Tuesday, March 13, 2007

How You Look At It

I don't read for politics. I don't watch movies or listen to music for politics.

When I say politics, I refer to the idea that a particular or specific depiction of a person, a small group, or an event has distinct reflections on some larger group of persons or set of events, especially as a judgement of said larger group's power, worth, value, or position in the world.

I'm perfectly capable ot extrapolating such things -- hell, I almost automatically parce what I see, read and hear along symbolic lines, trying to guess at what messages are being broadcast. I just don't do it politically. In fact, the whole practice is so foriegn to my manner of thinking that I find it hard to exactly express what it is I'm talking about not doing.

Let me pull up an example. There's a current news headline that Iran is taking severe offense at the movie "300" for depicting its civilization as...here, read the quote..."bloodthirsty savages".

Ok, I can see how someone could pull that up, just from knowing the story of Thermopylae and knowing a little about the graphic novel (I haven't seen the movie yet). Most movies run on a simply premise of bad guys vs good guys. In this case the bad guys are Persions and as far as the Spartans were concerned, they were pretty bad. Since the Persians lost their bid to conquer Greece, the Greeks were considered the winners and got to write history to show themselves off to best advantage. No one can really expect the Persians to feel warm and fuzzy about this.

Now we get to the politics. You have to set up translations and definitions to make it work, of course. You have to translate Xerxes and his army into modern day Iran. The Spartans, being the heroes in this tale, are the US and probably the UN, but mostly the US. So this whole movie is all about modern Iran and an intent to insult and inflame them.

Politics. To me that's a stretch. You sort of have to be out there fishing for insults to extrapolate that meaning from the material at hand. You have to be looking for some excuse to start yelling.

I see it in other places, too. Someone I know is reading a book I like, and when I read the comments on the book, I wasn't sure it was the same book. That reader saw the author as making a variety of negative statements about women in general, none of which I saw when I read the book. I saw one person's record of thought and experience which had little to nothing to do with me personally. I certainly didn't see it as the expression of an opinion by a particular group via the mouthpiece of the author, and I wasn't insulted in particular by it.

Of course, that whole mind set -- that someone somewhere is working actively to insult, degrade, humiliate and undermine me personal and all those people like me in general -- is one I don't share. It's one reason why anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion groups make no sense to me. What a gay couple do as far as living together has no effect on me or my marriage. Someone having an abortion does not affect my decisions or choices to have or not have children. Until someone tries to force a particular set of actions on me, it's a personal thing. We MAKE it political when we try to set up a single interpretation, a single set of acceptable actions, and then enforce it on all and sundry.

I just don't get it. If there's anything I think is universal, it's personal, individual responsibility and the idea that what one person does serves as an example to others who may chose or not chose to do the same. I try to live so that should anyone imitate me, it wouldn't worry me. I face the consequences of my actions, I take action with the thought of consequences in mind, and even if I don't forsee what happens, I try hard not to shy from the results. Yes, there are terrible people in the world who would hurt me or kill me for no other reason than I exist, but I do not choose to emulate them, nor am I compelled to emulate them.

We're a contradictory bunch, we human beings, capable of holding directly conflicting ideas in our heads and living as if both ideas were true. That, being born, and being subject to death may be all that really unites us as a species.

Maybe I just lack the particular kind of social awareness required for political interpretation of media and messages. Maybe I'm thickskinned and not easily insulted. Maybe I'm not smart enough to grasp the larger purposes of whichever "them" is being touted as the latest big evil. Mostly, I'm concerned with the micro, not the macro. I'd rather live as an example than harangue others to do or not do. I'm not interested in proving I am right to others in words. I'm also not very interested in labeling others, insulting them, or trying to control them other than to deflect their attempts to control me (which becomes a rather spiraling discussion in itself.

It's all in how you look at things. I don't really want to pull myself into the kinds of contortions it takes to get my panties into a twist.

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