A woman reluctantly tells her family at dinner that her feelings have changed when it comes to (insert controversial political opinion here). It comes as a shock to everyone in the family, and soon becomes the stuff of gossip.
Her friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, start asking themselves to varying degrees, “What drives this person? What worldview, or disposition, or preference, or fear, has grasped her mental faculties just so?”
As a kind of life project, I try to stay away from this kind of analysis. Not because I don’t find it invigorating, but because, if I’m honest, it rarely gives me the catharsis I’m looking for. Because I believe that so rarely does this kind of analysis actually take stock of what’s being said. Instead it sounds to me like a nasty word-association game. You say “Patriotism”, and I say “Hitler.” I say “Women’s Rights” and you say “Baby Killer.”
We spend a lot of time in classrooms, in conversations, online, and in the news, talking about each other in this way. And I think that when we spend so much time talking about each other in this way, we start treating our experiences in a very un-serious way.
If all of us, through our experience, are basically subjects of Progressivism, Neo-Conservatism, Post-modernism, Cubism… then there’s no real need or incentive to talk about truth – we’ve already setup the parameters. It’s self-evident from the ropes around the ring, that what we are talking about is fundamentally Subjective – a fight of semantics, ideas, social movements and constructs.
So for me the question isn’t: What are we subjects of – what do our actions, our treatment of each other, say about our Subjective world? – as if we need to incessantly dig to uncover an underlying idea, lest we discover we’ve been co-habitating with an unidentified “-ism.”
The more important question I think is: do I believe in truth? At least some of the time, is truth what we are aiming at when we talk about our likes and dislikes, our predispositions, our ethics, our opinions of our family. Are we concerned with saying something true?
Because if I do believe in truth in this way, then I also implicitly accept that I can be wrong. The things that give my life meaning might actually need to be changed. I can’t accept their validity just on the basis of how strong I feel their conviction, or on the basis of how much I kicked ass in that verbal dispute inside that Subjective ring. I must look to sources outside myself, because I am a subjective creature, and I am almost certainly wrong about a great many things, the majority of which will likely be unclear to me for the rest of my life.