Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Individually Individualized Individualism

13"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say the Son of Man is?' 14They replied, 'some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' 15'But what about you?' he asked. 'Who do you say I am?' 16Simon Peter answered. 'You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.' 17Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in Heaven.

--Matthew 16: 13-17

"You critics like to criticize,
but couldn't visualize,
individual's lives
through a criminal's eyes,"

--Eminem1

So, I am once again reminded of a general rejecting ethic of individualism in society and in my church. A little while back, I wrote about a woman I went on a few dates with who claimed to be individualist, but was not this at all. And even in my church, though the majority of the congregation2 means well and does indeed welcome other people's presences and participation in events and services (their hearts are correct), there is a tiny, tiny piece of group mentality that still, by nature, rejects assertions/notions that seem to stray too far from what Christ is about. Please note that I said "seem to".....to them, that is.

There is also this infesting phenomena of cliques, groups of people that work (consciously or subconsciously) towards being socially exclusive, forming in the church. Understandably, the church is located in Manhattan, a city completely symbolic of what I've described in Note 2. And so, being surrounded by an infinite number of things strange and new3, it would be relief to find people that are from the same background and singular culture as you are and to stick with them for comfort. Perhaps the run-off stream of emotion from this is the fear of judgment or persecution or mockery or condescendence they'd receive from putting themselves out there to people of cultures that are different. Perhaps they've been hurt in the past or have pieces of personal history that they believe would bring public shame or mockery. Whatever it is, their situation is obviously lacking the notion of God's glory and Grace, key elements in individualism. In addition, the church administration is working for the place to be of inclusivity that welcomes people of all viewpoints and emotions, and the cliques hurt this goal directly.

But I digress. If secular readers have not flipped to another web page by now, I thank you for you time. So far, it appears to me when the general person thinks of individualism, they picture either the inconsiderate, destructive capitalist who just goes around stomping, stealing and cutting through everyone else possessions to make a large stash of their own (for a great visual of this, play "BioShock" on the XBox 360. Or look at George Bush). Or they picture the noisy, emo anarchist who works to blow ideals into ash for the sole purpose of causing discomfort, confusion, despair or even pain. Now, while these caricatures unfortunately do exist, it is ridiculous to paint this picture on each and every single person who wants to use a bit of your resources for another end4 or to cause you to look back at yourself and ask questions. The rational individualist does these things for good reason or to good ends.

The point of individualism is to go against the mind that treats every man, woman, Black, Chinese or Australian with the same broad stroke of human application. To end the monumentally absurd notion that what applies for one white man, one Indian woman, one black boy, one purple alien, etc. applies for all of that biological breed. 5 Individualism recognizes in each and every single person their talents, struggles, grief, complexes, and guides them to a better place based on those elements.

Somebody could argue: "well, if this is done according to this person, and that is done according to that person, and everyone is just doing their own thing, how would there be any unified whole to progress?" But just because each and every individual existential case is recognized and supported doesn't mean that there can't be a transcending whole that people adhere to. Individualism recognizes the key talents in each person that adds to that whole. So, the first person can focus on the fact that 50 Cent's lyrical skill is that of a drunk baby sheep with autism. The second person could argue that selling C.D.s with nothing on them but Bill O'Reilly 6 listing hundreds of ways in which people can kill themselves with homemade poison would probably do better for the sake of Hip-Hop as a culture than what 50 Cent is doing. The unified whole they both contribute to is the fact that 50 Cent has no business on anyone's television, radio, wall, movie screen or mind.

Up there in the book of Matthew, Simon Peter was glorified because he came to know God himself, and not through a bunch of images and concepts that other men told him. He didn't tell him to talk to the most voluminous or popular group that worships Me and make sure you do things the way they do it. He said He was proud that Simon came to know God himself. We should all be doing the same, and respecting and learning from each other what the other has "come to know". Perfect world peace or whatever will not come immediately after adopting this approach, but there will then be a tangible welcoming community.

