|I keep adding more and more to this, but I keep getting myself riled up.
||[Oct. 4th, 2010|11:32 pm]
|||||vitriolic, or just excited||]|
So, today I turned 30. I haven't done much with my life. That's okay with me(ha). Some small part of me wanted to have a sitcom celebration, a party where I learned that it doesn't matter what you do, it matters who is around you. But mostly I wanted to not be the center of attention.
So I went to get a few beers with some friends, and eventually it's three against one, the one being me of course. Something about upward mobility, and the thing I mostly want to get to is that many have this idea in their head that it's a personal failing if they can't get a good job and get rich, or even get okay and not paycheck to paycheck, that they have to work harder and if they get to that ideal of working harder then they'll be okay. And I guess I botched saying this, somehow by saying that the rest of the world is not that much worse off than we are (and maybe that's true, in a wide enough perspective...the rich have always had so much more than the majority, who wouldn't be the majority if they could themselves get rich), but the nitty gritty isn't what really matters in what I'm trying to get at. You can believe whatever you'd like when it comes to the idea of upward mobility, as far as I am concerned.
Okay though, before I move on to my main point, let me talk about it a little bit more. :) Everyone has their own anecdotal story about pulling themselves up by the bootstraps. If you pay attention, this will usually be people who had at least some measure of privilege in their youth. My boyfriend, for example, is the son of two doctors. Somehow his grandfather coming over on a boat gives him a measure of economic mobility. It has nothing to do with the fact that he is a white male that is the son of two doctors!
Another woman in the group of discussers did grow up in a poverty-stricken atmosphere. Yet she is a white female who was in a good school district, with a mother who valued education.
Let's go in another direction. If I was not with my boyfriend I would have no prospects. I would live in a hovel if I chose to stay in New York, but more likely I'd be living with my parents and have whatever job that'd take me. Probably minimum wage. My friend Dan is from a similar background to me, lower middle class/upper lower class (is that a thing?). He didn't finish college. He has a paycheck to paycheck existence. My cousins had the same background as me, their mothers and fathers had more money than my family. They are not wealthy, generally have soul grinding corporate jobs. Could not survive in New York. I could continue, I have anecdotes as much as anyone has anecdotes. My parents are stuck in the house they don't want that is next to a highway, and my mother is stuck in a job she has hated for 20 years. They'd starve to death if she quit.
Everyone has their tiny perspective(me too! And I'll be the first to admit that my perspective is more to making me think that people kinda stay where they were born), their stories about whatever narrative you want to bolster or denigrate. So often the only way to get out of a human perspective is to look at data. But people do not want to believe data if it goes outside of their own experiences. I do the same damn thing.
The data say that economic mobility has never really been a solid thing...sure, for isolated bits of time there has been a moderately strong middle class. Even during those times there is some research pointing to the fact that it's mostly story, less reality for the majority of the population. We hear about the people who were apprentices or put themselves through school. The rest of them had jobs, had kids, and died. Mostly though, even for civilization, it was kings and queens plus poverty. Before that everyone was kinda poor, if you can apply that sort of thing to hunter-gatherers or subsistence farmers. In reality that last category is really the majority of humanity, so upward mobility is nil(40,000 years of stagnation versus 700 of dramatic rising. It's all dependent on what context you're discussing). Of course nowadays it's better. We have social programs, however flawed, and good nutrition for the most part, and many many other stabilizing factors.
I guess it's all a story of progress...how much do you subscribe? And I'm just as conflicted as the next person. I guess there is no straight arrow.
One thing that bugs me is that people cannot even admit that whatever ideas they might hold dear could possibly be proven incorrect. The dearer an opinion is the more someone will fight tooth and nail no matter what the consequences. If you have a narrative about yourself, that's even more inextricable than a normal story about the world. Everyone thinks they are average, thinks that the world would back them up if given the chance. If you live in New York that is probably not true. If you make 50K a year or more that is probably not true. If you like espresso and growing your own herb garden that is probably not true(all of these things, you will notice, are also true of me!). This isn't to say that you are wrong for being rich or well educated or liberal(things I enjoy being). But it also doesn't mean you're right.
Almost everyone I went to high school with in my middle America, suburban town is still in that same town, making the same or less than their parents, living paycheck to paycheck. There was little mobility for my town. Maybe the lesson is to have kids in New York.
A lot of the world wasn't so bad off without colonialism, either.
