Monday, April 16, 2007

The social pyramid: conservatives climb it, liberals flatten it?

I go away for a few days and I feel like I am a month behind. I get rusty quickly. I was so itchy to write that I blew up a comment into a post. Pam has post over at Pandagon that she figures people were afraid to touch. Being as I am just an avatar, I am somewhat immune to peeing on third rails. When Pam asks "where is the sympathy" between oppressed groups and why is the MSM so seemingly stupid when it covers stories that turn on common biases against women, blacks, gays etc, I attempted to answer in spite of some handicaps I gladly accept:

Being too white to ever do anything but imagine the hurt of being disliked or distrusted simply because of my skin,

Being too male and too straight to have ever experienced even my least comfortable moments as a sexual being as anything but "normal",

Being too old and too hard of hearing to find anything but din and celebration of antisocial values in Rap and Hip Hop, [really, it hits me like a musical "keep out" sign, the most salient demonstration that I am too old to blog with a bunch of gen-Xers]

Being too well off and too comfortable in the bosom of the establishment to have much insight into the "poor life choices" hardship might necessitate,

I can offer no authentic answer to Pam's basic question.

As to the idea that the silence of those who do not enjoy my privileges and whose comments Pam had hoped to see is simply the result of her a posing too controversial a topic, I just add another question: Are those who have submitted to the pervasive and not always subliminal persuasion that their social credentials for having opinions are of a lesser sort therefore too timid to take the open stands against bullshit conventions and notions? Or are they really that conservative? I do read criticism and review, so I know that folded into the spirit of some rap music is exactly that willingness to call convention a lie. But as a genre, it is fatally undisciplined in doing this service. And it is so strongly the label of a particular generation that questioning its values almost instantly becomes a battle of generations rather than a battle between groups who suffer different kinds and degrees of bias.

Pam speaks out on GLBT issues and oppression but Pandagon is primarily known as a feminist blog. That alone seems to provide an example of one group that is sensitive to its own oppression, i.e. feminists, recognizing common cause and value in alliance with another group. I would ask another question to try to pick apart why a similar recognition has not occurred or borne much fruit going the other way between advocates for equality for blacks and advocates for equality of gays. Which group has the hardest time turning loose of the "advantages" they have over another group?

By "advantages" I mean the superficial, but at times iron bound, conventions of our social pyramid: no matter how many dimensions or categories you use to measure the place a person occupies in our society, each dimension becomes a way to make people suffer and to keep them in their place and only political correctness downplays the "greater than" symbols in the equation-of-place for our social pyramid that might be organized something like this:
More people think in such terms than would ever admit it.
Any such "space" has corners of greatest and least esteem: In the US after two centuries of "all men are created equal" we have white-christian-male-straight-rich at the top of the pyramid and black-atheist-female-lesbian-poor at the bottom vertex. Now and then, liberals sometimes congratulate themselves for slight dents and blurrings they force upon this scheme but it is still in place, as of old.

Now, who least wants to cede their rung to someone on a lesser rung? One up from the bottom might be the scariest place to be: In that place, one knows from experience what vulnerability is and they can spot an even more vulnerable place just below them. A conservative mind, in that position, does not reach downward for alliances. A conservative mind is primarily wary and focused on guarding what it has and fears it could lose. That's my theory. It means we can have conservatives all the way to the top of society, and the only place where conservative positions become clear and complete insanity is at the lowest station in the pecking order of convention. MSM, or any "media" for that matter, barring explicit admissions to the contrary, are claiming to be above all this weighing of souls. But if their income is dependent upon retaining a certain audience segment, they won't stray far from the view of that pyramid held by the not expect leadership from market driven media.

The current issue of Atlantic Monthly paints a disturbing picture of how putting an entire society "in the closet" has the ironic effect of weakening the pyramid. By contrast to Saudi social norms with their "values" harshly imposed on all media, our more open society, especially as embodied in the rap music, seems to actually allow the pyramid to hold us all more rigidly in our places. That is not implausible to me because I think it is our own individual consciences and consciousness, or lack thereof, that is really the enabler for the elites we tend to scapegoat. We do not live in a country where the government or the media operate oblivious of the desires of all us little pay checks. In fact, if you have been following the fascinating and very educational discussions on framing, you might be persuaded that both government and media cling to their jobs by always saying things in a way that tacitly ratifies the desires and views that inhere from our perch in the hierarchy. The constant work of corporation and religion, often via the media, is to shape those desires. We are the pyramid until the day we stop believing in it.

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