People are losing their malnourished, preservative-laden shit over two humans who rejected their given identity for one they prefered. Obviously the notion of changing a personal feature as fundamental as your sex or race is bound to confuse or bemuse others, but our collective spazz out over the rational decisions of two people who harmed nobody tells us two things about our society:
1. We suck at minding our own business.
2. We suck at seeing past external identifiers to the person within.
Too many people who had nothing to do with either situation suddenly felt an impulse to express their opinions about both situations, and often these opinions contained personal attacks or the Walmart-Shopper version of a witty criticism such as this kitten who had no idea it was entering into the stupidity of the “American” ideology echo chamber. On face value most people might see this argument and think “Yeah, you can’t just say you’re something you are not, that makes sense”, but the larger issue at play here is philosophical, and because it is philosophical it is also subjective. This is where our social dialog prolapses and drags across the already sticky theater floor that is our collective internet consciousness.
In an attempt to soothe your increasingly fractured sense of self I am going to argue this entire issue into oblivion on the following axioms:
a) That we can not “play god” is provably false
b) That we ought not “play god” is not supported by evidence
c) That genetics are an inscribed unalterable fate/sentence is provably false
d) That it is almost solely the religious community that refuses to move past what is in essence tribalism in favor of a new character-driven era that extols the virtue of healthfulness over conformity
God wants us to play!
See? There is an example of a statement that cannot apply to our general discourse, because it is a nonsense, or empty, statement. God is not a thing but rather a symbol(such as infinity) for something else that humans stand in awe of(nature). To ancients god was the weather and its domain the sky. Later god was in plants, then animals and now today god seems to be living somewhere in the depths of a boson. Anyhow, the religiously god fearing sector of humanity, which is still frighteningly large even at the peak of our connectedness, would like very much for things to be predestined and conscripted by some sort of beneficent tyrant, even when that tyrant’s conscription is gang-rape, mutilation, torture, cancer, getting eaten by bears, et al., it’s just a part of god’s plan and fuck the police and a 5-0 too if anyone tries to go against god’s will.
Axiom A is sufficiently proven by history, and if you need me to tell you why or how, you have been spending too much time in front of the television. So let’s move forward with the knowledge that, if we so choose, we certainly can “play god”. However, axiom B is ready to annoy us.
We OUGHT to play!
How else do you think we developed propulsion capable of lifting 4.4 million pounds off the ground, through our atmosphere, and out into space? We “played god”. And today in the fields of biotechnology, or the more rhetorically handy stem cell research, we are facing push-back from people who still believe that god wants us to remain inept and just take whatever comes our way feebly, and then praise him for it. Consider this snippet from a $10,000-worded article(found here):
… the undermining of old-established cultural structures does not only lead to changes in the image of man, but also in the image of God. One might argue that it is not surprising that these images correlate. Nevertheless, religious individuals cannot be reassured by the anti-religious assertion that images of God are mere projections of anthropology on the hereafter. They have to account for the way they keep up their confidence in God, who helps them to handle individual and social contingency. Just as Bonhoeffer in his famous prison letters (Bonhoeffer 1997), Drees finds that whenever this confidence is shaken, the “playing God”-reproach against modern technologies is based on an inadequate concept of God as a “God of the Gaps”. As soon as such puzzles are solved, God is marginalized again—and those who entrench themselves behind the “playing God”-reproach in the discussion of modern technologies actually feel this. In order to avoid the challenge and to preserve one’s own image of God and the usually associated cultural (moral, ritual and political) procedures, one turns against the new possibilities and its representatives with emphatically pronounced aggression.
But despair not, guardians of the voice of reason, for in that very article(I know you didn’t read it), the author very keenly addresses the rational conservatives as well:
Perhaps, or even obviously, there are certain limits to seemingly unlimited scientific progress. Transgressing such limits is not only practically unwise, but ethically irresponsible. Two kinds of reasons can be formulated for an expectable or even unavoidable rejection: the technologies in question could be, following the terminology of ethics, consequentially irresponsible, i.e. their consequences would be unacceptable. In such a case, the risks are high and likely to arise. In another scenario, a technology could be deontologically reprehensible, i.e. certain duties would be violated and the actions themselves would have to be considered objectionable.
How these two facets of the same human notion play in concern of Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal are immediately obvious. The status quo, Walmart shopping mental inbreeders of society are going to assert that which is already proven false: you cannot play god. You can. Even though genetically Jenner is still male, our collective gasping occurred at the instance we perceived “him” as “her”, affirming the transformation. Confused men were suddenly vexed by the internal quest to sexualize Caitlyn knowing that just a few surgeries ago that was Bruce.
Clearly the “playing god” aspect of our collective reaction and analysis of the Jenner situation does not directly translate to that of Dolezal, as Rachel merely defied her identity through performance and cosmetics whereas Caitlyn went for a full biological overhaul, but the sensitivities that each violated are the same. People don’t like it when you show them how fragile our perception of reality is. It makes going back to that shitty job tomorrow much more difficult because it points to an internalized meaning of life over an external one, and that flies in the face of everything “Americans” are about, but we would still be pissing and shitting in the streets without people who take the world for granted and then reform it in their own way.
Axiom B is sufficiently proven.
Genetics will be just another thing we manipulate in the near future!
Understand that when I say ‘near’ I mean warp-drive near. We’re gonna do it, just not now, and possibly my grandkids won’t either, but it will happen. As inevitable as non-carbon based alien lifeforms, human genetic engineering is already possible and will be somehow accepted and/or regulated and/or banned in the near future. Axiom C was sufficiently proven before I even listed it, and if you need me to explain it you have spent too much time shopping at football-princess.com.
So it’s not that we lack the ability to play with genes. We’re doing it right now, and as mapping, modeling, computing all get stronger the ability to play will only get jazzier(or SCARIER if you are anti). This means that in the future if you want to occupy the biological space of another race or sex, it shouldn’t be a problem. Unless it’s too expensive, or it’s banned. The writers of Star Trek seem to think it will be banned, but their predictions are sometimes silly(such as in the future you will always be locked out of helm controls whenever and for whatever reason). What we lack is the moral courage to look nature in the testicles and say “I want ovaries”, and to have everyone be alright with that. Or, in the case of Dolezal, rather than simply perm her hair and expertly craft a certain wardrobe, she could simply become “black”. This would not make her anymore “African-American” or historically black than Jenner is historically(experientially, meaningfully) a female. These are simply changes of course, not new identities; since a person is the sum of their experiences, no new “person” is created except in the minds of the transitioned persons and perceptions of those who know them.
Tribalism still chokes human progress, and not in the fun naked way
Here, at last, is the conclusion that I feel is most aptly reached about our social reaction to Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal: we are a bunch of spazzing insecure idiots. Past heresies include believing the world is round, not wanting the tip of your penis cut off, accidentally tripping on hallucinogenic mold spores, and not wanting to be a slave. In other words, WE SUCK AT ACCEPTING THE RIGHTS OF OTHER BEINGS. The reason for this is tribalism, OR, more accurately today, neotribalism.
Life as a human is way to scary to tackle alone. In order to combat this we do a very reasonable and at the same time idiotic thing: we surround ourselves with people we perceive to be “like” us. We cordon ourselves off into little groups and often battle each other either physically or rhetorically, largely to make us feel better about the massive and unrelenting despair that uncertainty about one’s existence will leave you with. No harm, no foul.. when you think of it that way. Sadly, the gift of the internet was bestowed upon humanity and the first things we did with it were further the objectification of women, reinforce our external identities(we share more pictures of things we like than discuss ideas or inner struggles) and form new, massive tribes. And just like those of biblical times, we are blindly murdering, mutilating, pillaging(sometimes not even metaphorically) each other in the name of “group think” or a feeling of belonging. So you have people who react with hostility towards Dolezal for pretending to be from one tribe when she was really from another as if it was some form of espionage of her assumed tribe or an insult to her “real” tribe, yet nobody talks about her successes within her assumed role in her assumed tribe under her assumed identity. She was good at her job and fought for social justices on behalf of her assumed tribe. People are not attacking her for anything real, she didn’t fuck anything up or hurt people to get where she wanted to be. The perceived deception that she perpetrated on both tribes was one of externality that shouldn’t really matter to anyone. Honestly, that you even care at all about Jenner or Dolezal says that you have some issues to work out.
Our social behavior in America right now is not even gross, it’s disgusting. We destroy public figures, worship then eat celebrities, pray for the deaths of politicians, etc, all in the name of a cultural righteousness(or purity…. ish) that we only imagine to be real. This is how gay kids get strung up in trees and pummeled with rocks. How black people get sprayed with fire hoses. How dreamers, inventors, and visionaries get executed by the church. Et al.
To summarize briefly, here is a one-sentence explanation of everything you need to know about Jenner and Dolezal:
A white girl pretended to be black and was good at it while a famous male surgically transitioned to female, and even though they are both in apparent violation of what their genes still say to this day, judging people on what is external over what is internal is wrong, and they deserve at least some small amount of praise for challenging our immature diaper shitting fascism.