Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Temperance, Security Theater, and the Cult of Identification

A few ideas only tangentially connected.

Here in California it is impossible to have a cocktail without first showing a state-issued identification.

But you can buy weed off your kids.

The main reason California engages in this temperance nonsense has to do with MADD and their incessant meddling with laws, specifically the gutting of former protections (think 4th and 5th Amendments.)

A regulatory structure has been implemented that motivates purveyors of alcohol to 'check' the identity of every single patron (aka a 'dragnet'). This is little more than socialized surveillance as security theater.

The vast majority of retailers/clerks are unable to verify a physical ID in any real way, so what they're really doing is an act of theater to fulfill a legal/insurance requirement. If my 60 year old mom gets ID'd for a bottle of wine....

So if the legal threshold is a physical act (patron holds up plastic, server nods approvingly), then its an easy line to draw to theater and meaninglessness. The proprietor's only interest is "CYA", so no ID's (or ages) are being verified. They couldn't be.

But the Cult of ID says otherwise. For some reason, we believe the 20-year old kid with a nametag has somehow mastered the art of identity verification (as if there were such an art in the first place.) I think its subconsciously comforting that we're participating in some kind of verification of ourselves, but odd given the reality that waitstaff does no such thing.

So why does this persist?

Because we are a magical people, who believe in magical things.