Note: To protect the privacy of our members, e-mail addresses have been removed from the archived messages. As a result, some links may be broken.

Lesson Plans


Re: What can we do?

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
henry (taylorh)
Mon, 12 May 1997 11:44:40 -0700 (MST)


Hi MW,

I'm really suposed to be finishing up all my papers here at the end of
the semester not jazzing around on e-mail but I think I understand your
dilema.

You want to do "the right thing". I want to do "the right thing". most
teachers want to do "the right thing". we care, we hope, we love.

Now, as far as I am concerned, most human prejudices have aesthetic origins.
We distinguish something from something else, a from b, field from
ground; we judge and experience a preference. That's the root event.
After that we are tempted to associate "meaning" or significance to our
observation and experience.

While they are our ONLY link to any existance or reality our senses have
long proven to be liars and extremely undependable. No one points this
out when we are growing up. We are, in fact, encouraged to perceive
"reality" in light of our experience - with often tragic consequences.
"a" and "b" here are only squiggles of light on a computer monitor and
nothing more. The differences and meanings we distinguish are in our
heads. I argue that it is the same for the objects of our prejudice and
discrimination. It is a case of limited or faulty perception and I would
further argue that to attempt to deal with the problems inherent to
prejudice and discrimination while ignoring the underlying aesthetic
foundations is to build upon an unstable foundation.

For me the point is to destabilize the certainty of our reliance on the
shallowest of perceptions. Most of these problems stem from an over
reliance on visual information. Mr. X looks different from Mr. Y but when
I lay out for you Mr X's DNA pattern next to Mr Y's and just to be
perverse I throw in a DNA pattern from Pan Trogolodyties (The Bonobo
Chimpanzee) You would be unlikely to discern any difference without
spending a few days on the project. Well over 90% of the DNA pattern is
shared amongst the three and Mr X differs from Mr Y by only about 1%.
Still we want to believe in what our eyes tell us (or our friends and
enemies) and believe that something called "race" exists.

Similarly we prefer to believe that gender is more a matter of visible,
physical "plumbing' than personality or anything else despite the urges
felt by some people to revise their plumbing in order to conform to their
own personal perception of their gender.

You are correct I believe about fear as anopther major component, fear of
difference. Biologically driven aesthetic discrimination. The stuff that
we are familiar with and which we know rarely hurts us has little to be
feared while we can only guess how dangerous something different or new
will be and the greater the difference the more likely we seem to be to
retain our suspicions.

The whole counter-darwinian argument could be undermined if instead of
those pretty "trees" of life with branches leading from ape to man were
instead shown in the dots and bars of DNA. It seems reasonable to say I
did not descend from some animal but it is a much harder argumant to make
when you are thinking in high resolution code.

If we thought about people less in terms of races and more in terms of
the variance displayed within a species in nature we would probably have
less of a problem. NO ONE distinguishes greatly between a black
thoroughbred and a white, red, yellow, or brown thoroughbred entered in
the Kentucky Derby and that is precisely what we encounter when
discussion of "race" is reduced to melanism.

Another problem is the belief in +/- vertical hierarchies. Is an Arabian
"better" than a Morgan? A Shetland Pony worse than a Clydesdale? A Shitzu
better than a Lhasa Apso? It would be silly to make such generalizations
and it is silly to make such generalizations about people.

And how about the issue of "one drop" and diffusion? People have been
wandering around the world for tens of thousands of years we have bones
and artifacts which point to it. That one drop of "racially" pure blood
must be awfully rare by now. I have typical characteristics of many
"races" and if the Nazis were doing the measurments against their fantasy
criteria I'd be unlikely to ever qualify as an Aryan. I have no idea what
"race" I belong to or why I'd want to belong to one. I'm with Groucho
Marx here; to paraphrase, I wouldn't want to belong to any race that
would let me in.

I'd like to belong to a cultural tradition with a long history, and most
probably I do, several in fact.

Henry is a male name is it not? By one assessment tool at least I qualify
as a female and Darn it, I'm proud of that assessment! That test got me
thinking. all of the questions could just as easily appeared on a
personality profiling instrument but in such a case it would be unlikely
to be a binary test. (in fact in the test I took I could have come out as
an androgyne) when you combine qualities and areas of
agressivness/passiveness with strategies of actual reproduction and
strategies of sexual gratification or avoidance I imagine we could discern
tens of different "genders" if not more. I'd rather live in that world
thank you very much.

