Does a noun transformed into a possessive form transfer deed of title, or is it merely a declarative mechanism of grammatical ascription, de-linked from any fact in reality? If a person points to an individual in a photograph and states with certainty, “That is Edna’s sister in-law, the fourth cousin of King James III” — and thus implying some relationship with royalty and a connection to a very narrow uniqueness of historical lineage — does actual possession occur, or is the grammatical possessive merely an empty claim with no “real-life” consequence?
And, what if it turns out that the woman in the photograph is in fact not the person or heritage claimed, but merely a stranger whose presence in the one-dimensional format was simply a convenience whose image happened to defy the momentary identification? What, then? Does the discovery of this new set of facts expunge the previous claim, or was the initial declaration null and void and of irrelevance, anyway?
It reminds one, and is somewhat parallel to, the issue of names and their historical derivatives. Take the name, Wilson, for example, which is a variant of the surname, Williamson — derived from the conjunctive, “Son of William” — from a time in history when lineage, direct descendants and being “X of Y” established a certain identification mired in simplicity of relationships. Yet, today, the connection is entirely lost, and one no longer implies or denotes from a name the relational connective inherent in such linguistic designations.
Of course, the name itself can attach to the female gender, rendering the connective tissue of such language meaningless; and perhaps that is just as well, as antiquity founded in bias and discrimination is in modernity thought to be the greatest of sins. But that is precisely the point, isn’t it? We still cling to the nominative case in habits formed longed ago, and refuse to give up that which we are comfortable with.
Take titles of workforce significance, for instance — we cling to them as identifiers with substantive content. That is why, for many Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are intending to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through their Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service, the thought of giving up one’s self-identification by moving on to a Federal OPM Disability Retirement annuity means that one has lost one’s “self” in conjunction with the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service.
Thus, the “letter carrier“, the “Supervisor”, the “Air Traffic Control Specialist”, and the “(fill in the blank)” — that is the nominative case which goes well beyond mere grammatical form. It gives us the false sense of purpose, derivation of who we are and what is of relevance in a society which has lost its collective connection to lineage and relationships. Is this “brave new world” any better? Does the Federal or Postal employee who may now become a “Federal Disability Retiree” or “Federal Disability Annuitant” change the substance of the person, the content of his or her character, or even the essence of who he or she is? But then, discovery of “essence” has also been expunged and extinguished from this antiquated mode of thinking.
In the end, for the Federal employee or U.S. Postal worker who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal employee or U.S. Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, it is not of possessions or possessives which should determine the course of future actions, but rather, the prioritizing of health and human happiness — those ingredients which have always made for a better tomorrow, whether in past times, the present, or in preparation for the future.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire