Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series "Newsprint Nonpareil"
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15 August 2013—From the Geil Archive: Introduction
15 August 2013—China's Lunar Calendar 2013 08-15
15 August 2012—Rural Religion in China (11)
15 August 2011—Middles: By a Nose
|[a] Die Zeit 2014 08-14|
When am I really "me"?
This week's cover story in Die Zeit is fascinating, and every one of us has thought about the question many times.
|[b] Courage is social RF|
It is also an example of how terribly shallow, flawed, and practically useless most of Western thinking is when it comes to questions of the self.
Why am I being so harsh? Well, because I teach social and cultural theory every year, and I am exasperated by the inability of Westerners to get beyond the idea that we are made up of "essential selves," and that we drift this way and that from what we're really like.
And, again, why so much venom?
Precisely because thirteen years ago a friend (a cultural anthropologist) reminded me of how stupid I was being in describing someone as "not really like that."
What a wake-up call that was, and I have been thinking even harder about the matter in the years since about the implications of "really me" and other scattered behaviors.
|[c] Relational RF|
Mind you, I'm not saying that Die Zeit has it wrong. In fact, my quick glance at the article tells me that they are at least interested in addressing the questions I am mentioning.
Still, let's not kid ourselves. How many of us in the West do not think this way most of our lives?
Well, there are other ways to consider the matter, and they became even more clear to me the last few days as I have been writing a series of lectures about the mythology of East Asia and Oceania. You see, anger is a relationship (or a series of them).
|[d] Chock full o' stuff RF|
You are not "an angry person"—I'm not sure anyone is, but that's another matter for another time. Anger is situational. We often talk, too, about people who are "foolish."
The more you consider the matter, though, the more you might see that even "foolishness" is often (mostly, I would argue) situational and relational.
If we only started (as Papa Durkheim admonished us) with the social and relational, we would see things in very different ways. And when we did see "angry people" the power of it all would just about bowl us over.
What we do instead is trivialize almost everything by making people into little pockets of "essence."
I guess I'm just a picky person.
Back to the article. For all my frustrations, I can't turn away.
|[e] Relational RF|