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Names define who we are

NAMES define who we are. They also describe the persons and things around us. A name is sacred. It conveys power because it is an expression of dominion and emotions. When spoken, it elicits appropriate verbal reactions and/or physical responses. Without names, we cannot imagine nor grasp abstract things like God, love, trust or respect.

Names have different natures.

In some cultures,  names are sometimes so sacred that it cannot be liberally invoked. For example, fundamentalist Jews and Christians believed that they are commanded not to lightly mention God’s name or “make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.”

Names have power, or they could be an expression of it. Note how a forum speaker exercises subtle power when he names an individual in the audience. There is a sure reaction to the act of naming. It catches the attention of the individual named which is proof that in that fleeting moment, the power of the speaker is flowing.

If anyone at all, it is the movie personalities and politicians who recognize the power of names. A chosen screen name of an artist could significantly account for a box office hit or a flop. It could make stars and create a mysterious persona over them or prevent the take-off of a movie career.

Politicians, on the other hand, work hard to transform their ordinary names into brand or household names. This is why much of their efforts during the span of their political careers center on establishing name recalls.

The manner in which names are spoken also communicate feelings and correspondingly arouse certain emotional response. Consider this: What is the worst possible sign that a child is in trouble, let’s say with his mother other than her speaking his full name loudly? For instance, “Jay-Em, come here” does not have a spine-chilling effect on a kid as when the mother uses his full name like “Juan Miguel, here!”

Although names have power, it is the act of name giving that is the root of it. According to theologians, name giving is a power given by God to man. We are the only specie that could give names to both living and non-living things. Thus immediately after Adam was created his first God-given task was to name all the animals on Earth.

J. Hampton Keathley III, a religious author, said “naming carried special significance. It was a sign of authority and power. This is evident in the fact that God revealed His names to His people rather than allowing them to choose their names for Him. This is also seen in the fact that God often changed the names of His people: Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel. Note also how this concept of authority and power is seen when Nebuchadnezzar changed the names of Daniel and his three friends.”

Keathley further explained that it is an old idea that names are fixed. For example, once you are named, you will be identified with that name no matter what you may call yourself later. The author also said that “in many cultures the power to name things is the power to control or even create it.”

This is the apparent reason why the Roman Catholic Popes and most monarchs assume a different name when coming into power – so that none, including their parents, could have dominion over them.

Real name is important in trust building.

Since we now know that names allow others, including the State, to define or identify who we are, we can be sure that this is among the rationales behind the requirement to use our real name in every legal identification document, i.e. passport or voter’s ID. However, our signatures in these documents need not be the same as our true names. A mere “X” suffices as a signature.

We take it for granted but letting others know our name is actually an act of TRUST and GOODWILL in our part. We give people the power to call us whenever we give out our names. This is why real names should also be used in a delicate negotiations or circumstances like the peace process. It is part of confidence building and not an act of a nitwit.

By giving our real names to other parties, we are giving them the opportunity to control or ruin us but it is also an occasion where trust could be built and a lasting relationship forged. The pros and cons of giving one’s true name work both ways. This is why I submit that one respected sociologist is so wrong when he asserts in his newspaper column that questioning Mohager Iqbal, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief peace negotiator, about his real name is the “work of a small mind.” We should officially know whom we are dealing with if we are to build trust and respect in this peace talk.

Trust is something Iqbal, or whatever his name is, refuses to give and obviously accept. While talking about peace, Iqbal is using a war name. He is clearly not living up to his claim that the MILF wants peace. How can trust be built in this ironic situation? Since a relationship is built on trust, how can we have a relationship with someone who does not trust us? How can we deal with someone whose real name we don’t officially know? This sounds like moro-moro to me.

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