a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.
Obviously, America has many significant problems. I’ve been seeking the outlines of one particular problem. I sense it; I see it; yet I am not confident I can articulate it fairly. The artifacts of my over 3-year writing project here constitute the footnotes for this summary.
I live in Kansas. That’s not the actual problem; however, it does contextualize my observations. Politically, Kansas is generally a conservative state. And yet, I do not identify as conservative. That set and setting provided perspective on what I’m describing in my report.
So, when Shakespeare’s Hamlet says, “Ay, there’s the rub” [attr], he’s lamenting a drawback, or impediment, to answering his ‘to be, or not to be,’ question. I, too, mean to leverage the ‘obstacle’ [problem, impediment, difficulty, objection] aspect of the expression [attr back story].
When I use the attr phrase, I’m talking about ‘individualism’ as an over-functioning ideology in American society. —In Graves/SD terms, ‘the rub’ issue is in being (artificially) too warm. In philosophical terms, it’s an imbalance, a dominance of agency over communion. In theological terms, it’s reducing the holism of Sin to a dualistic partiality favoring sin; e.g., conflating original sin [structural] with sin [volitional].
So, let’s say, ‘Pat,’ is an average, conservative Kansan. OK, that means Pat tends to see human reality mostly being about choices (volition), with everything turning on the acts of individuals. Pat doesn’t tend to see systems, just good and bad actors.
Perceiving reality through a hyper-individual lens limits analysis to personal anecdotes—Pat’s experiential framework in our examination. If whatever-it-is doesn’t affect Pat personally in any tangible way, then it may be discounted and dismissed as being #fake. This self-referential lens vectors Pat’s confirmation bias; and it’s likely that Pat assesses reality with the aid of narratives provided by right-wing media.
Anti-vax — Anti-mask — Climate collapse
We see this hyper-individualism in extremely plain forms now—like folks not understanding the importance of getting vaccinated until they are in the ICU at death’s door due to Covid-19. Sadly, then—but not until they had experienced it directly—it finally soaks in that the CDC counsel to get the jab did apply to them. I heard one woman say, “You take breathing for granted.” Too late!
Denying/ignoring climate collapse is an even more egregious example. Those at the United Nations charged with analyzing the climate problem recently declared a red-alert (story).
So, given that most conservatives see it as being all about individuality and personal responsibility, here’s a contextualized question:
You may have heard stories (the junior senator from Kansas tells them, cf. ‘snips’), or seen a meme, perhaps: So, how do you analyze a situation depicting what appears to be a homeless person in the foreground, and a business in the background that has a “help wanted” sign in the window? —snips:
Pat tends to see the homeless person as the only one with a problem to be solved. Pat likely feels empathy and sorrow for the entrepreneur who is losing business because she can’t get enough help. Pat likely feels some sense of outrage that the business, and the community, have to confront and cope with the inconvenient, off-putting reality of homeless individuals on their doorsteps. These days, the number of homeless people in our midst is far too great for them to remain invisible.
So, let’s create more homeless people? —Aug 11-12 snips:
Robin DiAngelo calls it the morality binary. If I believe all ills are the result of bad choices by bad actors, then if I am even implicated in any particular ill, all I can hear is that I am being accused of being bad. People resist the idea of their being involved in any way with injustice. Carl Jung observed:
It’s not that Pat’s perspective is without merit. It’s true that a homeless person may indeed have made poor choices that led them to end up homeless. It’s also true that a person may have ended up homeless not as a result of poor choices, rather, through emerging circumstances beyond their control. Perhaps most significantly, it’s also true that homelessness doesn’t provide a platform from which employment is readily possible—many people’s (such as Pat’s) personal experience doesn’t include this knowledge.
Pat’s perspective may be partially correct in a given instance, and yet still exclude half of reality.
I’m trying to apply analysis holistically, Pat is not.
As one who likes to raise issues of injustice, in a state that is filled with neighbors like Pat, i.e., people who tend to see reality through an individualistic, self-referential lens, I’m often taken as being morally critical. When I speak to original sin [e.g., unjust systems and structures, ‘isms’], I’m heard by Pat, et al., as accusing them personally of sin.
Ay, there’s the rub.
Next week: ‘The rub,’ extended. Come and see.
[this post approx. 850 words (about a 3 min. read)]
What did you hear me say?
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