Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My own nine innings (video worksheet outline): What should be expected of those who are different?


I am planning to start work on my “documentary” video (supplementing my “Do Ask Do Tell” books) soon, and I want to outline the flow of what I am doing.  The steps here are like innings in a baseball game. You have to get through the bottom of the ninth!

First:

My major objective is to look at the moral rights and responsibilities of those who are “different”, in a pluralistic, democratic society (hopefully, ours). I have the impression that we live with an "alternative moral universe" (by analogy to the "alternative minimum tax") where "personal responsibility" for choices is supplanted by an expectation to share sacrifices and a sense of purpose at a very personal level. 
  
Second:
  
What do I mean by “different”?  I think it refers to personality and cognitive traits that tend to lead the individual to be particularly interested in self-expression and public recognition, with less interest in “fitting in” and meeting directly the real needs of people in a local (especially) family situation, but with some genuine deployable talent in expressive or innovative arts.  The expectation to meet others’ “needs” does not necessarily follow from personal choices or conduct; it has more to do with “common good” at some social level. The person is often less able than average to interact socially with others and to “compete”.
You can certainly be “straight” and be “different”.   I am certainly different.  I could say that both Mark Zuckerberg and Michelle Rhee are “different”, although they don’t really seem to have real personal social issues (they are just believed to have them  -- Rhee, as a child, didn't care what others thought of her).  I would say that neither Barack Obama nor John Boehner (or Mitt Romney) is different in this sense.

Third:
  
My own story provides a lot of material for exploring this question, in terms of coercion that has been brought on me regarding the needs of others, particularly during my upbringing and young adulthood, through the time of my compulsory military service (hint!), and again during may period of eldercare with my mother.  The details of many incidents and episodes, along with similar materials about other people,  create a pattern of moral values and suggest some conclusions through inductive reasoning – the kind of logic you use on a USPS “number sequence” test.
  
Fourth:
   
This sort of question is a challenge to hyperindividualism, to modern concepts of individual sovereignty and personal autonomy.  It was understood as relevant when I was growing up in a Cold War world, shortly after World War II.  It has seen less evident since the late 1960s, but has become more serious as freedom (as we have come to know it) seems undermined by external threats (terrorism, indignation), demographics (an aging population), infrastructure vulnerability (like the power grid), and long term environmental instability (climate change), although energy independence questions do seem to be turning a corner.  It is no longer morally acceptable for people to think that what happens to future generations after they are gone does not matter.
   
Five: 
   
Personal freedom, especially in self-expression (as on the Internet) implies a corollary, that integrity of purpose matters.  It does not make sense to be “listened to” if you don’t like the people who will receive your content.  So shouldn’t “you” be comfortable with meeting their needs personally and “fitting in”?
  
Six:
   
Most of the coercive pressures on “outliers” like me have to do with being more responsive to the needs of “family” (even without or before having any children of “my” own).   Serving the interests of family does not necessarily mean serving the best interests of larger communities or “society”.  Gospel teachings seem to stress that all people are “neighbors” regardless of “family”.
  
Seven:
  
Issues of “difference” don’t necessarily relate to sexual orientation. But once someone is gay, in the past, homosexuality has come to be perceived as “the issue”.  Past generations tended to see same sex orientation as a “proxy” for refusal to accept the (“necessary”) social demands of others, and particular as a refusal to accept responsibility for lineage and for other generations.  Yes, a lot of this tends to be about having children.  Some of it is economic (the “disposable income” issue that dominated family policy debates in the 1990s) and some is more personal  (the ability to bond to other people just because they are “family”).  Some of it is also gender related, as people have difficulty adjusting to the idea that gender-based complementarity in the community (in areas like military service) is less important than it once had been.  There is also a “virtue commons” effect.  Some people feel that “I can do what I should do for my family if I know everybody else has to do the same thing.”  The old-fashioned view of homosexuality as “sinful” or “sick” certain provides a curious paradox;  if it is morally wrong, is is unique among sins, as it seems to have to do more with omission than commission.  It almost sounds as though procreation is an intrinsic moral responsibility. “Reproduction rules”, but then what matters are “the rules of engagement”.
  
Eight:
  
One can imagine some “fundamental moral principle” for individuals, maybe an extension or corollary of the Golden Rule.  That is, if you have “trouble” competing and someone else has loved you nevertheless, you have to do the same for someone else relative to you, before you advance your own ends.  That rather makes the world “fair”.  It presumes everyone accepts some socialization.  It implies that one must have the skills not only to take care of oneself but to take care of others locally, before making decisions like having children and marriage -- and this idea certainly affects the cultural meaning of "marriage."  To neglect this requirement personally is to wind up “watching your back”, or at least not trusting yourself, and vulnerable to instability resulting from unseen dependency on others.  Otherwise, later in life, the worst possible situation is to be forced to accept dependence on others on their terms.  That is, get “smacked down”.

Conservative thought is predicated on the idea that if people want to be free from government interference, they must depend on it less for a social safety net, and that means they must depend on one another within family and other local units much more.  This means that individual "freedom" is mediated by local need. It clearly ties in to the idea that there is an obligation to provide for other generations, going way beyond the idea that responsibility starts just  when you "choose" to have children. The idea also links to the extreme value we place on all human life in our culture, which places additional responsibility on others.   "Generativity" has become even more important morally given demographics and the long term environmental probems. 
  
Nine:
   
Maybe we won’t need to bat in the bottom of the ninth (the “x” in the line score).  You win at home.  I’ve covered a lot of this in my first two “Do Ask Do Tell” books.  I will write a “Part III” booklet that presumes knowledge of the first two books.  But the video presumes nothing and starts my narrative over, and then goes back and refills a lot of detailed points, and then tries to develop an argument or syllogism. 

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