Today I wanted to install the most absurd title for this post, which (in contrast to several previous) will be short, spontaneous, and unrehearsed. The title arises from a recent incident in which some members of my son's generation were discussing the preparations then being undergone by one of their cohorts who was planning to get a sex-change operation. Robert (my amicable ex-husband, and ever philosophically willing to raise the temperature of any debate) happened to find himself in the midst of this, and he turned to one of the young women present (possibly a college student at Bryn Mawr College) and asked her, "What do you think about this?"
As he reported to me later, "She gave me this utterly blank look." As he put it, it seemed obvious that she had never been asked to think about what a sex-change operation means in terms of what is happening, instead it was as if whatever is happening is simply determinate - without dimensions of thought or urgency, and lacking any provocation that might entail a response or reaction, much less a judgment, on her part.
This incident seems to illustrate John McMurtry's "first rule of any group-mind" - that it cannot adopt itself as an object of critical reflection. The group-mind of today's Bryn Mawr and Haverford College students seems to be in the process of swallowing sex-change operations with no sign of discomfort or choking. But swallowings like this are going on all the time. For instance, the Philadelphia City Council recently passed a resolution declaring Philadelphia a "pro-choice" city. Certain people protested - notably, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, and a few political candidates. The City Council member, apparently deaf to such protests, said "this is a democracy," which in this tortured logic must mean that only people who believe in killing unborn children belong to democracy.
To believe that passing such a City Council resolution is an exercise of "democracy" falls somewhere under the heading of "intellectual catastrophe," while abortion and sex-change change operations fall somewhere between "biological and social catastrophes." I want to talk later about what these headings signify in terms of Robert Pirsig's "Metaphysics of Quality."
I wish to pursue this theme in later posts this month. Next weekend I will be visiting in Atlanta for a family wedding, and may not post anything for a couple of weeks.