I am not a number…

….but today I was. Number two, in fact. Not the one I would have picked, as it happens, but there was no choice. I was not the only number two in the school. I encountered a few others. There were also number ones and fours and tens. There were numbers in the hundreds and even the thousands.

The whole school lost their identity for the day. It was returned to them at the end of the school day. For the duration of their time in school everyone was identified by a number.

The aim was to allow everyone to recognise the importance of our sense of identity. It was done to highlight Articles 7 and 8 of the UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Article 7 (Registration, name, nationality, care): All children have the right to a legally registered name, officially recognised by the government. Children have the right to a nationality (to belong to a country). Children also have the right to know and, as far as possible, to be cared for by their parents.

Article 8 (Preservation of identity): Children have the right to an identity – an official record of who they are. Governments should respect children’s right to a name, a nationality and family ties.

When I heard this was going to happen last week I had an uncomfortable feeling. I didn’t know that I felt so strongly about my name. Yeah, I correct people when they spell it wrongly. An e at the end of Ann, if you please. And a hyphen between Anne and Marie. I know! But maybe we all feel a bit particular about our names. I’ve always liked mine. Never really wished to be called anything else.

I wasn’t really happy at the idea. And it was a very weird experience today being called, ‘Number Two’ or ‘Please Miss, Number Two’.

I hated calling the kids by a number. And I don’t even know all their names yet as this is a new school for me and I’m in and out of so many classes I might meet almost every child in the course of the week. It should have made it easier just being able to say the number that was on their badge. But it reminded me of people being branded with symbols to identify who they were. It made me think of how awful it must be for people who don’t know their true identity or who have forgotten it. Or who have had it removed. It did make me realise how important our sense of identity is to ourselves and that a name as well as nationality are vital in retaining it.

It’s not an experience I would care to repeat. But, I’m glad in a lot of ways that the children and the adults had the opportunity to see what it felt like to be nameless. A very simple right but one, if revoked, has huge implications on how we feel about ourselves and who we are.

There will be lots of discussion tomorrow.

 

This is well after the fact for this DP challenge. But hey ho! It just happened to link in with this post. http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/writing-challenge-names/#more-70813

 

35 thoughts on “I am not a number…”

  1. It isn’t something I have thought about really but it must bevery hard to lose or worse have your identity taken. I hope it has made an impression with the children also. Not sure I would like it but im not so good with names, character and personality mean far more to me. I think taking my name wouldn’t take my identity.

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    1. I’m thinking that maybe the most offensive part was being known as a number. A one day experience wouldn’t be enough to cause a loss of identity.
      But it made me think of those who, in concentration camps, were branded with a number and forced to wear a badge as their sole means of identity. To not matter enough to be called by a name. Sense of self may not be threatened but as a means of humiliation and message of personal insignificance, I do think it is a form of cruelty. I could well imagine people reiterating their names to self and others as a form of self-assertion. Reinstating their significance against efforts to undo it.
      Maybe I’m over thinking it. But I definitely wasn’t comfortable with it. And wouldn’t want to be known by anything other than my given name. Except endearments. They’re ok. 🙂 x

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      1. Yes in those camps it was used as a great cruelty, a way of showing that to the nazis you were nobody. I think in such a situation I would feel the full force of having no name but in life in general I rarely notice names and don’t think I would struggle too muchif I had a number instead. Not sure im making myself clear, sorry im a bit tired.

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      2. You make perfect sense. And I’m laughing now at the idea of me remembering names! Great with faces but I meet so many people through work, most of the names do go whoosh! right over my head. Then I have to nudge someone and ask what someone else’s name is. 😉
        Hope you have a restful night, Fi.x

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  2. That is a really interesting exercise for a whole school! There is much to a name. We become our names; they define us so much so that some must change it to something more suited. My mom and I spoke today about my daughter’s name…which I think about often because it is so different and I hope she doesn’t hate me one day for it. But she has become her name, it fits her perfectly and she has come to feel very special for its uniqueness. I’m not so sure a rose is a rose by any other name afterall. 😉

