Today’s Reading


From Emma Goldman at War on Error, Class, Part VIII on cultural signifiers and Sorting Hats:

So, really, the conundrum is that, on one hand, we want some kind of shorthand, some way of sorting people, and, arguably, some agreement on an assortment of dimensions of sorting. This isn’t even necessarily a bad thing, although it certainly can be (e.g., when people who are hiring employees think of “someone who is like me” in terms of skin color or religion or genitalia, for example). On the other hand, restricting yourself to people who think and look and dress exactly like you is boring, tedious, and likely to lead to literal and figurative inbreeding of all sorts.

We can play the proffered Dichotomy Game and point out that between those two hands lies something entirely reasonable, but – oooh! Look! I’ve just burped up a piece of old cud!

I’ve long held a Goldilocks theory of difference: life (or any given aspect thereof) is best shared with people whose (relvant) views and experiences are not too similar, not too alien, but just the right amount of different. Though most Goldilocks statements pass without comment (they’re practically tautologies, after all) this is one of the few that seems to provoke disagreement. Not on the cloistered end, but on the end where I feel conversation can degenerate into pointless conflict and talking past one another, disputes where neither party is ready to give up their side of the argument.

I don’t think it’s particularly respectful or honest of me to participate in a serious discussion if I’m unwilling to come out of it standing on one ear. Maybe in an ideal world we’d all be ready to give up our cherished beliefs at the drop of a hat, but… naw. I don’t think that’s how people do or should work. Does that make me close-minded?


Rana on the historiography of the American frontier. Yeah, I was fed that line about the expansion of the West…


Gah! Stupid futzy internet connection. A different selection of the Many than what was originally intended: ester on thigh high stockings, Steinn SigurĂ°sson with an acronym puzzle, and the new Get Your War On.


  1. R Mutt wrote:

    I don’t think the golden mean works there. OK, there are people you literally can’t communicate with; but providing you have a common language you can still communicate, and the “distance” is not too great.
    That doesn’t mean you have to listen to / dish out pointless harangues recycling familiar arguments. But that doesn’t really count as a serious discussion anyway.

  2. des von bladet wrote:

    Weber defines, I am assured, a “party” as a group of persons united by a common goal (usually power).
    Which (if you ask me) says a lot about the kind of parties he got invited to.

  3. yami wrote:

    The lovely thing about defending a tautology is that my definition of “too alien” is allowed to constitute precisely that class of pointless harangues and recycled arguments. They definitely don’t count as a serious discussion, but if they’re dished out in polite language many people try to argue otherwise.
    Des: let’s try “common goal (usually beer)” and see where that gets us?

  4. ester wrote:

    hollee shit, still laughing about the feeding tube. i can’t believe you put me in the same paragraph as GET YOUR WAR ON. now i can die happy, turn into a zombie, and feast tom delay’s hammerbrains.

  5. yami wrote:

    I thought the bit with Congress and the Slut Alarm was hilarious, though, and so fitting with the everyone-gets-their-own-law zeitgeist!
    If I’m ever in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery, I want Congress to pass a law specifically forbidding anyone from dressing me up in lingerie and parking me in a Victoria’s Secret. Macabre modeling in sweatshop-free stores only, please.

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