmful Names by accepting no Names for yourself except as temporary masks for interacting with other people on their own terms. Once you can pick up a Name or drop it at whim, you can walk where you want and do what you like as much as your superficial appearance will allow, which is an excellent trick for sociopaths and predators. Or saints. But all three of those things are just Names.

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