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"On 'I' as a number"

Updated on August 1, 2009

      “Next: File no. 486099007152440300”; “can I see your Social Insurance Number” and “the OHIP number” and “your driver’s license number” and . . . I used to get hassled in university for not remembering my twelve or so digit student number. What the fuck?! All these numbers attached to me make me feel like I’m being confused with cattle. ‘Fuck you’ – I’m not a number!!

      I understand that we need to have some form of organizing things in general and that numbering things and at times people may be necessary. The problem arises though, when we forget that each number (when numbers are assigned to people) represents a human being. When treated and regarded as a number people are no longer viewed as individuals with their own genuine identity, feelings and experiences.

      And when you view the person next to you as a number you begin to look at that person with indifference. When the body count in Iraq is mounting on all sides (Iraqis, British, Americans, etc.) we just hear about casualties – numbers. Like: “. . . three more U.S. soldiers died earlier today in a roadside attack near the town of Tikrit.” We do not know them so it’s sort of like “out of mind – out of sight”. How would it feel if every night on the stupid box we would get to see a mother holding a crying two year old on her lap with another five year old besides her looking all confused, talking about how earlier that day her husband’s armored vehicle drove over an “improvised explosive device” and lost both his legs. We would have to sit there and see this woman (perhaps even our own sister or aunt or mother) talking about how she does not know if her husband will live or if her little two year old daughter would ever get to know her daddy.

      How bloody sad would that be?! Would anyone support wars if we realized that through wars we really are just hurting one another with no real achievement; creating an insurmountable amount of pain which in its own turn will spread and multiply, eventually bouncing right back at us?

      Yet, we do not see such things often enough. In general we need more compassion and love for one another. Learning to see each and every person as an individual and respect them as such is something to work at for a lot of us. Let's stop calling numbers and let's start calling names.

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