But, for the most part we are still stuck with our medieval perceptual frames
and seem determined to carry them over to future generations. I guess its
all right if people insist. But I feel no need to join the continuing parade.
Sometimes my mind wants to, no shame in admitting that. I can be as
sexist or racist as the next person but now I can stop myself (most of
the time) back up and start looking at the beauty and for the beauty that
I KNOW must be there, as yet unperceived. And, do you know what? EVERYONE IS
BEAUTIFUL.

I like the word Conservative as in Nature Conservancy I like the word
Liberal as in liberty - freedom. I don't like politics as it is currently
constituted - a technology of control and for the wresting of control
from some other entity or institution with a desire to control. Power is
a metaphor from the machine age and originally came with units of
measurement: 12 horsepower, 20 candlepower. for me any discussion of power
without a unit of measurement is ambiguous and valueless, constantly open
to endless argument. I will forgo that experience.

I don't see education then as one-size-fits-all. There may not be many
schools into which I would fit but I don't know that I believe in the
evangelism that would send me into some alien school system to save them
from themselves. I will advocate my point of view because I value it. At
the same time I would advise anyone not to adopt it, especially if they
would do so because it "sounds good". Like my culture and my gender its part
of my identity and it stems FROM my identity. I find it as much within
myself already as within that which I choose to study. It is not so much
rational as intuitive and aesthetic.

I don't want Fuzzy Zoeller or Tiger Woods to be like me. I don't want to
tell either of them how to live or what to do. I can only say this is me
this is what I find of value. Take it or leave it. I will demand a space
at the table and a serving, but nothing more. I will not be a bigot about
what I perceive as bigotry. I will offer shelter and relief to the
beleagered but I will not participate in setting in motion engines of
extermination aimed exclusively at prejudice and discrimination. I have my
beliefs, but I do not know enough about people and how the become who and
what they become to set out in the world to "SET THEM RIGHT".

As I understand it, preference (prejudice) and discrimination are
foundational to aesthetics and so to art. If I join the army of political
correctness I find myself schizogenically waging war against myself as an
artist and aesthetician. It is thorugh better understanding of aesthetics
that I hope to contribute whatever it is that I am able to.

We share many of the same concerns but perceive different paths. I cannot
and WILL NOT oppose your perceptions but I can stand up and note other
possibilities. So much of our lives arise soley from our perceptions that
there are many possibilities beyond yours and mine. People would do well
I think to find their own way, to think and feel for themselves and,
admitting that we all make mistakes, be prepared to strike out in new
directions as we are so moved.

You are right, taking a stand is vital. But ought we evangelize that stand
as the only correct, right, or proper stand? I won't.

Its about money and power? Too true - Two illusory institutions. They
exist because we are willing to accept their necessity. I don't know that
I want to play that zero-sum, competitive game any more. There are other
possibilities than that one entity wins to the degree that the other loses.
It is also possible for oth to lose ALL and for both to win ENOUGH. I
only need "enough" I don't need a guarantee, I don't need endless capital
GROWTH. Endless growth is the paradigm of the cancer cell.

Moving into more maturePG rated discourse... Personally, and as a happily
married heterosexual, I've always suffered more from "vagina envy" than
penis fear or power. I'm endlessly fascinated by the mysteries of that
which is forever inaccessable to me. A penis ain't power its an organ of
elimination and an intimate personal source of pleasure. I note that so
many 19th century romantics had great problems with the physical association
between fonts of elimination and sexual pleasure. A problem of
emotional over-reliance on reason surely?

This penis fear you discuss is simple "magical thinking". Magic is not
real in any material sense (though penises are). Certainly people do fear
such magic of the significance of colors and sizes but it is surely a
handicap more than anything else. Phallocentrism is only another
self-induced socially-supported mythic pathology.

General rule of history, nations DON'T survive. There are usually good
and unique reasons in each case. America will fail, perhaps in part for
the reasons you suggest. Its just that we don't know all the reasons
(probably never will) or when it will occur or what will touch it off.
I'm sure the soviet union was greatly surprised by its dissolution.

"Without justice, there will simply be no peace." MAY be "a fact" of HUMAN
life but there is a lot more to life than things human. The concept of
justice remains somewhat nebulous down through the centuries, declarations
of human rights not withstanding. I don't think we are yet at a place
where we can claim to know empirically what "justice" is. At least not me.

Follow your star MW, It's not mine tho. I can find no reason NOT to
tolerate you. If you put up a sign or a flaming symbol of some sort in my
front yard my tolerance might weaken a bit however. I will never be proud
or boast of my intolerance tho.