Sunday, October 25, 2009

Curator journalism, the "rules of engagement", and "scoping others": why some people think marriage is mandatory

People question my “curator journalism” as to what’s in it for me, and who benefits from it. An underlying theme of all my posts is personal “karma”, and the underlying tension between a worldview based on individual rights (and equality of opportunity although not necessarily results), another view based on equality through “social rights”, and a conservative view based on the “family” as the appropriate source of individual identity in a world that is necessarily unstable and unequal (the supposedly Biblical view). I try to present all this from a historical perspective, from credible resrarch sources as amplified by my own unusual personal history. I think it is necessary to understand the history of these matters very deeply (a half century ago, “family” really was the granularity of society). For one person or a small group to develop such a repository of cultural history that is always “there” offers the opportunity to confound the traditional reliance on special interests to drive political change.

When someone like me can self-publish these in an unregulated matter, with no formal external due diligence, people sometimes get antsy. If they don’t see the big political perspective in an abstract sense, they may feel that my point is to make them feel uncomfortable personally, to step on their toes. (Merely bringing up some sensitive aspects of the “health care debate” can make some people perceive amateur discussions about it this way; the same would hold for discussions of “demographic winter” as well as the current debates over gay marriage and gays in the military.) Or they may feel that I demonstrate a “propensity” (language from “don’t ask don’t tell”) to talk about confidential matters at some time way down the pike in the future, when respect for current business privacy , as legally driven weakens. I can only offer good faith, good business relationships, and private anecdotes (of a specific nature) to back myself up.

Particularly testy is the way I present the history of my own realization of homosexuality, as related in part to the inability to compete with other boys during my youth, as if that was an indirect biological influence, but denying oversimplified (but convenient) ideas that sexual preference is by itself mostly genetic or biological. That can lead to the idea that the main point of my saying so is existential: to warn heterosexuals that I am their “scorekeeper” through my scoping. However guaranteed by modern ideas of free speech and the First Amendment, this motive would seem to encourage less “competitive” heterosexuals to give up on committed marriage, seemingly a sadistic goal. No wonder, then, that some people would prod me to take up their causes rather than my own, and specifically to show some kind of prior commitment to family responsibility myself before speaking out (eg, “the privilege of being listened to”). Hence, we turn the debate on “family responsibility” inside out, making it a mandatory prerequisite for everyone, not just a consequence of a particular choice (like having a child). But then I can come back with this: the point is to say that people should “do better” on their own before just running to politicians and claiming to be members of victimized groups. Sure, I can say that people should “do better” without undermining the idea that we really do need some deep social reforms, ranging from solving the pre-existing conditions problem in the health care debate to encouraging some sort of national service and revisiting our own personal obligation to care for our parents.

Against all of this, I ponder the problems in social media and self-publishing that I would like to tackle as a second career: how to manage “online reputation” and systemic risk of publishing without the previously expected steps of due diligence, and how to understand the relationship between the “social” and “expressive” (publication-oriented) aspects of all social media. And all of this reflects back on our “rules of engagement” as individuals and as members of families and social groups.

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