Creating identities

A man develops a craving for child pornography, and acts on it. Later, he is diagnosed as having a brain tumour. When it is removed, his craving disappears. When his craving returns, the tumour has recurred too. Now, when the brain tumour is first mentioned, attitudes towards the man change dramatically. Instead of blaming him for his behaviour, people rightly blame the tumour, which of course he didn’t choose to have. But what if he hadn’t had the tumour? What if his addiction had come about only because of his genes and environment? The fact is, he’d be no more blameworthy.

This is the most emotive case Raoul Martinez could have picked. Why not kleptomania?

A prisoner no more deserves his sentence than the judge who passes it. Just as we are getting concerned, he says, this doesn’t mean that we should never imprison or punish certain people. Whew.

He is also emotive on culture. An Israeli points a gun, a Palestinian throws a rock. If they had been swapped at birth, so that each child would be raised in the other’s culture. In time, would each not end up fighting for the other side—a different flag, a different religion, a different ideology? No one would be surprised by this outcome. Again, an emotive case, a well-known intractable conflict. Why not, an Episcopalian could have been a Unitarian? Yes, we do not choose our genes or our culture. So?

Our culture shapes us even if we rebel against it, he says. Noticing that, we are better able to choose. I am like this because my parents were the same or the opposite. What would I be if there were more alternatives?

When considering how we are with others, this is a powerfully communal argument. We should all look after each other. The bell tolls for thee. There but for the Grace of God. He wants it to be revolutionary. Throughout history, people have been conditioned to defend oppressive ideologies, support destructive systems, and believe downright lies…we need to question the forces that have shaped us… materialistic values saturating advertising have a toxic effect on our happiness…we need to question the information we receive, but also to ask what information has been left out. Who benefits? Not us. To stay in touch with reality we need to be able to make discoveries and to question the agendas behind our culture, education, media, religious institutions, and the economic and political ideologies that underpin our lives.

All good stuff. So, should I buy the book?

Raoul Martinez Ted Talk.

13 thoughts on “Creating identities

  1. Yes, but.
    Yes thinking critically is essential, but so is thinking critically about our criticism, eg, a snotty college kid learns oppression studies and thinks he can see through the structures of society, when really he is just parroting what his professor told him, and he is no closer to wisdom. He has just substituted one naïve faith for another.


        • People who use that cleverness to mock and tear down. Women’s studies and Queer studies are so much more than “Oppression studies”, a term coined to mock and damage academic research.

          But yeah. “People like you” is the kind of language social justice warriors like me excoriate. It was very early in the morning. I was commenting at Trump Tweet time.


          • OK, I get it.
            I’m not denying the feelings of other people, but yes, some analytical tools are worthy of mockery.
            Don’t feel the need to qualify your comment, the internet full of sharp elbows, I don’t mind.


            • We have different ways of putting it. Queer studies is liberating. Yes, it’s okay to be me- and I don’t feel like that easily. Imperiously, I instruct you to Check your privilege! You might not like that, so the term “Oppression studies”, mocking, reduces the threat.

              I looked for that photograph, and found it illustrating an article on Mansplaining, so you have some interest in my SJW philosophy- perhaps even a little respect for it! What do you look like, really? Apart from “Handsome”?


            • If you told me to check my privilege I would laugh.
              Modern thought is rife with systems that resemble a parlor game: here is my analytical tool, say feminism, Marxism, or Freudianism, and here is my phenomena: the nuclear family, the banking system, professional sports, whatever. The trick of the game is to take phenomena, crank it through your analytical tool, and say voila: tent revivals (or whatever the object of analysis is ) are nothing other than a manifestation of the Oedipus Complex! (or the Will to Power or the Patriarchy etc).
              Entirely worthy of mockery.


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