Did you know that I am generally unprepared to write about politics? I studied many things in college, but I am no political scientist. My thinking also tends toward the radical and revolutionary, which makes finding a party to support (in the USA) excruciatingly difficult on both idealistic and pragmatic levels. My tentative and uneducated assertion has long been as follows: if you could somehow combine the best of socialism and libertarianism, I’d be all for it. In all likelihood, this is an ignorant and unsustainable position (obvious conflict aside), but I have yet to spend sufficient time immersed in the economic and political theory needed to advance my understanding. At heart, I’m just someone who cares about society and realizes that politics shape even the most intimate personal experiences.

We pomos are an interesting lot, suggesting that people are fettered by social construction, yet many of us believing (hoping) there must be ways to "liberate" ourselves from one set of constructions in favor of a new construction that will somehow be more empowering. The goal of unabashed individual expression undeniably requires constructing others ourselves to tolerate, accept and even embrace what to them us is distasteful. We seem easily to do this with things like food preference, so people argue that we could and should feel similarly about nearly all difference, including sexual interests. It will take social construction to extend that thinking (just as our attitude toward food is itself socially constructed), though—and this policy of embracing and encouraging difference may well make society harder to operate smoothly.

As an ex of mine always said, "We have heuristics for a reason. If we had to constantly evaluate people as they wanted to identify—without drawing on stereotypes to process the person’s skin, dress, body type, accent, and so on—we’d be spending so much time just on figuring out how to relate to individuals that we’d be in overload, and we couldn’t get to the point of our would-be conversations, the actual relating." Maybe this is true. It’s hard to say, because none of us grew up in this purely theoretical, fluid-identity society.

And maybe this observation by my ex is also telling us something about the society in which most of us did grow up: everything is pointed. I converse with you to get something out of it. The conversation itself, the process of meeting new people and learning new things and figuring out how to relate, is secondary and sometimes even inconvenient. I don’t mean to be simplistic or glib, but we do often seem to care more about efficiency and utility than about the nature and quality of our lives. People often contrast "Western" and "Eastern" thought at moments like this: the individualistic versus the communal, the plot-driven story versus the exploratory tale. I don’t think that’s really fair or thorough, though, not to mention that it poses a contrast between two (flattened) concepts as if one must have all the right answers. (And again, it’s about solutions. Where’s the process?)

I do want to know whether/how we can acknowledge and openly use social construction—as we are silently participating in unnamed constructions regardless—without becoming just as uncompromising and rigid as the current rules suggest. This is where my previous idea of utopia comes into play, and I think we need to focus on self-reflection and the process of monitoring social construction, rather than reaching a static ending point where the construction is considered forever perfect and complete. Much as I’d love to rely on increasing transparency and setting up a process for change, however, part of me wonders what powers will be rendered invisible in this new world order, and whether they’ll be even harder to unveil given the illusion that all is already revealed.

This post was originally going to be about the latest controversial article on Michael Bailey and his questionable scientific methods. Coincidentally, I’m 85% certain that a fellow Equality Rider worked in his laboratory at Northwestern, or at least in the same department. But anyway, as you can all see, I distracted myself with broader thinking about social control. The NY Times article mentions criticism of unpopular research versus criticism of unscientific research; perhaps in another post I’ll explore our privileging of "the scientific" as unconstructed fact and how we are constantly policing that boundary as well.

But for now, I bid you "Happy Tuesday!" (And, if you like, happy feast day for St. Augustine of Hippo, who embroiled us all in sin.)

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