The Identity Merry Go Round image

The Identity Merry Go Round

The news that Emile Ratelband, a Dutch ‘media personality’, is pursuing a court case to change his legal age to 49 from his biological age of 69 is amusing.

Predictably Ratelband’s case rests on the fact that biological realities are no longer considered the basis for legal reality. Rather, he argues, a more arbitrary definition of reality should be the measure by which he is defined – a definition based on the opinion of his doctor and his opinion of himself: ‘Mr Ratelband further argued that according to his doctors he has the body of a 45-year-old, and described himself as a “young god”.’

This looks like it might well be a publicity stunt but Ratelband argues that being legally classified as twenty years younger than he is will improve his life,

When I’m 69, I am limited. If I’m 49, then I can buy a new house, drive a different car. I can take up more work. When I’m on Tinder and it says I’m 69, I don’t get an answer. When I’m 49, with the face I have, I will be in a luxurious position.

As someone who will next year attain to Ratelband’s desired age of 49 I think I would experience a more luxurious position if only I were 29. Alas.

While admiring his self-confidence, Mr Ratelband’s case is obviously risible; but it also contains a strange logic – at least by the logic of our current cultural dispensation. As he says, “You can change your name. You can change your gender. Why not your age?” Indeed.

The more that society prioritises the ‘authentic self’ as the measure of who we really are over external, objective, realities the more we will see cases like Mr Ratelband’s. Perhaps society will decide this isn’t a problem – though I imagine anyone on Tinder who thinks they are going on a date with a 49-year-old might feel somewhat cheated when Mr Ratelband turns up, despite his god-like body.

Alternatively, perhaps it will be that the strange logic of prioritising what we feel ourselves to be over what we actually are will start to be seen as the madness it is. In the end it comes down to honesty. “The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favour with him.” (Prov. 11:1) Pretending something is that isn’t is a kind of theft. Emile Ratelband, and all of us, should live honestly. Truthfulness is a much better improver of life than living a lie.




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