Erasing the Race Toward Race

Erasing the Race toward Race (A cautious conception of a ‘superculture’)

            In what is arguably the most radical science fiction short story ever written, Theodore Sturgeon presents a super-race. Not alien, but rather a humanity evolved through culture. In ‘If all men were brothers…’, the author has his protagonist himself evolve, at a personal level, from a normative presence in a mediocre and decadent society to an acceptance of this higher form of being. At first, contact with these superior humans prompts a profound dysphoria, physical illness, and ethical revulsion. For here is a world in which love really is love, including that incestual, wherein beauty is superlative and omnipresent, and where joy is almost matter-of-fact. Sturgeon clearly presents his principal character in this way to act as a vehicle for what he imagines the reader’s own experience, and possibly also that reader’s reactions, to be. Indeed, a reevaluation of all values has taken place, and beyond this, such a process is understood as the only way in which humanity could, in fact, evolve.

            Fiction is not fact, but it is based upon factual experience we humans share. Part of this experience is reflected in discourse. The heroic confrontation between the person and the institution is an enduring performance, cliché at the worst, yet inspiring at its best, appearing in serious analyses such as Herbert Spencer’s The Man versus the State, or Pierre Clastres’ Society against the State, and in popular culture renditions such as Rush’s 2112 or the WW1 drama The Monocled Mutineer and scads of others. Yet today we seem to be shying away from this self-conception, perhaps preferring to invest ourselves into alternative collectives based upon those we deem like us. Anonymity breeds anomie, to be sure, and the response from we social animals are attempts to create community for ourselves. Such forays range widely, from the dispirited desperation of those who are taken in by cults, to the somewhat less dangerous but also more cynical sectarians, whose idea of community is decoying and networking under a moralizing curtain. But whether coven or covenant, I am being drawn up as a person who is only a person within the context of presumed like others.

            Mixed messages abound. At once we are told to ‘be ourselves’, to become what we are, and DIY of all kinds is a pricey industry, suggesting that ultimately, we can only rely upon ourselves, or more darkly, to ‘trust no one’. At the same time, we must identify with something larger than ourselves. King and country have faded in significance, though ethnic nationalisms countered by state apparatuses seem to be a renewed source of world conflict in our own day. Community is itself a challenging conception; what is its threshold? who has it and who does not and why? who is truly ‘like’ myself? And how would I recognize it if I were to choose, and upon which basis? My gender? My skin-tone? My socio-economic status? And so on. Generally, such life-chance variables are said to coalesce in community, of whatever sort, giving us a yet stronger impression that what we are as a human being must be based upon these widely shared similarities, rather than upon our much-vaunted and once sovereign selfhood.

            But how can both of these be true at once? I am an individual, and yet I am nothing outside of the group. My culture creates me and yet it also limits my personal growth. My society nurtures me and then I am imprisoned by it, in it. Many phenomena attest to this contradiction and how it is being experienced, especially by young people. The outlandish, even outrageous forms performed by some of our fellows, could be seen as attempts to valorize the self in the face of both cultural limitations and societal limits. The conflict between self and society is a recent one, beginning only formally in the 18th century. But it is also the most contemporary expression of a much more ancient dualism, that of the one and the many. This deeper division animated all of creation, for even the pantheons of large-scale faiths were not exempt from it. When monotheism began to supplant these older systems, the contrast between singularity and multiplicity did not vanish. If there was but one God, there were yet many manifestations thereof. If there was but one world, there were many regions, one species, many cultures, one consciousness, many minds, one state, many citizens. The fashion for ‘celebrating diversity’ is not as Whitmanesque as it is idealized to be, for in so doing, we rapidly lose track of what we share as human beings; our essence as living projects and the essentiality of the human condition.

            The presence of cultures, originally salutary to human evolution, is perhaps now getting in the way of further and future development. The loyalties to ‘race’ and ethnicity, to gender and genderedness, to identifying with structural variables as one would list résumé items, along with a more dated though just as sycophantic an adoration of 19th century institutions such as the State itself, precipitates both ongoing conflict but as well, and more profoundly, a sense that I am not myself without such uplinks, that I am nothing as the one, something as the many, that I am even immoral as the individual, but as a citizen and a group member, moral through and through. I fear not to judge others for there are many voices judging; there is no first stone in a landslide. I fear not hypocrisy, for how could such a thing afflict and infect everyone I know? I fear no evil, for in community only the good resides. Inevitably, a large part of group identification entails definition by negation. I may not know exactly what I am, but I do imagine I know what, and thence also who, I am not. This represents the point of no return for the self. At this vanishing point, the event that occurs upon such a horizon betrays my existence and in whole cloth. My humanity, so disturbing to me in its fragile mortality, is shuffled off, in favor of the living death of the self.

            The brute fact of a human like myself being stronger collectively, whether in politics or logistics, in practical intelligences or yet in the gene pool itself, belies the more serious factuality that in reality I am strongest at home in my ownmost existence. This singular selfhood is presented as the vehicle through which, and in which, I confront that same reality of my shared condition. I do share my essence with others, but not through any of the identities that I imagine have such suasion. They are, from the existential and phenomenological fulcrums of the human condition, mere window dressings, and to flaunt their flagrant flaneur as if it were my truest self is nothing other than an ethical fraud. Worse still, the joke is on me alone, for in finally being forced to face down mine ownmost death, I belatedly comprehend that I am nothing, and have been nothing more than a unit in a measured machination, capable of action but incapable of acts, pretending to agency under the guise of being an agency, and indeed one possessed by the sole goal of its own reproduction, without a thought to those persons who make it up.

