This blog acts like a diary, where I write things I have encountered as a way of thinking them through. There’s a term for this, and it’s something to do with hermeneutics, but it also makes me sound like a wanker. So I’ll just call it musing.
The first thing is the Biosphere2. Humans have had a crack at making People-Terrariums for years, but I really like the Biosphere2 example because it demonstrates how fiendishly difficult it is to account for many different processes and their constituent tipping points;
“To grow food, they put in very rich soils, which contained a great amount of organic material that bacteria consumed,″ said Tilman. “The bacteria used a lot of oxygen, dropping the oxygen levels. The bacteria released carbon dioxide, which became chemically bound up in the cement. That broke the cycle.″ from APNews
I just think this is a fabulous example of how incredibly tricky gas transfer is, and how the myriad processes of natural systems exploit and limit their actions to maintain homeostasis.
Another thing that caught my eye this week was the seemingly endless blathering about trans women in sport, which is being imported writ large from American domestic politics, as a way to bolster the Liberal party’s chances in the upcoming election. It’s foul, there’s no other way to put it, but after overhearing yet another group of people ruminate on the issue and decide incontrovertibly that trans women are biologically male (and therefore should not participate in the women’s category) I mused upon the deeper symbolism of this issue. After all, it just seems to crazy that an issue that literally affects almost no one in Australia (professional athletes) should have such purchase. Why is that?
it’s easy to just run the argument – ‘it’s the same old story of demonising one vulnerable group to garner support’ and I think there’s truth to that. But I also think there’s something uniquely durable about this issue.
And then I hopped in my car and heard someone on the radio talking about popularism and politics – the now well-trammelled distinction between the globalists and the localists (there are multiple different terms) but what struck me is that modern politics seems divided between the elites, who include the ruling bureaucratic class, and everyone else.
The ‘everyone else’ class, thinks of itself as regular, sensible people who have ordinary, mainstream beliefs. They’re not idealogues or iconoclasts, fringe extremists or anti vaxers. They are just normal people. And the trans women in sport thing tracks very well with this group because it draws an incredibly clear line between the elites – those engaged in intellectual and/or bureaucratic work, and those who work in the ‘real’ industries, doing things with their physical hands. In other words, elites use their brains, everyone else uses their brains AND bodies.
This might seem abstruse but I think it makes a real difference, because when you say to someone who is a plumber or a mechanic, ‘Anyone who identifies as a woman is a woman’ what you are saying is, ‘the only thing that matters is how you think about reality – your thoughts about it are the only germane thing’. Being a petrol-head, ex mechanic I follow a lot of car-topics on social media, and I’ve seen multiple memes online of, ‘this door panel identifies as grey’.
This kind of statement represents a type of privilege – the ability to recast what is physically present as irrelevant. It is the ultimate mind-over-matter, and to those people whose lives are constrained by physical reality, either because they still live with the consequences of their physical reality – women who look after children and struggle to provide paid and unpaid labour, and everyone who works with their bodies and minds, this is a a sign of elitist parlour games. It is the relegation of the real, physical world. And it’s also at the heart of the poisonous political division between two groups.
The elites think those who think trans women aren’t the same as natal women are regressive, stupid, cruel, old fashioned, possibly religious zealots, definitely morons who are borderline Nazis.
The non elites think the elites are delusional, with a pseudo-religious disregard for the physical world. And, on top of this, they are shamed for their straightforward reading of the situation, which further feeds into the division.
Both sides seek to ossify their own positions, in relation to one another. This is a dangerous game to play. Max Weber, writing more than 100 years ago, argued against the dangers of bureaucracy that would find its own logic, formed through nothing more than its own self-generating legitimacy through language.
Casting the elites as maintaining a regime of knowing, an epistemology, that is decoupled from physical reality does not bode well for the discussion on climate change, where the impacts are felt on the ground, but a higher level of knowledge and understanding of its processes are only gleaned through ‘the elites’ – highly developed science. This is what disturbs me about this, ‘trans debate’ (aside from the obvious fact that trans people are getting shafted for political gain). It is an attempt to recast the relationship between ‘elite knowledge’ and the physical world, to question the legitimacy of those who work with their brains.
I will leave that there.