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28 October 2020

The 3B's and Politics

I've written before about the 3 B's approach to understanding religion. Essentially, it argues that we should think about religion as a combination of believing, behaving, and belonging. All religions can be understood to fiddle with those three dials. For example, Evangelical Protestantism sets the knobs for believing and behaving very high, while belonging is fairly low; Reform Judaism sets the knob for belonging at 11, but turns down believing and behaving. In other words, Evangelicals are definitely about having the right beliefs about Jesus but don't care about what denomination or congregation they are a part of, and Jews won't bat an eye if you're an atheist as long as you belong to the tribe. The cultural dominance of Protestantism broadly has hampered the study of religion by focusing too narrowly on believing. We gain predictive power by paying attention to belonging, in particular.

I think that we could gain a lot to apply this same approach to understanding politics. How do people set their relative knobs for political ideas (believing), political participation (behaving), and party identification (belonging)? We've been hampered by an insistence on the importance of political ideology (i.e. conservative vs. progressive) for too long. People's beliefs are often internally inconsistent and at times not in their own best interest (e.g. working-class folks against social benefits programs). If we take party identification as belonging more seriously, these kind of dissonances become less perplexing because people may have the believing dial turned down and the belonging dial turned up. This is quite evident here in the South, where I live, among Republicans. Many have internalized this label in the same way that they have their loyalty to their favorite college football team (which is to say to the bone). They care far more about their "team" than they do about actual policy. Instead of being dismissive of that, we should take it seriously, just as they do.

24 September 2020

Sentimentalizing Downs

For some time now, I've noticed something disturbing on social media. There are countless memes and several accounts/pages that are devoted to what I'll call the sentimentalization of Down Syndrome. (I will not link to them here, but they are easily discoverable.) On the surface, the content seems innocuous and heartwarming: cutesy photographs of young children with the physical characteristics typical of trisomy 21. Presumably, those who administer, contribute, disseminate, and "like" the content do so at least in part to destigmatize the condition. In that much, it seems admirable; however, it may have a darker component. I see parallels in the similar treatment of young, black boys. White women (and, yes, it is racialized and gendered because "social construction") will coo and ahh at pictures of black boys, but it is these same white women who will contribute to the negative, racist outcomes for the black males once they stop being cute and start to be perceived as dangerous.

Treating marginalized peoples in the same way that you would a puppy dog does nothing to normalize and everything to perpetuate otherness. The full personhood of those with Downs can be achieved only through full humanization, not through sentimentalization.

AgSIT and Lifecourse

Here are some somewhat disjointed thoughts on Banding Together by Jen Lena and Is Rock Becoming The New Jazz? from Rick Beato.

For the tl;dr, skip to 10:32.

I think Rick makes an interesting point. Is what Lena's claim about dominant trajectories really just a life-course effect? Is it that the audience (i.e. the genre community) ages and takes their music with them? How much is the genre trajectory really just the lifecourse trajectory?

Rick calls it "demographic level."
  • Avant-garde is the young, whippersnappers breaking rules that they haven't fully learned yet.
  • Scene-based is youth settling into geographic stability and creating their own communities.
  • Industry-based is the capitalistic exploitation of adults as they start careers and become economically stable.
  • Traditionalist is the nostalgic institutionalization of the music of those who are older.

Lifecourse Stages*
  • Stage I: Achieving Independence (16-23)
    • Transition from lives centered psychologically and emotionally on parents to lives in which we stand on our own.
  • Stage II: Balancing Family and Work Commitments (18-40)
    • Stable worker, partner/spouse, and parent roles with the challenge of establishing oneself firmly in these roles and forgoing other options.
    • emerging adulthood
  • Stage III: Performing Adult Roles (35-70)
    • An occupational plateau for many employed adults, who seek other challenges such as trying to be good workers, parents, and spouses.
  • Stage IV: Coping with Loss (60-90)
    • The central challenge during this period is to cope with a series of losses, including the loss of one’s occupational role through retirement, loss of significant relationships through death, and the eventual loss of health, energy, and independence.

* - DeLamater, John and Daniel Myers. 2007. Social Psychology, 6th ed. Thomson Wadsworth: Belmont, CA. P. 440

Precarity and Exploitation in Relation to Prestige and Celebrity

David Arditi has a new book coming out that looks at how unscripted (i.e. "reality") shows, like The Voice, exploit musicians who are particularly vulnerable because of their uniquely precarious situation. You can see his ASA presentation on the topic here.

His work inspired a question for me: Why do we tolerate such extreme precarity in a field (i.e. music) that is so beloved? Shouldn't we want to protect cultural producers more than typical workers?

I raised this question in a senior-level course recently, and a student pointed out the similarity in the precarity and exploitation of minor league baseball players. Musicians and professional athletes do indeed hold a unique role for us with celebrity and prestige. Could this be an explanation and not a paradox?

Hypothesis: We are more tolerant/ignorant of the precarity and exploitation of workers in fields that are more prestigious and celebrated.

Anyway, it seems like an interesting area for research.

Voting for Trump Makes You a Bad Person

Voting for Trump is immoral. It is unamerican. It is unchristian. If you haven't already arrived at this conclusion over the last 1343 days, there is nothing I can say to convince you.

Trump is a bad person and a poor president.

If you vote for him, you are complicit.
It is not enough to just not vote for Trump. Not voting for his opponent (because we have a terrible two-party system) is the same as casting half a vote for him. 

Voting for Biden does not make one a good person, but voting for Trump most definitely makes one a bad person.

By all means, though, give me a signal that you plan to vote for Trump so I can unfriend you, both in real life and on social media. I will not pretend, in the name of some imagined civility, that reasonable people can disagree on this. There is nothing to disagree over. This is not partisan. There is nothing partisan about racism, misogyny, and authoritarianism.