The Blog of Dabido (the Baka one). Everything in this blog is copyrighted. Copyright 2004, 2005, 2006 by D. Stevenson.

24 February, 2005

A Little on Social Construction & the World.

Social constructions have always fascinated me. These are basically things and ideas which have grown up in and around societies, which if moved outside that society do not nessecarily hold the same values. Okay, that sentence needs an example to help illustrate it. The most obvious social construction to anyone in a modern society is money. That piece of paper in your pocket is only designated value due to social construction. At one stage, countries used to place the same amount in gold or silver away in a safe place. The piece of paper represented that amount of gold or silver. Now, the gold and silver are out and about in society again, and the money is basically just a representation of an agreed value. They now trade those values on the stock exchanges of the world. You can buy greenbacks, euros or any other currency that gets traded on your local Exchange. If we took our money to a lost tribe somewhere which doesn't use money, then the value of it is worthless to them. Some might say it's a metaphysical part of the real world. Others might argue that Social Constructs are not real, and will eventually lead to a collapse of the modern world. (The reasoning behind it being, that once a collapse of society starts to take place, those paper notes you have in your pocket will be worth more as fuel to keep you warm. The value will no longer exist, as it was never real to begin with. Other social constructions [in theory] will fail us in similar ways). Which leads to a nice quote I want to talk about today (hopefully with some social construction included. After that long explanation, there better be!) :-) "One is not superior merely because one sees the world as odious." -- Chateaubriand (1768-1848) Daggnammit! I always thought I was supperior for just this reason! Oh well, guess I better go back to practicing to be superior through other methods! :-) Just kidding. Seriously though, it's a nice quote. A lot of how we see the world has to do with our relative place in the world. When the world is odious to one person, it might actually be a paradise to another. I think the problem most of us have, is that the world seems odious most of the time. Part of this gets blamed on the relative social constructs which have come about. For example: With the internet readily available, a lot of people have started questioning copyright laws and their enforcement. Music is now downloadable, and those who wish to protect copyright (or at least their own earnings), are battling against those who wish to share and receive movies, music etc, for free. I think both sides of this arguement are finding reasons to believe that the world is odious. Both try to take a high moral ground, with Pro-Copyright saying they are protecting the artists income (and to a larger extent the record companies etc). The Anti-Copyright point to a time when there was no copyright, and music was free. They claim that due to the lack of copyright, people were able to build upon the ideas of others and add to society. I'll leave the copyright arguers (and other arguement arguers) to continue their fight in their own time. I wasn't planning on getting involved in this per se, as much as using it as an illustration. The point I was getting at, has to do with the fact that there isn't many people in this world who do not see some sort of injustice they wish to correct in some way or form. For all of us, the world is odious in some way (I worry about anyone who thinks the world is perfect). Does this make us all superior in one way or another? It certainly seems that way when I am out and about in society. There is always someone wanting to put me down, or back into place. Where is my place though? Depending on who the person is, it will be in a different position. It comes back to things being "relative". Those good at sport (jocks) will behave like athleticism is important, yet to a weedy intellectual athleticism may hold little or no value. The intellectual will hold intelligence higher on their importance list. So what happens when the jock beats the crap out of the weedy intellectual? They both come away feeling superior to one another. (One because they proved "Might makes right". The other because they believe the saying, "Violence never solves anything" has been vindicated). It results in many of us being placed in a push/pull situation. In one environment, we could find ourselves being the Alpha, while in others we are relinquished to an Omega position. At one place where I worked, one of the underlings in the office was the Softball Team Captain. He was in charge on the field, yet in the office he did what he was told. Within the same group of people, he held the Alpha Male cap on the field, and had a lesser cap in the office. (Being both a jock and an intellectual, he probably beat himself up at lunch time!) :-) Was Shakespeare right when he said: "The world is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think." -- Shakespeare(1564-1616) I wonder. Most people I know who can think are very worried about the direction of the world. I think most modern thinkers laugh and cry at the same time. The problem with the modern world, is most people don't like to think their way out of problems. Are the modern Social Constructions painting us into a corner? Are we heading towards a 1984 Orwellian society where thought crimes will become a reality? Will thinking a thought in our head become copyright infringement? I hope not, yet there are days when these very things seem to be the direction we are heading. The Babyboomer Generation (who seem to be in most seats of power still), seemed to be heading down the same paths. Recklessly using up resources acting like the future is still optimistic and not really caring if they leave a mess, because it will be some other generations problem. The Gen-X'ers are yet to really exert much real power in the political areana, and I am not sure that those who join are not just joining the Babyboomers due to the political cultures which abound. Will they actually get around to being effective in pulling this world out of an uncertain future which seems in many ways hopeless. With the Gen-Y'ers acting in many ways like their Babyboomer Grandparents, is there a reason to bother? Will today's lessons lead to an untimely demise of the human race? (Are we all crying or laughing now?) As a Gen-X'er, I know that our generation often acts like the Babyboomers are odious, and we are superior in the fact that we care about the planet. Yet, with the fact we are yet to be effective, are we entitled to act this way? Our cynicism has lead to a revolt against consummerism. Independent businesses became more popular for a while and the mainstream businesses have needed to re-invent themselves (often passing themselves off as Independents). Did we become slaves to a new social construction? Do we prefer to buy something regardless of quality, based upon the lack of hype and spittle? As they said in the '90's regading the Indie/Grunge Bands, "No image, is the image". Yet, when offered great deals, the bands left the Indie labels for greener pastures. Did they sell out? Well, not really. Most of those bands had a message, and the major labels were more effective in moving the units with those messages. They were basically caught within a social construction. Has Gen-X sold itself out? After all, we didn't actually change what was happening in the world, we just changed the face of what was happening. The machinations behind closed doors are basically the same. Is this why the Babyboomer Generation and the Y-Gen'ers feel superior to the Gen-X'ers? Is this why the Y-Gen'ers behave like Babyboomers? After all, the Gen-X'ers are just consumers with a different marketing plan thrown at them. As much as the Gen'ers feel the other generations are odious in their consumerism, have we ever felt superior? Or just different, like we somehow don't belong. We are caught within some social constructions we can't seem to break out of. When we try to, we can't seem to exert our own voice upon the world without conforming to the social constructions which are there. In the words of Bono from U2, "Where do we go from here?". If we follow the recklessness of the Babyboomers, like the Gen-Y'ers are, then it's into hell, where all the earths resources are consumed. Yet, organisation is one of Gen-X's weaknesses. After all, if it is organised, it's the very thing we are trying to break down. Offer a Gen-Xer something organised, and it's the very thing which will make their cynical nature question. Can we convince the Gen-Y'ers to turn from their consumerism? After all, after we're gone, they're the ones who will be suffering.