The conventional wisdom says that people don’t change, and certainly not fundamentally. Tiger, stripes, leopard, spots, etc. There are adages.
They are, of course, bullshit.
© Aron Hsiao / 2010
People change. They change radically, fundamentally, on a dime. They do it all the time. The tiniest of influences, placed properly, can transform a person permanently into an entirely new and diametrically opposed individual that is virtually unrecognizable to anyone who knew them just months earlier.
I have had the dubious pleasure of witnessing this sort of change repeatedly in my life, happening in people that were close to me.
The mechanics of this change involve, almost certainly, repression. Inside a person grows, for years, an alternate persona, set of values, set of habits and characteristics, that are not expressed but are rather repressed. They cannot admit the existence of these things even to themselves—but the pressure builds, out of view and unknown to all.
They fastidiously maintain stability and continuity until something—usually something small—a change in the fashion of their appearance, a comment from a stranger, a daily circumstance that is unusual—breaks the impenetrable wall and enables them to suddenly see not just the person that has been repressed, deep down, but also the new realm of possibilities that emerge if this person is set free, allowed to become a new “them” going forward.
And suddenly, the pull of non-repression becomes irresistible. Ahead lies liberation, the end of much unseen psychic toil, a new life, a new set and sphere of contacts, opportunities, paths ahead.
They are, in that moment, born anew. And from that moment, it will be mere weeks before virtually every social connection in their life is rewritten or replaced, and virtually every characteristic that previously defined them is forgotten.
People change. Oh, they change. They change “bigly,” and fast.
— § —
The most successful period in my life thus far was during the years from 2008 to 2010. It was certainly a pinnacle or a plateau. Living in the world’s most prominent global city, more work than I could accept, increasingly respected and contributing to “the conversation,” enjoying interesting projects, with a well-organized and rather complete life that was, at the same time, both comfortable and exciting.
The near-decade since has been difficult in that regard; it is never comfortable to backslide. There are a lot of “what-ifs.” What if I had taken the United Nations job? What if I had said “no” to the ultimatum? What if I had divorced the first time I thought about it, rather than years later, given the inevitability involved? What if I had been more aggressive in seeking professorships early on, rather than focusing on completing my degree? What if, what if, what if.
But it’s all on the books now. Now I look for another mountain to climb. That’s one of the tricks to success and fulfillment in life. Not only to enjoy the climb to mastery and the view from its peaks, but in the first instance to identify and locate a mountain to climb at all. You can’t ascend the mountain, take on the challenge of the climb, without first perusing the atlas and then presenting at its foot.
— § —
Intersectionality and critical race and gender theory have done a number on us as a society.
We have reached the point at which we are unable to see daylight between “disagreement,” “discrimination,” and “torture.” This is a particular disease of Generations X and Y, and to an even greater extent, Millennials.
© Bob Jagendorf / CC-2.0
There is no one who does not disagree with us who does not also “discriminate against” and “abuse” and “imprison” us unjustly; every gap between opinions is a slight; every slight is a matter of hatred; all of this hatred is rooted in prejudice; any prejudicial enunciation rises to the level of violent abuse (whether this “violence” is physical or merely aural) and the exercise of perceived structural forces in the interest of total tribal or sectarian domination. Claims of genocide, slavery, patriarchy, and any disagreeing party’s metonymic relationship with large-scale structural forces of injustice, etc. are everyday material. Ever more hysterical hysterics are par for the course.
In each case, the self-identified victims (which, ironically, typically include both interlocutors) pronounce themselves to be irreparably traumatized, rendered unable to function without being triggered, left permanently “differently abled,” and on that account all the much more vulnerable to further violent, prejudicial abuse and the reinscription of trauma (from, it goes without saying, a few more slight differences of opinion).
This cultural script is one of our dominant interactive scripts, right and left, and is the source of a great deal of trouble in our society. It was written by the theorists, locked away in their postmodern wings of social science divisions.
It is fundamentally anathema to democracy, or even to politics as such; it proposes to rule the world by religion and a particular Austinian magic of incantation-as-instantiation and a kind of primal eros that is in fact and ironically the very embodiment of the omnipresent will to power that it decries.
With apologies to the Pixies and some mangling:
We’re not just kids
To say the least
We got ideas
To us that’s dear
And privileged folks
They get us pissed
And stupid stuff
It makes us shout
Oh dance with me
Oh don’t be shy
Oh kiss the world
Oh kiss the sky
Oh kiss my ass
Oh let it rock
Of the April birds
And the may bee
It’s intersectional (Repeat x8)
University of Massachusetts, please
It’s intersectional (Repeat x4)
And what will we do once generations with any memory of other cultural scripts are gone from the earth?
— § —
That’s not an idle question. In my own family, more members of the older generation continue to disappear apace this week. The boomers are fading out.
The time when we Xers are “the older generation” is not far off.
And without the cultural memory, vocabulary, and canon of anything that happened before the ’70s, that leaves us in a precarious social spot indeed in the west, given the rejection and break that occurred midcentury. The boomers may have “rejected” cultural transmission, but in fact they still carry with them the previous culture.
Amongst their acts of rebellion and rejection, however, was a refusal to transmit it in its functional entirety.
Fragments remain, but they’re like iPad parts scattered around the pavement after a drop—to reassemble them into any sort of functioning unit at all (much less one that is identical to the pre-drop original) is a nontrivial and probably non-possible task.
— § —
Wednesday done, Thursday next.
It has been a busy week, and it will continue to get busier.