The other day a baby boy was born. Two days later, he was named George. Not a terribly exciting name, except that this baby, because of his parents, was already plugged into a whole range of social, cultural, traditional and ultimately highly privileged contexts, and this one word, George, managed to summarise them all. For George is the name of English kings, and it was this inheritance that this baby boy plugs into, and his name represents.
Some people never have to network.
Most of us don’t have names like ‘Prince George’ that instantly establish not only who we are, but our cultural exchange value.
Nevertheless, we unPrince Georges still have a name. It might not be so instantly recognisable. It might not so easily communicate who we are. It might have cultural resonances that a lot of people won’t recognise – resonances that were important to our namers, but no one else. It may never become hugely famous, but it’s all ours. We can insert it into networks, and hopefully someone somewhere will remember it.
About two weeks ago, in the Indian Ocean, a 10-month-old baby boy died. He drowned, after the leaky boat that was haphazardly transporting him to Australia sunk. They found his little limp body floating in the sea and they fished it out. Maybe they cradled him for a moment, wet, dead, on the deck.
But his name had been gobbled by the cold hungry sea, and they left it to sink.
I heard John Stanhope, the Administrator of Christmas Island, lamenting the nameless baby boy on the radio: how they had his body in the morgue with no name. Worse: even if they had his name, it could not be released, because publicly naming asylum seekers is a dangerous move. That’s the power of names. Cattle don’t get names. If you name your favourite cow, it’s probably not going to the slaughter house.
Into the unmarked grave you go.
In you go, in you go,
where your family will never know.
I guess it’s a lullaby of sorts. Lullabies often have a dark underbelly. Someone, find it a tune.
I’d like to make a guess that they have lullabies in Afghanistan, Iran, Sri Lanka and Burma. Singing to young children is hardwired; even queue-jumpers do it. And they name their evil, foolish, queue-jumping babies.