Thursday, January 05, 2006

to be self-made? or other-made?

Only the richest people in the world have the luxury (money) of putting the bite into the bark of what one might consider personal choice and self-made personhood. Self-made personhood is expensive. And personal choice inherently affects other people and necessarily restricts their choices. This is true on a political level as well as on a social level, from the community level all the way down to interpersonal levels. When China expelled all western influence, it had the power, money and psychological control over the masses to do so. If I, as a teenager, decide my parents are too restrictive of my behavior in their house, I must have the money to move out. And if I don’t have the money to live on my own, I am either dependant upon the goodwill of others or their exploitative intentions. One can only move from one system of influence to another.

It is the peculiarities within the system, glitches perhaps, are the catylists for struggle that challenges the reality of personhood based on one’s ability to exercise one’s own free independent choices. There are those who are too young or too old or too disabled to exercise their free independent choices—hence, systemically defined, they are less of a person.

There are other ways of perceiving personhood and defining the positors of the self. Most other societies outside of the western world believe and have social systems which demonstrate the interactive character of personhood. The self is not defined solely by one’s own choices. The self is not self-made. The self is rather a dynamic identity-positing interaction with others. There are philosophically astute ways of articulating this but most simply live it—not as a restrictive mandate but as a comforting embrace. Who one is, is what others tell us we are through words and action. To the self-made individual the risk for exploitation in this sort of relating is too high and the price that is paid is loneliness. Yet there is an internal checks and balances for those that would negatively define others in their community. If one is defined negatively and not encouraged to rise to their best ability, the whole community suffers and wears the scar of that one person or handful of individuals. In a supportive community, there is more power to become a better person. One also tends to also be more tuned to their historical and future existence—as that existence outside their own body, which one participates in through relationship with others.

Most western sorts are terrified to turn over their individual power to the power of community, for the “other” has been cultured into a hostile “other.” They have reason to be terrified. Everyone has seen and critisized the naive individual of rural birth dumped into "the real world." For when the individual cultured to embody the positing power of community is displaced into the masses of private self-made individuals, he or she naturally embodies the exploitative and selfish interests from its subjects, as though it were the gift of love and other-centeredness community requires as a cohesive element. Self-made personhood necessarily involves an intuitive sense of ever-present self-interest. Community necessarily involves an ever-present eye to the other and the whole.

So then, shall one be self-made, or other-made...it sort-of depends on where you live...and money helps...or hurts.

1 comment:

Peter said...
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