Friday, January 27, 2006

Litmus test

Bother politics. Already.

Pretty Lady has noticed (how could she not?) that her fellow human beings have a strong tendency to decide whether a comrade is a Good Person or not, solely upon the presupposition of that person's political alignments. This has caused her untold social embarrassments in the past, as she has always had a tendency to be eclectic in her associations. Who could forget the occasion she invited her French Socialist boyfriend and her Power Puff Feminist girlfriend home, to meet her National Review Republican father and her Anglican Chorist mother, and the boyfriend and girlfriend were cordially invited to Evensong? And the boyfriend and girlfriend muttered, afterward, "If I'd realized that were a Church Service, I wouldn't have gone."

I mean, really, how rude, not to mention ignorant. My boyfriend and girlfriend would have been both honored and respectful, if invited to attend a pow-wow, or an African ritual involving paint and scarification. At least they kept their grumblings away from the ears of my loving and hospitable family. My parents, in turn, were charmed with the French Socialist, as he argued well, albeit with a very strong accent, and brought a lot of excellent cheese. The Power Puff was also noted for her intelligent grace of demeanor, and the weekend went well. I was the only one who suffered.

But it seems that no matter how often those who oppose us break stereotype, we keep building those stereotypes back up again. It seems to me obvious that political opinions are largely a matter of happenstance; people formulate opinions based upon the sum of their education, upbringing and personal experience. They would all like to think that an ironclad chain of unassailable logic leads them to where they stand, but logic can lead in any direction, depending upon what is factored in or ignored. And I know, from the depths of long and intimate personal experience, that Character has nothing, nothing, nothing to do with Standpoint.

Part of this has to do with the assumed format for debate in our culture, and perhaps in the way the human brain is wired. We tend to argue from Positions, and listen to the other person only insofar as to formulate a strong rebuttal to his proposition. This is an ego-based perspective, and rarely leads anywhere, although it can be a lot of fun.

There is another way of arguing, although it is so difficult that it requires weekend retreats for Consensus Training. Consensus decision-making involves basing the discussion on Concerns, not Positions. As in, sincerely asking each person, "What is important to you? What are you afraid of? What needs to be addressed?" and then addressing those things, in a spirit of seeking a genuine solution. This is hard and it takes a long time; few people have the patience for it, particularly when the blogosphere is so amusing.

On the other hand, Pretty Lady has a much faster method for deciding who is worthy of association, and who can be productively ignored. It can be summed up in her rallying cry: No Whining. Not only is whining unspeakably rude and entirely without positive affect, it provides an accurate indication of whether a person takes responsibility for his or her actions in the world, or operates from a standpoint of passivity and blame. It is also, in her opinion, second only to suppurating psoriasis in its anti-aphrodisiac properties.

Having lived in various ghettos and Third World countries in her time, Pretty Lady has experienced, firsthand, the truth of the statement, God Helps Those Who Help Themselves. Not only that, but it is actually impossible to help a person who will not help himself, in any meaningful way. Destruction of the individual will is thus the most damaging thing that can possibly be done to a race of people. The Cambodians, she has it on good authority, are doing a spang-up job of rebuilding their entire cultural infrastructure, a scant twenty years after genocide, but a whole lot of Mexican Indian maids are still blackmailing their patronas with transparent lies, in order to extract a hundred-peso "loan," five centuries after the Spaniards packed their ancestors into the gold mines. Slavery has a long shadow.

Thus, when Pretty Lady has a houseguest who wakes her up with the statement, "I have to go to the store because I forgot my shampoo, and that soap you gave me makes my skin break out, and I didn't get any sleep because my back hurts, and the cat was staring at me, and I forgot my toothpaste, so can we go right now?" and Pretty Lady replies, kindly, "you can borrow my toothpaste," and the houseguest shakes her head sadly and says "I don't LIKE it," Pretty Lady pretty much drops that houseguest like a hot brick, no matter what her religious, political or social affiliations. Just as an example.

No comments: