Saturday, July 11, 2015

How "values" matter, or at least how things look

The Greece default situation motivates a thought experiment.

Imagine you live in a world where hands-on family life and the practical house and ranch work going with it are valued the most.  In fact, I’ve wondered if there could be moneyless societies on other planets.  Our own dolphins and orcas might provide a clue.

But money develops, and one of the currencies accepted sometimes is Monopoly play money.  (It actually gets used in the second half of my old novel manuscript, “The Proles”.)  Then someone does something to make your cache of Monopoly money almost worthless.  You feel something has been taken from you.  No, you haven’t been robbed or become the victim of crime in a usual sense.  But in another way you’ve been “harmed”.

I’ve had to deal with being perceived as the cause of a sense of “devaluation” by others.  When I was much younger, I had to wonder why others made my life their business – particularly my lack of gender-associated competitiveness, and later my homosexuality, and finally my public speech, without gatekeepers, but also without the usual stake in others to be provided for. 

I did sense that I was “different” enough not to be very interested in reproducing, I could be viewed as a not completely human competitor for resources – an enemy.  That sounds like the talk of totalitarians. If I wasn’t able to “carry my weight” in sharing the duties of “protecting” women and children, more of the “risk” would be borne by others, and I could weaken the security of the “tribe” as a whole.  But, as I grew up, I found that the confluence of sub-par male physical strength, homosexuality, and later some success in life anyway was not as common as I had thought.  I did seem to have a unique life narrative. What did seem common, though, is that many men had not really “earned” what they had, and could be singled out for some kind of “re-education” by those for whom the world didn’t work too well.

When I was coming of age, other relatively marginal males made a point of wanting to see me make it with women.  They wanted to see me become a father and marry (the order didn’t matter too much).  If they saw me do it, they became more confident in their own procreative futures, and their sense of self-valuation improved.  The pseudo-currency I idea, again.  But if I was articulating homosexual values, I was in a position to judge which other men were the most “suitable”, and that made them most uncomfortable.  That was particularly true with my William and Mary roommate. Put another way, the idea that no one should experience sexuality outside of potentially reproductive marriage was seen as an equalizer, an arrangement that would make family life (Richard Strauss's "Sinfonia Domestica") more "valuable" for those who created it and kept it together.
Later, as I became privately and then somewhat publicly accomplished, even if self-promoted without gatekeeper accountability, I became unwelcome competition, capable of lowballing others with more family responsibilities in the workplace, and gathering attention.

The feedback I got lifelong was that forming and keeping a family involves a lot of psychological risk.  It becomes less “valuable” when some (like me) “get out of things.”  Making something rewarding out of loving someone who really needs to be provided for is indeed a challenge, the other direction from upward affiliation.  But it’s more inviting when everyone else does it, even if everyone else has to.

But in a free society, people have to “want to”. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

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