Labels

Who am I dealing with? What makes you so unique? What? Everyone’s unique? Yeah, right on, all 8 billion of us, I know. So what makes you so special? You think you’re worth my time? WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT YOU?

OK, fair enough, point made. Good question – why should you? Well, first off, I don’t expect you to. Not right now at any rate. A couple of years down the line maybe? We’ll see. But that’s my problem anyway, not yours. As for your time, it all depends how much you’ve got and where you keep it. Some people store it in a bank vault, others leave it lying around. Sometimes you see it falling out of people’s pockets. Your choice. Do with it what you want.

Least I can do though is tell you who you’re dealing with. So let’s kick off with that. A few labels.

Human being. Thought I’d better clear that up straightaway. Just in case you weren’t sure. Well, it could be the work of a thousand monkeys, couldn’t it? Less if they’re the smart ones. Bonobos. Smarter than many humans I’ve come across. But no, it’s mine and I’m human.

Male. Got the attributes, anyway, last time I looked. But I’m never loath to give voice to my inner woman: I cry at happy endings, empathise with babies, dislike football, drink half pints and cooperate. All very commendable, I know, but at the end of the day, none of it changes the biological fact. I’m just another selfish bastard.

White. Plenty of little brown spots, though. In a brave variant on coals to Newcastle, a street vendor in Kuala Lumpur once tried to sell me a jar of skin lightener. I pointed out I was white already. She pointed out the spots. Once upon a time they were freckles; now they’re liver spots. Occasionally, one of them goes a bit bonkers and my dermatologist reaches for the scalpel. More effective than bleach, I suppose.

Caucasian.  Not a word I use very often. It’s not, like, ‘Hey, I saw a really cool Caucasian today!’ or ‘What’s that Caucasian doing?’ But according to Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, who popularised the term, I’d definitely qualify. He’d even say I’m virtuous, since that’s a defining characteristic of us Caucasians. Well, obviously. Some of us aren’t, mind, otherwise the police wouldn’t go looking for a ‘male white Caucasian’, which is something they seem to do quite often. (It wasn’t me, honest!) Blumenbach, incidentally, reckoned the most virtuous Caucasians of all were the Germans. Jawohl, Kommandant! Although, actually, looking at Europe today – all feckless Greeks, moaning French and cheating Italians – you could say he had a point.

Which brings me to the prickly issue of nationality. To be tackled in a forthcoming post.

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