Saturday, August 08, 2015

Why I don't usually march in narrow-issue demonstrations (although I shouldn't pretend I am above doing it)

Just a review of a major point: why am I too “full of myself” to join up to support a single issue to help a given constituency in need?  Why am I unwilling to march and scream in a demonstration like any “prole”?

Many constituencies of individual people can be affected by sudden changes (imposed by politicians, by enemies, or by natural causes) beyond their control.  These vicissitudes can result in “existential” challenges to how individual people can go on and see themselves.

But typically, meeting a particular need for a particular group by itself missed the larger context in which policy questions are faced.  For example, I certainly support “marriage equality”, but to focus on it in the way fundraising and crowdsourcing is usually done, overlooks major other extensions of the issue, such as the parental leave issue, and the tension in our culture between those with and without responsibilities for raising children, and also a somewhat skewed tension over the “importance” of procreation itself to some people.

I understand how “black lives matter” as a phrase does communicate the pain of some people, but “all lives matter” indeed; but the real point is that if indeed we care about all human life, many of us face personal challenges of the heart (in dealing with others up close and personal when they ask for attention, as with “the poor”) that may be unwelcome.

And, likewise, being converted to one particular religions faith or belief, on someone else’s say-so (and personal experience), overlooks the whole context where modern physics really does support spirituality.

It is true that I got into writing (authoring books and blogging) first over the “gays in the military” issue back in Bill Clinton’s 90s.  (Grand old days, the country did well.)  That particular issue affects a relatively small number of active duty (and potential) “soldiers”, so it sounds narrow.  But the less direct implications for many other civilians (not just gay) in many other areas of life could be broad. 
I connected the issue to my own experience with the draft (and the deferment system) and US policy, and how it played out against class and race and privilege on the one hand, and with the whole panoply of issues are personal privacy and personal expression (as they were in the 90s at first) on the other.  The issue involved forced intimacy in an unusual way, and invoked questions about the government’s (or “society’s”) capacity to compel uneven sacrifices from its citizens in ways that transcend any “axiom of choice.”

Later, in my “second career”, I focused on COPA, and now on Section 230, which sound like narrow issues.  But they do beg the question of continuing the “permissive” environment which encourages user generated content (if “amateur”).  UGC is a very useful “institution” to support the normal press, to keep politicians and corporate interests “honest”, and force the main media to cover issues with more subtlety. On the other hand, the “permissiveness” tends to burden people with larger family responsibilities, especially for raising kids – something that doesn’t always happen just because of a personal choice as libertarians see it.  Cyberbullying, and now even asymmetric recruiting by enemies, is one of the negative results.  So these issues have wide implications for both self-expression and stability. 
The biggest context of all is still "national security".  I'm not socially competitive enough to make it in a world thrown back to the 19th century by EMP or maybe a massive solar storm.  Maybe that's my biggest point.

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