Friday, 19 September 2014

Mea Culpa ad Culpam Neminis

Giving a blog entry a Latin title is probably a really good way to minimise readership.

There was an argument in this house this morning.  In fact, it's been noted by outsiders that for many years now (translation:  it's not my fault), visitors find that the sound of an argument is usually what wakes them in the mornings.  It's our much less stressful version of an alarm clock.

Nowadays of course, our anchor in reality also known as my daughter (not the imaginary one who is, let's face it, not particularly useful in that respect) is gone, so the rest of us are left to explore our inner Tasmanian Devils in peace.  Hence, probably, the floaty nature of the beginning of this paragraph.

One of the notable things about our arguments, and probably most arguments, is that they're often exacerbated by the tones of voice we use, to the extent that before the catastrophe I used to make a point of wearing a tracksuit with "TONE" emblazoned across the chest some days just to bring people's attention to that fact.  I don't know why it said that, but it was useful for that purpose among others.  It might have said it on the bum too or something.

Leaving that aside though, this morning's argument, like many others here, boils down to the question of responsibility versus fatalism, and as such is also intergenerational in origin.  The younger participant in this argument held that they could not be seen as responsible for what they regarded as a mental health issue, whereas the older participant held that they had more control over the situation than they claimed.  It's very telling that it was that way round.

I apologise in advance to any QUILTBAG person who might be reading this.  I don't question your own competence in deciding how you see yourself, and what follows is a highly personal view, more about me than you.  Nonetheless I couldn't see how the categories of homosexuality or heterosexuality would apply to me.  Please don't take offence, as none is intended.

Before the legalisation of sexual activity between male-assigned persons in the late 1960s, a condition often referred to inaccurately as homosexuality, there was clearly an idea, enshrined in law, that homosexuals chose to indulge themselves or not, and even that it was something they chose to do rather than opting for that equally arcane orientation referred to as heterosexuality.  The idea that it is or is not a choice is in fact a complete red herring because needless to say it's no more immoral than choosing to use a mouse with one's non-dominant hand, but the idea of responsibility is clearly important to people in deciding whether homophobia is rational or not.  There is a tide in the affairs of apes here, or perhaps just among members of Homo sapiens in contemporary Western culture, away from the idea of personal responsibility for circumstances and towards determinism and fatalism regarding our actions.  Each of us, substantially depending on the generation into which we are born along with our social backgrounds, is liable to attribute a certain portion of human activity to that for which we can be held responsible and a certain other portion to causation which does not pass through our conscious minds.  We will also look upwards to previous generations and see them as more judgemental than us and downwards to later ones and see them as irresponsible, and that holds regardless of the generation into which we are born.

This is what I saw this morning as a non-participant in the argument between two other family members who shall remain nameless.  Each regarded the other's behaviour as reflecting an inappropriate attribution of degree of responsibility and that was the philosophical core of the argument.

What troubles me about all of this is the relativism involved.  People do generally tend to believe that their view of the world and human behaviour is accurate and of course the competitors in this morning's rather dyspeptic sport were no exceptions.  However, clearly the times in which they were born were instrumental in forming their opinions on these matters.

The question is, then, how do we decide who's right?  I am as much a product of Generation X as Sarada is of Generation Jones, and my opinions and hers differ.  Is there no truth at all?  Is it socially constructed?  That doesn't seem to be working out.  So how do we decide what's an appropriate attribution of responsibilities?  Answers in a comment please (which because they're on the internet amount to postcards).