It seems that each decade these days can
be associated with a particular kind of crime. The 80′s was rife with
muggings, in the 90′s carjacking was all the rage, and now, in the brave
new millennial decade of the aughts it is identity theft that is running
rampant across the country.
Of course, some will argue that the
signature crime of the current decade is more appropriately corporate
or even high crimes and misdemeanors. And, it should ne noted,
the decade still has four years to run. But in terms of sheer numbers
(at current rates by the end of the decade over 20% of Americans will
been victims), identity theft is a clear favorite.
Lately, we have been not so much wondering if it will
ever happen to us as much as wondering when. Perhaps most oddly,
rather than paranoia or trepidation (the typical Dowbrigade reaction
to threats) we find ourself almost looking forward to having our identity
After all, what is our identity, really, and what good
had it done us?
An identity is not the same as a self. Rather, it is
the accumulation of attributes, traits, habits, preferences and idiosyncratic
behavior that allows others to identify us, and forms the immediate basis
of our superficial self-image. However, more often than not it
is used by others not to identify us, but to stereotype us, and used
by ourself to massage our ego, deceive ourself by combing over faults,
and nurture our spoiled inner child.
Seen impartially, and speaking only for ourself, our
identity is not a particularly valuable or endearing collection of traits. One can
if a cyber-thief
was to steal our identity they would end up with a boatload of vanity,
unsightly egotism, attacks of idiocy, laziness, sloppy thinking and a
penchant for easy solutions. Let him have all trace of our weakness, cowardice, wimpiness, incipient sexism, supressed racism and questionable taste.
Hopefully, along with our identity, the thief would
inherit our 25-year-old guaranteed student loan, our accumulated credit
card debt, our unpaid taxes, our endless dental treatment plan payments,
our collection of parking tickets, our recently overdrawn (bank error)
checking account, our MBNA account, and the regular desperate cries for
financial salvation from our progeny.
We certainly look forward to the new owner of our identity
having to sort through the constant onslaught of retro snail mail from
credit card companies, the AARP, and most malignantly, the scorched earth
tactics of the Harvard University Alumni Fundrazing Drive.
While they are at it, the thieves are welcome to the
more material accoutrements of our identity as well: the obsolete computer, jelly
stains on the keyboard and godknowswhat on the screen; the crappy old
car, now tumbling into the terminal phase in which it’s just
rust and rot and planned obsolescence eating out one part or system after
another; our creaky, cranky body, more or less in the same state; high
blood pressure, raised cholesterol, hiatal hernia, stomach saroma, failing
eyesight, fading hearing, falling follicles; the whole sorry package.
The identity thieves are also welcome to the damning
paper trail chasing us around as we wandered across the planet
this past half-century; the sealed cases, expired probations, disciplinary
hearings, defaults and foreclosures, the evictions, expulsions, deportations
and banishments from bars, educational institutions, commercial establishments
and private homes, the extensive but secret files buried in basements
at the Cambridge Police Department, FBI, CIA, NSA, Interpol, the Mossad,
Department of Homeland Security, ETS, PETA and who knows where else.
Take it, please! Take it all! Leave me blank, an unwritten slate,
pure potential, a tabla rasa. Let us shed our old identity like a snake
sheds a worn-out skin. Leave us floating free, egoless, anonymous. We
would still be uniquely us, we are sure. Identities, after all, are a
dime a dozen. Some people we know have several spares.
So go ahead. Take our identity, please. You’d
be doing us a favor.