How might this relate historically to groups of people who have been given numbers for identification?

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The society into which Equality 7-2521 is born and raised is one that favors the so-called needs of the collective above the needs of the individual. It insists on equality among its members, and so they attempt to squash any semblance of the individual. One way the society does this is to force members into professions that have little or nothing to do with what those members are actually good at. For example, Equality 7-2521 has demonstrated keen intelligence and creativity, and so he is forced to be a street sweeper because allowing him to invent new things or make discoveries would render him unequal to his fellows; his aptitude must be ignored if everyone is to remain "equal." People are not even allowed to use the singular first-person pronoun "I"; they can only say "we."

Jews who were sent to concentration camps during the Holocaust were tattooed with numbers on their arms. Their identities were determined to be unimportant, and they were treated in horrific and inhumane ways by Nazis. They were reduced to numbers in part, perhaps, because this made it easier for others to dehumanize them. In giving members names that are actually community values, along with numbers, the state treats them as less than human as well, as though they are simply cogs in a machine: they have no value alone but only as participants in the collective. Again, their identities are expunged and they are treated as subhuman and expected to submit.

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