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    1. Yeah, I do wonder about kids disliking names later on. All of my kids have two names. Some are known by both while others shorten them into almost non-existence. My oldest son is Joseph Michael but is called Joe. All the time. By everyone. I wonder if he thought that Joe more accurately defined who he was. It was his choice to shorten it. And, of course, there are all the weird and wonderful names that stars have given their children. A lot of school kids too have many variations on the spelling of names. Some quite bizarre. Almost as if to make a point of the unique.
      Some people have commented that they don’t feel their name defines them or is essential to their identity. After having taken part in the experiment I think the part that I disliked most was being referred to as a number. And calling children by a number. A lot of the staff said today they slipped up constantly.
      Perhaps as long as you are known by something whether it is a nickname or a pet name or whatever there is still a sense of identification with the name. Whereas a number is so meaningless. Also very confusing. 😉 x

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      1. True, a number is too much like cattle. A name, any name is better than a number. It adds some kind of personalization. I don’t know if Kerry truly makes me feel whole but it has always been me and its good. My daughter’s name is Rigby. She is completely her name in every way. I hope she feels that way too.

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      2. Exactly. No numbers. Kerry’s a lovely name. You’re the only one I know on here with that name. 🙂 I think we start to see a fit when we know a name. It’s a bit like when choosing the blog name. Even if no one knows your personal name they still know you by a name. Not a number. Imagine if all the blogs were just numbered instead of named. I’d be utterly confused. 😉
        Your daughter’s name is unusual. I don’t think I’ve ever come across it except as a surname. But, it’s so lovely when they become their name. My two youngest were almost nameless for a week or so while I mulled over which name in mind best suited their wee faces. 🙂 Then it was like a light going on when decided. I think I used up so many names with the rest of my crew I was running out of options I liked! 😉

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      3. Yes, usually a surname but we liked it for various reasons and it fits her perfectly. My son is Ryder so not quite so different. We named them both in utero…and spent long nights when I was pregnant with each making sure it was right. 🙂

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      4. Two lovely and unusual names. I don’t know anyone by your son’s name. Either as a first or last name. They may be unusual but they’re not strange. No ‘Apple’ in there. 😉 It is a task we give a lot of thought to. Most of my kids I knew their names before birth. And they suited them perfectly. The last two I had to mull over even after they were born! They were almost nameless for a week or so. Louise was Angela for a few days but it just didn’t ‘fit’.
        I did have the added difficulty by then that the ret of my crew kept vetoing certain names! 🙂 x

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  3. This is pretty interesting. Personally, I think your feeling of self and identity are more important than your actual name though. I have had three last names, but I’ve only been married one time. The reason: I was adopted shortly after my 7th birthday. But you know, I have no memory of my life before I was adopted, or even for a few years after I was adopted. The changing of my name has no impact on who I am or how I have developed over my life.

    It was not hard for me to change my name after getting married, and I think that is because I am not necessarily attached to my name. Maybe it is all of the nicknames I’ve had over the years, but I honestly don’t care what people call me as long as it’s consistently the same thing for that person. I wonder if that makes me weird…

    Sorry for the rant, apparently I have more of an opinion on this topic than I realized.

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    1. I think as long as we have a name then it doesn’t matter too much what that name is. (As long as it’s not mean!) It’s more the idea of being known as a number. I too changed my name when I married although I still talk to myself in my maiden name! Especially if I’m giving myself a row. 🙂 Now, I just sound mad. 😉 I hadn’t realised how many people call me by different names until it came up with an old school friend who insisted on calling me Anna when we met again. I wondered why and she said that’s what she’d always called me. Then I started to notice that other people did it too. I just always think of myself as Anne-Marie. But, I must answer to loads of derivatives and just don’t really notice. I think I would notice though if people started saying, ‘Hey you, Number two.’ Or some such. Definitely don’t want to be just a number. 🙂 x

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      1. Anyhoo, I am not so fond of my first name for the simple reason that it’s so common and I knew even before Google that if we made a research for my whole name, we would definitely find at least one named the same. True enough, Google has shown me two to three of the, Ugh.

