In 1509, Erasmus wrote his “Praise of Folly”. Besides puzzling its readers, this famous book also helps shedding a light on identity. Whether foolishness is something to be praised or not, it is what makes you human. Possibly, identity is about the right to be a fool from time to time.

When people want to discuss privacy, people tend to reason along the lines of Huxley, Orwell or Kafka. Infringement on the free identity is pictured as suppression, as being enslaved by blissful ignorance, or as being a pawn in a surrealistic world. However, being able to form or own identity does also mean being able to make foolish decisions and possibly learning from it.

It Is Only Human
Where the world of Orwell’s “1984” is full of fear, all citizens of the “Brave New World” that Huxley sketches appear happy. What makes that world feel so wrong to us, is that those people do not seem human. As one of the main characters in the book states: I want the right to be unhappy. The blissfully ignorant people in Huxley’s masterpiece do not really have an identity. They are modelled and conditioned such that they are perfectly happy and do not want anything to change.

On the other hand, if all humans were completely logic beings, life would be quite different. We may always act objectively to our best interests, but would we have any friendship, happiness, or pleasure because of the small things in life? Whether it is ironic or not, foolishness does cover for a large part of our happiness and what makes us human – when it is our own foolishness.

Foolish or Perfect?
Probably everyone will act differently when being with friends. In such closed company, people may have less problems with making a fool of themselves and enjoying those moments. However, if there was no privacy – no protection of the identity –, would you still do so? Or would you feel embarrassed all of a sudden?

So, when I say that the protection of identity does mean being able to make your own decisions, conscious or not, this does not just refer to a world where people make perfect informed decisions, but much more to a world where people are able to make foolish decisions and be perfectly happy about it.

A government may advise against certain decisions, but if someone still makes that decision he is free to do so, and take the consequences. Of course, some things should never happen. However, as they say, people learn by making mistakes, and not by getting it right the first time.

Freedom Is Imperfection
As widely known, democracy is inefficient. Comparably, freedom creates imperfection. Although huge amounts of books have been written about benevolent despotism, in the end, everyone resorts back to freedom and its delightful imperfections. Being able to be foolish is important for most people to build their identities. Being able to be foolish is part of being human. Being able to be foolish is being able to be happy, eventually.

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