            Each human culture today is this fraud. Is there an evolutionary process by which the best of each may be amalgamated into a single superculture, a way in which to express the one and the many as the same thing? This idea is not new, but the only serious attempt prompted an epic disaster. The Reich’s ideal was to remake culture through art, remake the person through the model of the artist. But the Nazis too narrowly defined both art and culture, and yet more so, what could constitute personhood. Next time round, if you will, such conceptions must be widened extensively, though no doubt not universally. There does exist anti-culture after all, ‘degenerate’ or no, in the same way in which one might speak of there existing an antipathy to being cultured, which is most commonplace, ironically given impetus by E. B. Tylor’s all-embracing coinage of anthropologically defined culture as society itself.

            The Reich’s modernist idol, Richard Wagner, expressed the desire for a new culture in immoderate tones, telling his virtuoso musicians; ‘you are perfect human beings; all you need to do is lose your Jewishness’. His own evolutionary goal was no less parochial, reanimating Nordic mythos and presenting it as somehow as a future rather than a long past apparition of dubious merit and import. But if we take any specific cultural identity to be a mere exemplification of that which thwarts further human evolution, we can avoid vindicating the artist for imagining that life should be as art already is while at once realizing the pith of the artist’s insight. Yes, we do need to lose our cultural loyalties, and desperately so. And if the cult of Kultur was not the answer we needed, then or now, the sense that becoming cultured in the wider sense – overcoming our provincial loyalties – and in that deeper – undertaking the confrontation with the tradition that each culture presents us with – is nevertheless the only manner through which cross-cultural conflict will cease. That politics manipulates our archaic loyalties is to be expected; but the real issue, jaded and jaundiced, is our petulant possession of both.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of 57 books in ethics, education, aesthetics, social theory and health, as well as fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

Possible Inauthenticities in the Transgendered Phenomenon

Possible Inauthenticities in the Transgendered Phenomenon

            In the cases I have come across through professional ethics consulting with families and youth, there are present three kinds of discrepancies from institutionally and commercially normative family forms; that is, those possessing two different but dominant gendered parents who have mutually come to terms with the birth gender of their children. They are:

            1. Single parent families: here, the child has adopted the gender of the absent or missing parent and if their sex at birth contradicts that of the one who has been so adopted, a transgendered child results.

            2. Conflict between parents who desire a different sexed child: here, the child internalizes this conflict and reproduces it in himself or herself, generating a transgendered selfhood in the effort to please both parents.

            3. Conflict within one or another parent whose own desires regarding their sexual identity do not match worldly outcomes regarding the child’s sex at birth: in such cases, the child becomes accustomed to performing as if they were the gender counter to their physiological sex, also constructing a transgendered identity for themselves.

            Often subconsciously, parents interact with their children as if the latter were simply smaller projections of themselves. If conflict is present beyond that inevitably associated with basic socialization processes – there is no culture that does not possess this more demographically based conflict; some cultures negotiate it with more compassion and gentleness than do others – also, in my sense, a pathological presence, the phenomenon of transgenderedness is understood by the child, once again, subconsciously, as the only possible response to the context around them. I must please both parents, I must take on the role of the absent parent, I must assuage my parent’s self-doubts.

            In each permutation, ethical interaction is scarce. In general, speaking as a philosopher, I would suggest that any time one’s actions are bereft of ethical reflection, inauthenticity, perhaps at best, is the result. My case observations have, in turn, suggested to me that parents overly and overtly concerned with normative gender boundaries can also produce transgenderism in their children, thereby generating a fourth category, slightly different from the three listed above. Here, by contrast, the conflict within the adult is transferred to the child who reacts not to assuage or please their parent but to instead defy them and thus also to deny the projection itself. These cases were also more challenging to resolve, as the adults involved were in patent denial that they were defending gender norms against their own self-doubts regarding them.

            The inauthenticity of transgenderism is a function of it being not only epiphenomenal to sources of conflict which orbit round self-conscious agrarian-based societal norms regarding gender roles and performances – that is, these conflicts are not personal but rather historical in scope – but as well, they represent avoidance of conflict in general; decoys constructed by the child who is either too young to understand the authentic conflict in the family, or later on, too anemic in character to confront such conflict which has by then become their own.

            As such, it is easier to understand why the gay subculture has been tepid in its support for transgenderism. They are utterly different phenomena in both source and result. For gay people, transgenderism might well seem to be reactionary, as it, in every case, seeks to shore up dominant gender models and roleplaying, and thus is nothing radical at all, let alone revolutionary. Thus, transgenderism has been misunderstood both by its critics as well as by its adherents. In sum, it is essentially a coping mechanism that is both inauthentic to modern selfhood – it seeks to cover over the conflict that is both necessary to distinguish the self from others as well as provide a bandage for the pathological conceptions of parents who have unethically allowed their desires to overtake their ideals – and an entanglement of one’s very being in the face of its essential mortality and condition of its happenstance birth.

            Though gender as a performance, however indirectly related to biological sex and to human sexuality in general, may be a ludic form which should not be evaluated as pathological in itself, that which is sourced in conflicts which are pathological should not be encouraged, but rather resolved at the point of departure. I suggest here that transgenderism is, in general, just such a negative form, and as such, must be gently retouched to the point that the victim in these cases, the child, is not further alienated by other social forces which are thence to be encountered at an interpersonal level.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of 57 books in ethics, education, health, social theory and aesthetics, as well as fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades and has consulted for families and youth for three years.