The Politics of Not

15 Oct



From “The Sneetches,” by Dr. Seuss

I was thinking today about how much of politics seems to center around what we’d like people to believe we’re not. “We’re not abusers,” that’s a big one. “We’re not like those people.” We’re not overly restrictive, we’re not overly lax. We’re not extremists, we’re not like those who say we are extremists.

Or people may not eat meat, or not eat various and sundry other foods. If we are women, we may want to be thought not to be women who submit to men, or maybe even we would like to say we are not even women, though we know that when it gets right down to it, you are what you are.

But what you are seems less important all the time in this culture. With the Internet, we have a whole new set of ways to explore appearing to be what we’re not, or alternately, if we are less ambitious, to merely trumpet our not-being in various venues. People I am less well acquainted with may inform the world at large that they are not suffering from various social phobias. A more advanced form involves announcing you’re not into purity politics, this latter being seen as an essentialist way of saying what one is not.

Our love of announcing what we’re not is making it seem odd and old-fashioned and perhaps even suspect when people write about what they are. What’s their agenda? we ask ourselves. What are they hiding? Or, even better: Why are they like we are not? We shall have something to say about this. And we do.

So, little by little, what we are disappears behind closed doors, into our more interior landscapes, and our public life turns into endless warfare between various Nots. And this we call activism.




One Response to “The Politics of Not”

  1. Raine 2017/10/15 at 4:30 pm #

    Thank you for these deeply insightful pieces.


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