We are snowflakes
different look on individuality
is both wanted and called for, but "they" expect it to
You see, I can agree with Foucaults analysis
on society necessitating a perpetual economic calculation of productivity
and always insisting on productivity mistaking progress for
productivity and, therefore, assuming that "progress"
can be measured.
They institute a method of labeling naming
to facilitate their statistical analysis and they permit
no exceptions. If the public calls for something, anything, then
that thing must be accounted for, measured, and the proponents of
the system in place must be able to present their quantified evidence
to the public to prove their demands are being met (else a reformation
may be in order, and a little cleaning up of otherwise useless facilities).
So when the public demands diversification, the mechanisms of our
societal machine dont show even the slightest hint of hesitation
or preponderance or even confusion.
It clicks and turns, calculates and quantifies, and then presents
its own demand that labels must be made to define diversification
the better to see you with, it says in a wolfy voice. Labels
are created and, thus, diversification is no longer a simple conglomeration
of randomly chosen and celebrated differences. It instead becomes
a series of precise statistical percentages all done in the sense
of fairness to each, each with a label.
Thus, diversification came to mean 20 percent African-American,
20 percent Hispanic-American, 20 percent Asian-American, 20 percent
European-American, 20 percent other-types-of-American.
Naturally, there were some who werent satisfied with their
labels. So the machine heard their demands and made more. You can
have all the labels you like, it said, so long as labels you have.
And the people did not revolt, because now they had their diversification.
And the machine could prove it with very clever statistical computations.
Ill call you gay, you Christian, you Japanese, you a liberal,
and you you who refuse to wear your label, you who insist
on being a broken cog in this well-oiled machine you shall
be an outcast. Everyone must have their label. Thus we have diversification.
Thus we are individuals.
But something here feels crooked to me.
Foucault describes the individual as a collection of identifying
paraphernalia that follows each member of our very modern society
throughout their lives. Identifiers that are specific to the individual
person, such as a Social Security Number, a birth certificate, dental
records, transcripts and prison records are precisely the sorts
of labels that he means. These, he claims, create what is todays
coveted conception of the individual. He says the individual did
not begin to exist until the inception of these and similar devices.
And he has a point, I think. But he has also missed something I
consider very important.
Our society loves its labels, adores and cherishes its labels.
People cling to labels and titles with a sense of pride. They earned
these distinctions, and these distinctions speak volumes for those
who carry them. It's as if people have bought into this sense of
the individual as something that can be classified.
But I say that no true individual can be classified as anything
but an individual. The very word necessitates a lack of classification.
How can one be unique if they bear a title that classifies them
into any category that exists outside of that person? The simple
fact that there is already such a classification negates its uniqueness.
Yes, people love their labels and embrace them as if they are defining
symbols. But I say that you cannot know a person by reading their
labels and studying the traditional characteristics of their classification.
I say that you can only know a person by knowing the person, and
not at all by what he or she is called.
You cannot know me by even the most poetic of descriptive terms.
You can only know me through the magic of individual interaction.
What you will find is not something that can be summarized in distinctive
categorical labels. What you will find is something unique, something
that, in its precise and incalculable sense of humanness, exists
nowhere but in me.
And I would dare to suggest that any human on this planet who is
pursued as a true individual would show that same uniqueness, that
same distinctive thing that only they have. We are snowflakes, and
you can classify us only by calling us snowflakes, by calling us
human. You cannot divide us into any other classification without
finding that no truly distinctive lines will stay once the human
factor is taken into account. Even those distinctions which seem
the most obvious, because of their assumed correlation with observed
patterns in nature such as male and female will find
themselves crossed time and again.
If you want to find yourself, I say do not look to labels. Do
not look to categories or classifications, to groups with common
interests, belief systems or even astrological congruencies.
you want to find yourself as an individual it will require the acceptance
of the unclassifiable, often unpredictable, human factor that is
you unique to the degree that it is unlike every other in
You've been given a number, but do not think that number defines
you, describes you or even announces who you are. You are not the
number. The number is not you. It is a surveillance device attached
to your person for the sake of quantifying productivity. It is not
what makes you an individual.