Eskimos and the New Genders
I remember hearing about ten years ago, from my professor of biological and cultural anthropology, that people had many names for the things most important to them. She was specifically talking about Inuits, and how survival in the Alaskan wilderness brought them to recognize many different kinds of snow -- there were maybe fifty terms, if I remember correctly -- and how recognizing the different kinds of snow was useful to them. When you are surrounded by something and live within it, it is what you know: to the Eskimo, the snow is a matter of life and death, and so snow is too broad a term for him to use. He knows it better than us, because snow is a great part of his existence.
The same could be said for the likes of botanists and theologians inventing bizarre and cliquish terms, getting together and speaking their own language. If the human mind has an interest in something, it will elaborate upon it. And I suppose my professor, however wrong she was about marriage and monkeys and mankind and nearly everything touching upon our existence, was wise enough to say that we only seriously elaborate upon the things we love or use most. When there is no interest in something, there is no complex language to describe it. It remains as simple as necessary.
And so I'm not surprised that Facebook has announced a massive revision of its gender definitions -- not surprised because I have been dealing with gay leftists for years, and so I know how one-dimensional they can be. Among my (even straight) leftist acquaintances, I rarely see any argument with passion -- and many times no arguments at all -- except when they argue about gay rights, and I hear the conversations of gay activists, and they seem to view the world through kind of a gay lens: not as men who happen to be attracted to other men, which is a reasonable way to view themselves, but as though being gay were the most perilous and adventurous and meaningful thing that could possibly happen to a person. One might even be led to think it was the only thing that could happen to a person. And when something becomes central in a person's life, as shown above with Inuits and theologians, they tend to become obnoxious when they talk about it.
This is the tragedy of the gay rights activist -- to be a human being, with all the vices and virtues of a demi-god, and a God-given intellect superior to all of earthly creation, and then spend time discussing whether or not we're queer or gay or gender-fluid. Being gay isn't studying the plant kingdom, which is frequently helpful, or thinking about our eternal destiny, which is always important; and being confused about whether you are a man or a woman is easily resolved. If someone was born with a penis, then he is a man. If he thinks he isn't a man, he is delusional.
It's strange that we can live in a society so enamored with the plain facts of nature, and then, when we encounter the concept of gender, spend our time discussing whether or not those facts are meaningful. Perhaps we are leaving the age of science. Perhaps this is the new age of unicorns and faeries after all. Maybe we've decided to believe in things that aren't, and pretend about Odin and Ba'al and all kinds of little, unimportant, backward hearth gods -- except today the gods are little genders that can be invented and redesigned at will. We fool ourselves into believing that we can be what we aren't and that we should be however we feel -- unless we believe that we should all feel as we should, in which case we shouldn't.
I can think of nothing more natural and human than the idea that things ought to be a certain way; it could even be said that the best we can do as humans isn’t to be perfect, but to recognize when we aren’t. If we never had an ideal, we would never have anything to reach for -- yet I can understand why some people are upset about the gender debate, and want to tell us that men and women are free from the expectations of gender. It's entirely possible to be mistaken about what is manly and what is effeminate, and to mislabel and insult people wrongly, and sex and romance are a very important part of our lives. But that doesn't mean we simply accept the way things are and move on, and never say that boys and girls should grow into men and women (respectively, of course). A child is born illiterate and selfish and completely incapable of doing anything useful; one could say he is a mess. We don't invent terms for all his flaws and shortcomings and misconceptions, and then think that because we have labeled them, we have resolved the problem and there is nowhere to go. I also have yet to see anyone revise Facebook's layout, to allow anyone to admit that he or she is romantically interested in children. If we're to accept the way we feel, then certainly this should have been included.
How strange, to live in a society so enthralled by acceptance that we've lost sight of what we should be and what we might be -- in other words, that, in our progressivism on the subject of sex, we have denied the existence of healthy sexual development. And when I see a man who could have been manly (or, to put it another way, reasonable, self-controlled, and concerned with serious things) calling himself queer and talking celebrity gossip and fashion all day, I wonder to myself whether he could have been a George Washington or maybe a Montaigne.
I don't expect all men to attain to greatness, but I do know that if we never expect anything of others, and the same of ourselves, we will never be anything great. However positively men attempt to portray it, we already have dozens of labels for that hopeless kind of thinking -- and all of them, in whatever language they are found, are negative.