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Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Individual or the Group?

For John, BLUFIf we don't stand up to the new conformism we will all be divided like cattle at the slaughter house and sent down the cutes defined for us.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

This is an Opinion Piece from The Old Gray Lady, written by Mr David Brooks and published 22 March 2018.

Here is the lede plus four:

How much are you in control of your own opinions? I ask this sincerely because, as you’ll see, I’m trying to think this through and I’m not sure how.

If you go back to the intellectuals of the 1950s, you get the impression that they thought individuals could very much determine their own beliefs.  People like Hannah Arendt and Irving Howe believed that if you stood alone and researched carefully and hard, you could transcend your own background and render independent and objective judgments about society.

Writers like George Orwell believed that experience was more important than identity, that if you put yourself in other people’s shoes, you could feel what other groups were feeling and communicate that experience.  Lionel Trilling put great faith in imagination, certain that Shakespeare could capture the experience of being a woman, though he was not a woman.

Busy fighting communism and fascism, people back then emphasized individual reason and were deeply allergic to groupthink.

We don’t think this way anymore, and in fact thinking this way can get you into trouble.  I guess the first step was the rise of perspectivism.  This is the belief, often traced back to Nietzsche, that what you believe is determined by where you stand:  Our opinions are not guided by objective truth, because there is no such thing; they are guided by our own spot in society.

My Brother Lance sent this along to me.

I don't often think of David Brooks as going my way, but here he is, very much.

Having said that, I wish he had categorized himself as a Caucasian, rather than as a White Man.  That is a label from someone else and if they can label you, they can define you and thus control you.

And, to be picky, while it is a common place, why is Augustine Black, rather than Maghrebi?  My DNA is about 2% from his Berber lands, and so, I expect, is that of my Brothers.

But, I find myself sharing the thoughts of David Brooks.  We need to think of ourselves as individuals.  It is funny that we can define ourselves in terms of our identity group pretty much as we feel free to do, like Ms Rachel Dolezal, who decided she was Black and ran a local Washington State NAACP Chapter.  But, folks are reluctant to let us be different from our identified group stereotype.  And if we try to break out the mob works to shame us into going back and conforming.  Thus the current use of "Uncle Tom".

And, some of this is just strange.  We have the Hispanics, who are a minority, and identified by their Hispanic surnames.  And that comes from the Iberian Peninsula.  Now, also from the Iberian Peninsula are the Portuguese, the Lusitanians.  They are also in the Azores and the Cape Verdians also speak Portuguese.  More people in South American speak Portuguese than Spanish.  And we have a bunch of them up here in Lowell.  However, in the recent lawsuit against the City they are treated as just more Caucasians.  When the lawyers bringing a lawsuit on voting rights against the City of Lowell and they list minority members of the City Council, Joe Mendonça is not mentioned.  No one talks about how the are oppressed.  Deep down, inside and hidden, I think the reason is assimilation.  You can see it at the Post Office.  All sorts of parents, off all sorts of backgrounds and racial makeup are talking to their children in English, except those speaking Spanish.

Regards  —  Cliff

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