Another thing I'll take away from tonight is that women "forced themselves in" to the workplace, and it is their fault that every family needs two incomes to survive. We are all in debt because of feminism. I'll just leave you with that. There are NO OTHER INFLUENCES on the worldwide economy, or even the American economy, than those darn feminists. Down with the ERA! Somehow we have less choice now because we have to work than we did when we were only allowed to be mothers and homemakers! I am so happy that that's even a sentence---I am allowed to have a job!
This may sound a little angry, and I don't want it to be that way. I have strong feelings about some things. Anti-feminists do bother me, because I don't think it's even possible for women of my generation to understand what it must have been like to be treated as less than human because they were women, less intelligent, less able to handle life, emotional to the point of frivolity, never allowed to do pretty much anything intellectual---the only thing that gives me any spark of excitement, passion about life, ANYTHING, is the chance to think, to generate ideas, to contribute maybe, but immerse myself certainly, in the world of ideas. If that were barred to me I would be even more miserable than I am today. (And yes, I know that sometimes rich women were allowed to dabble.) And I have faced discrimination because I am female...perhaps I'm just sensitive to that sort of thing.
There weren't computers or computer scientists, there weren't cars or cutting edge science and medicine or many of the things we take for granted in the past. To say that all that's really important are traditional whatevers---social strata (women in their place, men in theirs, one given one spot in society, the other given choice. Or even further back, where women still had one choice, but men had maybe two or three...), professions, choice of hobby, choice of thought, choice of whatever...give me the future instead of the past any day! If things are better now then they once(re: mobility) were you can't cherry pick! Why isn't feminism a part of why things are better?
Also, I'm never going to agree that looking at things from a feminist perspective is a bad thing, regardless of what you apply it to. Noam Chomsky, that old pot-stirrer, talks about the balking from every corner about being "PC." His perspective? That the status quo sure stays status, and that whatever little strides are taken in the path to equality, or change of any kind for that matter, are going to be bounded by backlash. As in, if you have a little bit of change there is going to be fighting to the death, fighting and screaming until there is no more energy left, kicking and scratching to keep things the way they are. I know that things were different in the past. I know that there was no concept of feminism in 500 BCE. That doesn't mean we can't go inside the narrative of history and see what we can understand from our modern perspective. Well, to be perfectly honest, that's all we can do! Just instead of mainstream history book being the only modern perspective, we also have a view from another perspective. None of them will be totally accurate.
My current philosophy professor might have something to say about this as well. I told him I think that I am a contextualist. That all of my memories and my DNA and my level of education and what I've been exposed to give me a different qualia, or experienced state of consciousness, than everyone else on the planet. He countered to me: "Look at the phone on the desk. No matter our different contexts, we both can have the *exact* same understanding that there is a phone on the desk." It doesn't matter that I might have a phone phobia or he might be a Luddite. So a Medieval mind might have a different context, but its cognitive capacity is very similar, and while context is important, it's not everything. Plus, we know more now than we did back then!
I certainly do not agree with the strain in modern thought that goes on and on about "lost knowledge," replete with pseudo-mysticism and esoteric context worship. It's certainly possible that there has been lost information, but given the information that comes out of most of history, I can't make myself believe that it's anything important. Maybe some more mythological stories, totems, astrology, alchemy, numerology, whatever. We love the esoteric, the mystery, the idea that there might be something more. But the reality is is that we have so much more by way of information and idea than at any point in human history. And barring catastrophe, its going to keep on going that way.
1000 years from now we're going to look like ignorant peasants, and compared to the humans of then, we will be! But if you pulled one of us up there, we'd probably be able to get where they were coming from once we learned enough stuff. But they'd never be able to unlearn what they had already assimilated.
Ideas are what make us, I am glad to live now with more knowledge, more theory, more excitement of what we might figure out later...if I didn't have the total immersive wondrous thrill of learning new and lovely things out on the brink of the totality of human knowledge I would truly despair!
I am certainly not saying that I'm good at being an intellectual. Or really good at ideas. But if you have a passion in life and are barred from it...ugh, I'm glad I don't have to live it.
The world is a complex place, and no one factor has created total economic or social realities. To blame things that have been in the works for hundreds or thousands of years on a movement that has had steam or sway for 40 years max, that I find silly. Okay, I need to stop. I love my friends despite vastly different ideologies.