So. Grant Morrison has been meditating on identity in his own chaotic way for quite some time now; those of us fortunate enough to have read Flex Mentallo have seen the deepest expression of this. I don’t take Morrison literally when he talks about fiction suits, although I know he may mean it literally. What I find interesting is the result. Whether you think King Mob is walking among us, or whether you think Morrison has deliberately taken on aspects of King Mob, the outcome is the same. Morrison edited his own sense of identity.
Morrison is also well aware of the voudon traditions, with specific reference to the loa: spirits which come and ride the bodies of those who invite them in. (As immortalized in a bad James Bond movie.) The connection there is pretty obvious.
OK, lots of abstruse theory and artsy weirdness and anthropology. Not that relevant to our culture. Except, except. I was browsing the Web the other week, and I bumped into a bunch of multiplicity sites. Pretty interesting stuff; multiple personalities who’ve decided they’re happier remaining multiple. I’m in no position to judge, but the stances these communities take seem awfully sane to me. They accept responsibility for the actions of the body.
As always, the Internet brings together the slim minorities, giving them a voice they might never have had otherwise. You can tell people what you are anonymously. You can find the handful of others who share your issues. I can’t imagine this kind of community growing up without the Internet.
Then, there are the soulbonders. I bumped into that community by way of an irate rant from one of the multiples; she felt that many soulbonders trivialized her very real problems. I can see that — it’s voluntary disassociation, and multiples don’t have any choice. But then (and this is what I was pondering the other day) I remembered Morrison’s fiction suit.
What’s the difference? Why should I take Grant Morrison more seriously than a bunch of fanfic writing teenagers? One answer’s obvious; deeper answers are not.
But again: results.
Soulbonding is a fringe phenomenon. Multiples are still marginalized. The changes in our lives which allow such communities to arise are not. It does not surprise me in the least that many of the multiple personalities I found like to roleplay online. Soulbonders, the same. The Internet is a very disassociative tool; it’s so easy to be whoever you want out there.
What does this mean for us? What does it mean for our children? What would it be like to grow up in a world where shifting online personas is as natural as breathing? I feel identity shift, from time to time, and I came to the Internet as something close to an adult.
It’s not just chatting online, either. My computer desktop has a sort of reality in my mind. It’s a place, because my primate brain doesn’t have a good metaphor for a computer desktop besides “place.” I have huge amounts of control over that space. Consider the thousands of skins I can put over my MP3 player, or the hundreds of themes I can apply to my desktop as a whole. I think that ability is telling something to my hindbrain. Reality is plastic, just like identity.
That doesn’t apply to stuff outside the monitor? Tell these guys.
Part three if I get more inspired. I ought to talk about Timothy Leary’s views on identity editing as well, after all.