The only thing I know for sure is that I will say one thing one day only to second guess it the next. Thinking about Saint Patrick’s today this sunny afternoon, I wonder, who am I to rain on their parade? 300,000 people let off some steam and to my knowledge, no one got hurt or maimed. Maybe it’s good just to let people blow off some steam every now and then. Why am I such a killjoy?
My second guessing is probably the reason why I would make a horrible academic. When I engage with theory, I get a strong emotional reaction to it. For example, I am wading through the feminist theorist Donna Haraway right now. I cannot intellectually engage with this material at all. All I know is that I instinctively disagree with her on the ability of people to think their way into an altered state of being. I instinctively disagree with her attack on the family. In reading the brief biography of her life, I learn that she married a man around 1980, thereabouts, and that he turned out to be gay. Then she ended up living in Healdsburg, California, with her gay husband, his lover, and somebody called Rusten. A commune of sorts. And I am left wondering about all the practical questions that the author of this Donna Haraway book left unanswered, and because they’re unanswered, maybe Haraway gets credit for being more trailblazing than she really is.
For example, was she ever sexually attracted to her gay husband? Was he sexually attracted to her? Did they have sex? And what about this Rusten person? Why isn’t Rusten’s gender ever identified? Were Harway and Rusten lovers?
Several years into the Healdsburg commune, both Haraway’s husband (by now, ex-husband) and his lover were dead from AIDS.
I am not attempting to say anything here. I just can’t come to terms with theory books when — even in their attempt to provide helpful biographical material — leave obvious questions unanswered. Because the thing is, people don’t generally think of their lives in conceptual terms. They think in tangible realities.
They think, for example, of all the orphans in Romania who were emotionally stunted because they never had the physical love of a mother or father. They might think of their own life — of being denied the love of a parent or another family member — and it might well effect their comportment for the rest of their mortal days. These examples illustrate to most of us that families are pretty important. Then Haraway comes along saying this:
“I am sick to death of bonding through kinship and ‘the family,’ and I long for models of solidarity and human unity and difference rooted in friendship, work, partially shared purposes, intractable collective pain, inescapable mortality, and persistent hope. It is time to theorize an ‘unfamiliar unconsious,’ a different primal scene, where everything does not stem from the dramas of identity and reproduction. Ties through blood — including blood recast in the coin of genes and information — have been blood enough already.”
I peruse that and then I think, “Who the hell are you? How dare you conclude that it’s time to theorize anything? Based on what evidence?” Just because blood has been spilt, you think we need to try something else? There is plenty that’s noble and beautiful about the family. Indeed, let’s read about one of the biggest tragedies in recent history — the Holocaust — and see whether the sacrifices people made for their wives and children were examples of “bonding through kinship” that could justifiably make someone sick. I call a whole load of bullshit on this theorizing, Dr. Haraway!
Yes, there are many things that I do NOT know for sure, but I know that one of the most important and enduring human qualities is the love for a partner, a child, a mother or father, and that this love is often the only thing that fortifies us against the many miseries of daily existence. You will rarely find a human behaving more altruistically than when he or she is doing something for somebody they love.