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Identity is Written by the Victors

We think of the phrase “history is written by the victors” as being for the most part historical. When we look back at those other people whose history was written for them, we mourn the injustice of it all. Those whose stories were whispered in the shadows, at the margins of the dominant society, barely register as people at all. We only learn these stories well after the fact. We reconstruct them as we would a dinosaur from a footprint recovered from an archeological dig.

When I think of @IdentityWoman’s dispute with Google and their Google+ platform, I can’t help but notice that identity too, is written by the victors. In the battle for the Network, Google can only be considered one of the victors. On their platform, they can set the rules for what counts as a who. We obscure the hard edges of the platform by calling it a cloud, but it’s a centralized system with a set of hard and fast rules.

The “real” name is the identifier that can be bound to the flesh and blood of a human. It’s the “I” who is responsible for the debts and transactions initiated by the soul that is embodied as a particular being. The “consumer” is another way of describing this “I.” But is the “I” who vouches for the reality of a name, the “I” who then narrates the life of the “I” who lives that life? Is that “I” only the “I” who buys and spends? While the system can try to insist that the “I” use a “real” name, I can only hear the voice of Arthur Rimbaud saying “I is another…”

Extract from the Voyant Letter
Arthur Rimbaud
1871

‘Romanticism has never been properly judged. Who could judge it? The Critics! The Romantics! Who prove so clearly that the singer is so seldom the work, that’s to say the idea sung and intended by the singer.

For I is another. If the brass wakes the trumpet, it’s not its fault. That’s obvious to me: I witness the unfolding of my own thought: I watch it, I hear it: I make a stroke with the bow: the symphony begins in the depths, or springs with a bound onto the stage.

If the old imbeciles hadn’t discovered only the false significance of Self, we wouldn’t have to now sweep away those millions of skeletons which have been piling up the products of their one-eyed intellect since time immemorial, and claiming themselves to be their authors!

In Greece, as I say, verse and lyre took rhythm from Action. Afterwards, music and rhyme are a game, a pastime. The study of the past charms the curious: many of them delight in reviving these antiquities: – that’s up to them. The universal intelligence has always thrown out its ideas naturally: men gathered a part of these fruits of the mind: they acted them out, they wrote books by means of them: so it progressed, men not working on themselves, either not being awake, or not yet in the fullness of the great dream. Civil-servants – writers: author; creator, poet: that man has never existed!

The first study for the man that wants to be a poet is true complete knowledge of himself: he looks for his soul; examines it, tests it, learns it. As soon as he knows it, he must develop it! That seems simple: a natural development takes place in every brain: so many egoists proclaim themselves authors: there are plenty of others who attribute their intellectual progress to themselves! – But the soul must be made monstrous: after the fashion of the comprachicos, yes! Imagine a man planting and cultivating warts on his face.

I say one must be a seer (voyant), make oneself a seer.

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