Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A new human manifesto

In the course of everyday life, we will encounter a range of perspectives which correspond to a greater or lesser degree with our own. Within this spectrum, we can expect that some views will reinforce who we would like to become as individuals, some will be neutral, while others will draw us away from this goal.

Because society is not organized in a way that supports the full and free development of every individual, people do not often enter our lives bearing one coherent perspective in and of themselves, but are made up of competing trends which are to a certain extent what they want, and by another measure what society promotes.

An important part of the process of becoming is choosing among the many trends in motion those which we endorse. Endorsement means advocacy which is active both in preferencing what we want, but also in opposing what we don't want, as when the two trends collide.

What we are able to do at an individual level will vary depending on the nature of the relationship. Defining oneself in the face of powerful institutions is something that can usually be accomplished only in concert with others, at least if we want to influence those institutions, not just ourselves. However, defining oneself in the face of other individuals is something which permits us greater possibility when acting alone.

Individuals often serve as a vehicle for society to promote what it wants. In this case, by "society" we mean whatever groups hold domestic power, which under conditions of inequality means some subset of society. As individuals we are all solicited in this regard -- to do the work of some narrow interest, mostly exterior to our own.

For example, as a white man, I am often solicited on topics including women and "the blacks," etc., in the mostly non-professional settings in which I reside. It is a paradox that among those for whom I have great sympathy, some of the ugliest counter-trends do thrive! But because I cannot kill the messengers, respecting them for other reasons, negotiating these trends has always been hard. Mostly I have remained silent, knowing that I cannot argue persuasively to working class people in the language of Marx! In real life, nobody likes a speech.

Subsequently, that language and frustration has expressed itself here, in the hopes it might make the sort of contribution that had proved so elusive in the workplace.

But this is no longer sufficient, as my writing and my life gradually come together in a single person.

The most practical solution I can offer, should you ever face someone you love who wants you to disrespect or hate on someone for whom you share the same affection, comes in this response: "I'm sorry: I can't say or endorse anything that is said about someone that I wouldn't say to their face."

I haven't had the chance to use it yet, but those opportunities will surely come.

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