I enjoy trivia. Even during the years when the seniors on my school quizzing team had taken to passionately sneering at trivia-based quizzing, I had revelled in knowing snippets of interesting information about things that I had no expertise on. A decade later, I find that the knowledge of random legal trivia is my favourite part of being a lawyer. I take particular delight in discovering case-law on how Magnum bars and Soft Serves aren’t really ice-cream, and how coconuts don’t particularly classify as fruits or vegetables (because no reasonable man would bring home coconuts if he’d been asked to fetch fresh fruits and vegetables on his way back from work).
I also enjoy Pringles. Despite how ridiculously expensive they are here in India. Despite how they graze my palate and make it sore. Despite the fact that they might not really be potato crisps. A few years ago, the manufacturers of Pringle had tried to evade British crisp-taxes by pleading that Pringles weren’t really potato crisps, but, instead, were biscuits or some such. A judge from the High Court of judicature at London agreed with this, observing that while potato crisps were made from frying a slice of potato, Pringles are made from a dough containing non-potato products like corn flour, wheat starch, rice flour together, fat, emulsifier, salt, seasoning, in addition to potatoes. The potato content, comprising roughly 42% of an average Pringle, just wasn’t enough for it to be called a potato crisp. Later, the Court of Appeals overturned this decision, clarifying 42% was more than enough potato content for Pringles to be thought of as potato crisps. The odd, mouth-pricking shape of Pringles wasn’t considered reason enough for them to not be classified as potato crisps. McDonald’s fries appear to have a similar problem.
What amused me the most was how easy it was for Proctor and Gamble to say “well actually, Pringles aren’t really made from potatoes, despite what you feel,” only to avoid paying some taxes. In an economy where the mere use of terms like ‘natural’ and ‘pure’ on your advertisements can earn you lots and lots of money, there must have been some serious incentive for P&G to disclaim the potato-ness of its product. Would their strategy have changed if, instead of a tax, there had been incentives on the sale of potato crisps?
Would I call myself a potato if they decided that potatoes don’t have to pay taxes? (Note: Potatoes don’t have to pay taxes).
To me, this is what personhood all seems to be about. Its kind of okay to change the identities of things for consequential reasons, but you can’t take away personhood or change essential things about people for such reasons – even if it means lesser taxes or greater efficiency. Maybe that’s why it is so very inhuman to drive people to modify or hide their identities. That’s also why Pride is very, very important.