Monday, August 15, 2005

America in Exile

As I look over the landscape of America, I see many in exile. This exile is both externally and self-imposed. The adherence to national origin as a central feature of identity is both a reaction to and the cause of the fractured nature of our country. Racial differences aside, the dogmatic adherence to cultural norms of far distant lands will of course isolate an individual operating within a group. By definition, many of these norms are normal only in the context of the 'other' place. The struggle for identity, if taken too liberally from a palette composed of colors from a different painter, trap the individual into adopting an identity that will necessarily be at odds with their environment. They will see themselves as different. This will be due, in some part to their having been identified as 'different'. This identification as 'other' by the orthodoxy can be viewed as a rejection or as an invitation to become 'same'. (This is why racial differences cannot be a legitimate basis for societal inclusion and must be strictly prohibited, since they cannot be overcome and are irrelevant)

If one joins a group, the established norms of that group must be adopted or one cannot be said to be a member and one would not be identified as such. An orthodox Jew that does not observe the Sabbath, that does not maintain peyos, or keep the feasts cannot be said to be orthodox. Certainly, there have been reformed traditions, but from the view of strict orthodoxy, these are reformed traditions.

The religious example above is not precisely applicable to America per se since there is a strict prohibition against a state religion, but the concept of a sacred canopy that covers those who are in and does not cover those who are without, still applies, with or without a particular religion. This canopy defines the borders of identity inasmuch as its' contours define perception. Humanism, which is explicitly secular, still allows for national identity and within that national identity, the self. Identity then can only occur within a context. That context is one's environment.

To retain elements of an absent context as essential within a new context that does not include them leaves an individual with basically three options.

1) Keep the element and ignore its' incongruity with one's environment. (Retention)
2) Cope without the element entirely. (Deprivation)
3) Replace the absent element with an equivalent from the current context. (Adaptation)
4) Pretend to adopt norms for gain. (Hypocrisy)
5) Argue that the element is missing from the current context and it will be universally advantageous to adopt it in the current context. (Advocacy)

The first choice is the least socially compatible one since it will necessarily continue, by one's own choice, status as an outsider except for the special case addressed in the fifth alternative.

The second choice leads to internal instability, deprivation and deformation.

The third choice is probably the most preferable, but requires a kind of mental agility and effort that will limit the extent to which it is accessed.

The fourth, which is often resorted to, is to adopt a sort of schizophrenic mentality that compartmentalizes ones' self into integrated and segregated parts. For most people the segregated aspect is the 'real' self. However, the cumulative effect of social interaction and reputation create a body of near equal or perhaps even greater mass on the part of the public persona than the personal and when the incongruities are discovered, there can be hell to pay. Politicians and actors along with other highly public persons often fall prey to this (Mr. Swaggert springs to mind) when the public perceives these personal choices as being in contradiction with the public persona. In general it is perceived as hypocrisy and arguably, this is rightfully so.

The fifth choice is to reform a genuine deficiency in one's social environment through agitation and argument for change. This is a difficult process and the vetting process can last for centuries. This is reasonable since the effects are so long-lived and widespread. It would be beneficial to apply these high hurdles to more aspects of life, for example industrial and environmental, since these are also persistent and pervasive factors. Race appears again here but so do pacifism, imperialism, colonialism and isolationism. These are fundamental features of domestic and foreign policies that will bear fruit (bitter or sweet) for many generations.

Why should we care? The alternative is conflict, stunted human potential and needless suffering. I hope to engage more people in careful, thoughtful consideration of the complex issues extant in a pluralist society that will hopefully resolve to a unified but diverse society. A society with a single coat of many colors. A nation where anything can be painted with a rich and skillfully chosen palette.

copyright 2005 Callmethefixer


Blogger ~JaNeLLaBeLLa~ said...

dang fixer, thats a novel

7:42 AM  
Blogger Grizz said...

hey fixer nice article is that all your words? i think they are, very nice made alot of scence great post......

11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very deep!

6:14 PM  

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