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      2. I may have mentioned it before but since you are quite prolific, I think you’ll do great in the A to Z Challenge if you’ll join. I have my doubts I can keep up though I’ll try. You, on the other, hand, doesn’t seem like you’ll have much problem keeping up…Mentioning this before April starts 😉

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      3. I’ve read a few other people who are taking part in this. I’m not a great joiner. 😉 Don’t like to perform to rules. But if it’s just about the alphabet and posting once a day I might manage that! I’ll check it out. Thanks. 🙂 x

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      4. I’m not a great joiner either! I have tried in the past to join fiction-writing collaborations and could never really keep up. I have kept out of joining challenges for years. But this one, I thought, why not? I just want to “force” myself to be prolific.

        If I can’t really follow this due to the demands of daily life, then no biggie. They can take me out of the list (hope not, though) and I’ll continue the challenge at my own pace. Besides I’m not really after the number of likes and clicks. Of course, I’d like those. But sometimes, I wonder if I can handle actually having many followers who will expect great posts from me (LOL!!!). That makes me as scared as when I try to perform in front of audiences. I wrote about this recently, that I can sing, just don’t ask me to that I know you’ll be listening to me (yikes!).

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      5. So this would not be a good time to tell you that I did listen? And very able you are too. Get it out there!
        I know what you mean though. No one wants it to be a pressure. But a healthy self-challenge and a dose of self-confidence can go a long way to encouraging greater effort to get the momentum going.
        Good luck with it. I’ll surely check it out once I’m off of this damn kindle that restricts how much I can do without failing in connection. Drives me insane. But I’ll have to get out of bed for that! My laptop’s so far away in the room next door. 😉
        No sweating on the keeping up to pace. Life takes precedence every time. 🙂 x

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      6. Yipes!!! I didn’t really think anyone read it at all. But I do keep posting stuuf even when I am not sure anyone’s ever going to read them. Thanks 🙂

        Good luck with your kindle! 😉

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      7. I can’t resist live performances. 🙂 Have confidence. There’s a great wee app I’ll look out for you. I used it at Christmas to sing Oh Holy Night. Free download too. It lets you put a couple of effects on it. Like singing in the bathroom only not! 🙂
        It would be great for you if you want to post more singing. I did it as a one off. But the microphone on my laptop’s a bit crap. This app picks up your voice and seems to catch it better, if you know what I mean. And, then you can twiddle with echo and stuff. I haven’t used it since. Might do one for Easter! Or not. 😉 x

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      8. Ha ha!!! Another challenge for me????!!! Well, considering it still isn’t a live performance, okay, will do, but maybe not too soon. Will wait for your Easter songs! 😉

        My laptop’s mic’s not that great either. Those songs were recorded using my phone, then I transferred to my laptop. Then I THINK I posted via YouTube just so I could embed. Now I can’t fight the original transferred stuff because what I have now seem to be truncated for some reason. Good thing I had shared via FB before and that’s where I linked.

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      9. Technology’s still a bit of a bugger for me. Especially when it comes to recording. I’m sure there must be easier ways but I have to post to FB first to get a URL then link from there.
        Don’t know about the Easter song (singular!) See how the mood takes me. As always. 🙂
        Every time someone posts a voice recording I just have to have a listen. I love putting a voice to the bloggers I read. Another dimension of them to know. And all those accents. Love it. 🙂 x

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  4. I am somewhat techie-savvy and can learn easily, that is if I try to. In the office, next to the office messenger, I am the least techie mainly because I don’t have the latest, high-tech gadgets. I can learn the stuff they know but I don’t because I don’t have those gadgets and apps, and I don’t want to keep borrowing unless something bad happens to them. My philosophy now is I’ll get there in time 😉

    “Don’t know about the Easter song (singular!)” LOL!!! I intentionally wrote in the plural tense. You caught it.

    “Every time someone posts a voice recording I just have to have a listen. I love putting a voice to the bloggers I read. Another dimension of them to know. And all those accents”

    I’ve actually been trying to get the courage to do something for weeks and actually had you in mind because you posted a vid of yourself before…

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