The Root of Ideological Conflict in the Subject/Object Split


Ideological conflict is rooted in the fact that our existence depends upon the dynamic interaction of two apparently opposite truths. According to one truth we are matter; according to the other, mind.

Ideologies are attempts to reduce this duality to a unity. According to the first truth (that we are matter), we are ruled by what is; according to the second (that we are mind), we are ruled by what ought.

These ideologies are generally appealing exactly because they are false. They provide the certainty of an answer, a resolution of the duality. This not only brings individual psychological relief from the anxiety of uncertainty, but also lays the grounds for mass acceptance, and the accompanying rush of mobilization. Drinking the kool-aid with your friends is a party.

I’ve been spurred to thinking about this lately by watching the posts of some trans friends, who being North of sixty years old decided that they were, in reality, women. These posts, to my eye, display a rather glaring degree of emotional escapism; an overwhelming desire, in the face of mortality and the galling limitations of mundane existence, to escape into a new identity; to go back to puberty and roll it all forward again, in a skirt and blouse.

As Camille Paglia has often noted, this gender escapism (my term) is a reliable sign of the apocalyptic breakdown of a society, where fantasies of ought eat away the foundations of is and the whole thing collapses under its own weight.

I can look on this desire to escape with genuine compassion, getting pretty old myself, and seeing the writing on the wall of my own masculinity. Glory days will pass you by, even if they were never all that glorious to begin with. Still, it’s delusional, and no matter how much we all agree to torture logic, it will never cease to be so.

Except for what I’d call the transcendent nature of awareness. There is a potential freedom in this madness, in this liberation from not only gender roles, but from the physical body itself. That, I think, is one of the dual truths that I began with. Awareness, and hence identity, really does transcend gender. Except not in the ego-gratifying way that activists and fantasists pretend and wish for.

We can’t simply roll back our biological histories and start again from puberty, or conception. And demanding everyone talk as if we can, on the belief that all reality is socially constructed, won’t succeed in making it so. Indeed, the very categories of gender won’t survive the process of detaching them entirely from biological sex.

More generally, what ought to be cannot even be articulated without reference to what is. Hence, the attempt to choose ought over is, to resolve the anxiety-inducing duality by choosing one and denying the other, is doomed to failure.

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