Please do not send me any more private messages in French, demanding to know, with insulting faux humility (“je m’incline”), under the discrete cover of your own secure (highly commendable) anonymity, “to whom you owe the honour”. Please do not ask me to reveal my alleged “true identity”.
Contrary to popular belief, to say, “I am”, does not reveal a real person. “I” is a convenient, conventional rhetorical device. With it we habitually create the evocative, persuasive illusion of “personality”, “individuality” and all the associated comforting familiarity of a “responsible, self-conscious, conscientious, moral agent”. This is just one of many indispensable, linguistically constructed illusions.
The first person pronoun “I” is merely a convenient public position of speech. Nothing more. The word does not “refer to” anything. “I” evokes the universally acknowledged person speaking, that’s all. This is the rhetorical position each one of us must adopt in order to express “a personal opinion”. Which can only be discursively formulated in standard, conventional rhetoric (clichés, metaphors and similes) that are then supposed to be taken for granted as “self-explanatory”.
“Sal Scilicet” is not a real person. Neither is “duszek”. Any more than a drivers licence, with recent photograph, is a real person. A real person is a mystery. A figment of the imagination. When a man says, “this is my wife”, he is not referring to a real person. He is using a convenient, conventional, semantic system for the purpose of engaging in efficient social intercourse. To create “my wife”. A commonly accepted cliché.
All that is required for this behaviour to appear to work so deceptively well is that everyone accepts the vocabulary and the rules of grammar and syntax. Meanwhile, the woman standing next to the man is not a real person either. Not even the bathroom mirror will tell you who you really are. What you see is a reflection of your face. Not “the real me”.
Our intended meaning can’t be conveyed by means of the words we use. We have to decide (guess) what the other may have meant. The perception that we often get it right (more or less, we can simply never be sure), builds the illusion that “my intended meaning” was accurately transmitted. It was not. Whatever meaning you attach is your own.
What we understand is what we have internalised as “the truth”. That is based on individual experience, intellect and opportunity. We must assume that what we see and hear will consistently confirm our assumptions. When we believe we detect “cognitive dissonance”, we rise to defend our assumptions. We all do this. We have no choice.
The people we really like and get along with are those who habitually make the right noises, those we like to believe confirm our assumptions. Those who don’t, are perceived as a threat. That seems to be a law of nature. If it were not so, our species could not have made it to here.
I do not expect you to agree with any of this. Not because I think you are stupid. We have never met. As I wrote to you elsewhere, in this silent arena we lack all the usual cues (sex, build, mode of dress, posture, body language, facial expressions, gestures, accent, intonation, tone of voice, inflexion, scent, ambient noises … and the context of the familiar social setting in which people meet to converse.)
Every participant is dealing with foreigners. “Who are you?” is impossible to answer. There is no reliable means available for independent verification. Some might quite rightly consider that a distinct advantage. Anonymity could perhaps even encourage some valiant attempt at unsentimental “objectivity”, forlorn as that enterprise often seems. Of course, pseudonyms also invite all sorts of poor etiquette, as we speak.
“Who are you?” is useful as a strictly impersonal, legal (drivers licence, passport) question … name, address, telephone number, date of birth, etc. For that specific purpose, the response may then be recorded as “who I am” (claim to be). But this adds no value to deciding whether I’m a suitable lover, bricklayer, teacher, parent, blog correspondent …
On any Internet forum “no one knows you’re (not) a dog”. That being (un/fortunately?) unavoidable, I could tell you anything “about my (ostensible) self”. I prefer not to insult your intelligence by expecting you to take whatever anecdotal stories I present on faith, at face value, as ‘evidence’.
“Who” I claim to be (let alone who I am or believe myself to be) cannot add value to what I write. I insist that my text shall necessarily stand and fall on its merits (if any). It’s up to the reader to decide, by each our own lights, such alleged merits. No one else can help with that.
I have no idea who you are, or what you really think and believe. All I have is what you wrote. Here, we assume we are dealing with real people at our peril. Hence the ubiquitous acrimony.