Notes:
1) The point is, he painted the picture of a group of people who could place themselves in other people's shoes. You can take or leave the "criminal" part.
2) This is not necessarily their fault. I, myself must always remember that they come from a more culturally traditional and homogenous background and atmosphere where values and emotions and thoughts are handed to you by elders to have. Where as I was raised in the city, a thriving thing that is culturally varied by hundreds or even thousands of shades, and values and emotions and thoughts are ascertained through self-discovery.
3) Another difference: the rural person is usually encouraged to stay away from the "strange and new", while the urban person knows that if there is to be peace in the Metropolis, the strange and new must be embraced.
4) I speak of the NGOs or the Non-Profits who want to use your money to preserve a particular arctic area or rainforest or species, or perhaps campaign in Civil Rights.
5) In addition to the note in my last post, this ethic could also be argued as part of the basis for violent insurrections, revolts and school shootings.
6) Right-wing political commentator, author, T.V. show host, and all-around waste of time.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Village Taken

Alternate Title: The Teacher's Advocate

I've recently read a most curious and refreshing post by a Brazen Teacher some days back about, for the most part, group parenting. It talked about the formative years of the child and how it1 learns what it lives. Indeed. It talked about how many people go into parenting thinking that it will be easier than it looks: perhaps because of some imagined "oneness" with the child, perhaps because they think children will be more obedient to their friendlier approach, perhaps because they think raising a child and assembling a Lego Castle are one and the same2. The post spoke on how this consequence reflects in the formative years. Conclusively, the article spoke on how the tribal groups in New Guinea, Africa, perhaps South America or a few places in un-modernized China or The Golden Triangle3 are perhaps doing something right in having the village raise the child instead of the parents alone. Now, she made quite the point and I think the argument was very well put together. But, as always, a few details not mentioned in the post resulted in this Devil's Advocacy to the vision she proposed.*

The village could raise the child, instead of the job being solely on the parent. And it's a lovely little sentiment for the people of the community to share that responsibility. Perhaps then, young parents can just shoot them right out and expect everyone else to pick up the slack, since the village would look forward to the opportunity to do so. The article does say that "Children are not [completely] taken away from their biological parents, but they are not left with them to fend for themselves either", but in today's world and generation, where becoming a parent is envisioned as weighty a prospect as putting together model airplanes4, when the full reality of child-rearing hits that young or naive couple, I'm pretty sure they'll resort to letting the community take over the job. We could then ask, if the potential parents are going to do that, why even bother having the children at all? That is psychological guesswork for another time, but the scenario does happen.

Also, village parenting would work in a world where every adult was a properly trained potential parent and had room in their lives, emotionally and physically, for the task. This is not that world. Of course, it is that kind of world for the New Guinea and African tribes, but I'll get to that later. We must assume the village is unified enough to be a clear, solid presence in the child's life and all of its constituents on some sort of level with each other. They can all teach the child different things about life or a different skill or any kind of range of things, but most importantly, disciplinary measures will have to be shared by most if not all. You can't have the child getting one message here and another there. But, since one adult believes in hitting their child and another doesn't, another believes the child shouldn't risk hurting themselves in the playground and another thinks the child should explore, and another thinks the child should pick up labor as early as possible and another thinks they should focus on their studies, etc. ad nauseum, the "village parent" would self-destruct before it even began, since the variance in message is inevitable.

How does the village parent effect the child's formative years? Well, in one aspect, if that unity were to be achieved, I imagine it would end up looking something like a small rural town or a commune in its group psychology, which in turn would destroy the child's drive to rationally search for the true self/individual. In these kind of social environments, the focus is usually on preserving inherited values, making sure to practice customs, instilling and conserving a specific set of beliefs, so on and so forth. Since the elders and adults of the community have, by default, more experience and embodiment of these things, any kind of purpose or passion for the growing child will be emptied and replaced by respect, worship and the carrying out of the will of the elders, which the child eventually grows up to be, for the sole purpose of pointlessly repeating the process in the future. It becomes much less like a vibrant and vivid person or people raising a new human being to embrace life, and more like robots gearing and tooling another for future self-replacement. Any venture out of set programming will result in dire consequences to be discerned in another discussion.5

I haven't bothered to go into issues such as there not being any kind of real source of intimacy for the child or other ways this affects its formative years because in the end, I think those points are really just derivatives of everything said here. And while I will state again that I don't think what the Brazen Teacher suggests is wrong per say, I will say that I disagree with it. I do not believe the Village Parent can work or is an answer to the problem of new parents facing hardships. As implied in the last paragraph, the tribes of New Guinea and Africa have specific ideals, values, practices and beliefs for the child. They have a specific envisioned being they want that child to be, for the sole purpose of that child one day teaching their own child to be the same thing, so that the cycle continues to roll........albeit with no real direction. The village may coax the biological parent's responsibility, but will the child be raised right?

