A Brick in the Wall


This is what I have learned from my discussions recently: almost no one can discuss political issues without personalizing them.  We used to say “the personal is political” but it seems to go the other way, too.  Here in the US we are all connected by a common, complex culture.  Every disparate facet of that culture is attached to every other in some way, like a giant gossamer spider web.  What you ate for breakfast this morning is unimportant, but any event that impacts the culture—trends, policies, prevailing beliefs—reverberates around the whole web and exerts effects that may or may not be noted.  I make a habit of noting them. 


Nevertheless, the response I often get in discussions of cultural events is, “what do you care?”  As if I am not allowed to concern myself with the reverberations if they are not actually going to dislodge me from the web. 


At this point I must admit to making this same mistake.  Consider the standard liberal response when someone expresses opposition to equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.  “What do you care?  It won’t wreck your marriage if Joe and Bob get married in Dubuque.”  True, it won’t, but that doesn’t invalidate an individual’s earnest concern about the wider cultural impact of a policy change.  (No, I have not altered my opinion on the question of same-sex marriage.  But I’m dropping the “what do you care” argument.  There are better ones.)


I am deeply, even obsessively interested in the effects that public policy has on the culture, and effects that the culture has on individuals, and the effects that individual behavior collectively exerts on the culture, and the effects that the culture has on public policy.  I am especially obsessively interested in all of these things as they relate to women.  (Anyone who has spoken to me, pretty much ever, can attest to this.  It’s tiresome for them, I’m sure.)  But, since I am myself a woman, others often think I feel deeply, personally aggrieved by whatever issue I am discussing, and they just can’t understand what my problem is.  Or they try to “help” me solve “my” problem. 


It’s a symptom of a pathologically (and delusionally) individualistic culture that we all find it so hard to see, let alone care about, community-wide effects.  It’s a symptom of a certain cultural bent that community-wide effects that impact men are more easily seen as deserving attention, while those that primarily impact women are relegated to the “personal” realm.  (Go ahead, roll your eyes.  I’m used to it.) 


Here is another thing I’ve learned: I need to channel my obsessions more productively.  Unlike much of my conversation, how exactly I’m going to do that is personal question. 









8 thoughts on “A Brick in the Wall

  1. There are definitely repercussions to political and social decisions, whether or not they affect us directly at the moment. I worry about what kind of world my grandkids will grow up in when I see where society is going with decisions and patterns that seemingly make no difference to me right now.

  2. It’s the medium – people feel free to attack people they don’t know (friends of friends) and are much less flexible even with people they do know, without the verbal & facial & social clues of real-life social interactions.  You might not change people’s minds, but they’d be nicer about it, I’m sure. 

  3. @Roadkill_Spatula – ahahahahaha…I too would love to go to a bar with the giraffe and the rabbit!!  @transvestite_rabbit – It’s the medium, for sure.  The devil gets involved and all hell breaks loose.  One of the reasons I quit logging onto FB is because I had to sift through 5000 obnoxious political comments from my least interesting friends before I could get to the five interesting comments made by my most fascinating friends.  Sooooo much more efficient to blog, call, meet, write or email my fascinating friends, all ten of them.

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