Tuesday, March 29, 2011

District office blues

To be honest, I am not really against the fingerprint biometric system the Mongolian government is introducing. This is not why it took me months from the start of the new civil registration process to get myself down to the registration office and have myself tagged. It simply was not on the top of my priority list. Giving all ten of my fingerprints to the government is not really a priority at all. So I left it off.

I am not for it either.  There’s always the Big Brother / 1984 thing at the back of my mind. What’s next, a chipset installed in your brain? Eugenics through genetic data analysis and he who possesses the criminal gene is no longer allowed to have a gene?

I thought about it for a while, and decided I was being too paranoid. Given the chaos and disarray the district offices are in, who knows how long the government will hold on to your fingerprints.  Power shortages,  faulty storage disks, network problems and so on. Which brings me to the next stage of paranoia. What if the registration clerk, or the IT guy trying to recover data from a blown HD, messes up my biodata giving me a whole new identity. What if, even as I type these words, I am walking around unaware that my fingerprints are now attached to someone else, a criminal, or a diplomat with a shady past, suspected of kidnapping Mongolian citizens from foreign countries, God forbid.

These were the thoughts running through my head as I stood in line for three and a half hours, waiting to be fingerprinted as a valid and still under-warranty citizen of Mongolia.  If you have never stood in a queue for three and a half hours, you should try this. The camaraderie you develop with the people around you, tut-tutting about the disorganization of the registration office or yelling at folks trying to jump queue is one of those single-serving friendships Tyler Durden’s alter-ego so cleverly speaks of in Fight Club. And the excitement, when you’re next in line, after three and a half hours of moving at 2 meters per hour, is comparable to winning a boxing match. The adrenaline, the excitement and the grimy scanner smeared with the remnants of thousands of fingers before you. Only five minutes left until the staff throw everyone out and leave for lunch, and you made it. And they’ve broken you. Blood samples, retinal scans, anal probes, you don’t care anymore, take it all.  They have won.  And as I walked out grinning like a fool, the young man next to me in line congratulated me for making it.