Notes:
*For the sake of the argument, the rest of this post will not refer to a literal village, but rather any kind of geographical community or group.
1) Yes, I will call the child "it". It is hypothetical and has no gender. So shut-up.
2) In all cases, the parent deserves each and every moment of rude-awakening, ball-busting hardship in parenting that God wills. As a matter of fact, I pray for the experience to be downright traumatizing. Why? Because the worst kind of parents are the ones who likes to sugar-coat life to keep themselves happy instead of addressing problems like they're supposed to.
3) The article just mentions New Guinea and Africa. I wrote all the other places.
4) Meaning in this generation, both of those things have become something people could just do in their spare time and not really take that seriously.
5) Now, I'm not saying that isn't possible for someone to be traditional and pursue rational self-interest at the same time. I'm sure it's done often. But even more often, [today's] culture clashes with tradition. I will also venture forth to say that environments of this form are what produce school shootings, but I digress.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Porn: This is not Invasion of the Body Snatchers

So, recently, in my life, there have appeared a stringof attacks on that most profuse film genre, known to you and me as pornography. A guest pastor at my church spoke a sermon on how it is an epidemic. Of how sex is a majestic and awesome thing, but only when had in the right context. He pointed to passages and symbols in the Bible of how sex symbolized a holy union. A holy act. Elsewhere, a blogger (who is not Christian) had written about how she was disgusted by porn. Disgusted by the fact that it was so accessible on the internet despite the fact that the sites ask if the user is of age2. She blamed porn addiction and the appeal to sex involving vomiting and crapping and pissing3 and probably World War 3,4 and 12 all on porn. I think the public consensus is that I, as a Christian, am supposed to just wholesale agree with all of this. But that principle, just like the beliefs listed above, ventures into weakness and stupidity. It's porn, not Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

There's no alien seed or hypnosis or secret brain-altering message in porn that forces people to continue to watch it and send its film makers money4. People do that themselves. You're not going to turn into a genital-crazed fiend if you pass by a flyer or a poster in the street displaying a 3/4 naked woman or man. You give that attention to it yourself. The outrage and stomping piles of DVDs and videotapes5 in the street all comes from you. Any kind of support or attention or addiction porn gets is all in the people.

First, I disagree with the notion of imposing on someone's free will. If people want to go make and star in porn, we must let them. We can inform them that it's not very productive or moral, but it is ultimately still their decision. Priests or idiot conservatives or whoever going to shut down studios in the San Fernando Valley or wherever they make porn will only give cast and crew members an even more vigorous drive to produce films somewhere else, and will give the public a greater interest in what all the hype is about. Ultimately, one must find what they're doing wrong within themselves, not because someone else is repeatedly beating their moral values over their heads.

Secondly, interest in the......unconventional things porn portrays does not wholly define the "degradation" of humanity. This belief would stem from the basic belief that there is only one or a few ways that people should enjoy themselves. Technically, (preferably) after a couple becomes married, they can do whatever they feel. There is no on-the-book, official way for intercourse. I'm not saying that people should go into the psychotic6 or exhibitionist, but there is some media of a sexual nature that may actually produce interest or drive or "spice" in the couple's sensual life.

And last, addiction to porn is not the pornographer's fault, unless you can prove the existence of the elements I listed in the second paragraph above. Everyone is different: has different reactions to different things, experiences things and views things differently. I was having a talk with the security guard at the store I work at, who is a staunch Christian, and he was telling me that sexuality is ruining man. He was saying that it was sinful and destructive to the Kingdom of Heaven when a woman appears dressed in the amount of clothes that would probably equal someone else's washrag, because it tempts the man. Now, these things are bad, but the fault of the man's temptation doesn't fall into the woman's lap. That connection is made willfully by the man himself. It is his own task to defeat those thoughts and urges, not to say to himself it's ok for them to be there because he's a man and he's going to do it when these situations arise. Personally, and then ultimately, my attention is not kept to something that is not intellectually or emotionally in-depth in some form or fashion. I believe it is man's fault for not having this general standard; the addicted person fault for not giving themselves this viewpoint or visual range.

Porn may be highly immoral, but it is not to be blamed for any sexual deviancy on society's part. We let it into our households and let it stay on our televisions. The parents themselves hold the responsibility and risk of letting children's curiosity carry them when they don't educate them or keep a sharp watch over their own child's life7. In the presence of a truly elite and progressive society, porn's exposure would be reduced to some far off nook or cranny of the world. But who's fault is it that this society is not [truly] elite and progressive?

Notes:
1) By string I mean two people have talked about it.
2) All you have to do is say, you're 21 and they'll let you in.
3) This purportedly shows how degraded today's humans are.
4) Why people are doing this when you can get plenty of it for free on the internet is beyond me. Perhaps there is some sort of nobility in paying the studios for their "work". But I digress......and also don't endorse.
5) These things still exist?
6) Whatever that means.
7) The world does not bend to your family's life. It shouldn't ignore it, but it shouldn't bend either.