I was watching a few Joe Rogan clips, as I am accustomed to doing, and stumbled upon an interesting idea, or rather the framing of an idea, that I had never come across before (I feel silly saying that because it really is very simple). First off, let me say that I am glad I gave Joe Rogan a chance; I thought he was nothing more than a meathead and partially blamed him for the fall of our civilization due to his previous work on Fear Factor. I was wrong; he’s not an idiot (a high compliment from someone like me).
In his interview with friend and fellow comedian Bryan Callen, a discussion of transgender athletes takes place and briefly touches on identity. Joe Rogan is absolutely pro LGBTQ+ and I’m not sure this clip does his position justice in that sense, what he is strongly opposed to is male-to-female transgender athletes competing against other women, and I don’t blame him for what should be obvious reasons (that is not to say that I don’t also have sympathy for such athletes).
You’ll note that Joe also said something about using identity to be special “for no reason at all.” I agree with both of their premises but I think they are missing some important points. Firstly, I can’t say enough how much I loved the very simplistic framing the Bryan offered; being a verb or a noun. Clearly this speaks to identity, which is precisely what he was trying to question; do we want to label ourselves in certain ways, or should we accept that human beings are transient and could never live up to any kind of label? This, I believe, is the main point of his argument. Now I am conflicted here; on the one hand I think the shedding of labels and the acknowledgement of the transient nature of the human experience is necessary to creating a more inclusive world (which is actually the opposite of what Bryan is saying, he’s asking for a less accommodating society but he’s wrong about what his ideas lead to). But, while I believe that human beings truly are verbs, I cannot (and this is an important aspect of my own philosophy) disavow the necessity of nouns to the human experience. That is to say, we can never live up to cultural labels we’ve imagined for ourselves; they don’t exist; they aren’t real, but they are precisely the defining feature, the very essence, of what it means to be human.
I’ve always had difficulty accepting compliments and some more than others. I get nice a lot, and honest, those are easier because I feel they are in my control and they are a fundamental occupation of my day to day dealings. Even still, I’m surely not always honest, and definitely not always nice. It used to feel it like pressure; a burdensome label I would have to somehow find a way to live up to. The one I hated the most is when they said I was smart. Oh how I hated to be told I was smart! The funny thing is, despite being someone who is filled with anxiety and insecurity on a regular basis, I actually do think I am smarter than the average person. I just do. Sorry if that sounds arrogant, maybe I’m too much of an idiot to see how stupid I am. Having said that, I must add that I believe that ALL humans, MOST of the time, are complete morons, including myself. So to be told you are intelligent when by virtue of being human, I’m an idiot the majority of the time, doesn’t seem like a label I can live up to. For all my intellect, I still have no idea how telephones work. I don’t mean cell phones, I mean regular phones; I don’t understand how I can speak to someone like that. How does my voice travel so quickly through the wires and across the ocean? It’s sorcery!
When we label our identity (become nouns) they do become a little stupid. What does it actually mean to be a man or a woman? Why is what you prefer to put your penis inside of a defining feature of your identity? What knowledge or clarity does it bring to any other aspect of your life? Of course, it’s all bullshit! But I would posit, that it’s this exact type of bullshit that makes life worth living.
Perhaps my favorite scene in Game of Thrones can frame it a little better than I can.
God, I love that scene! Now in the first instance we were discussing labels in terms of identity but in this scene the discussion isn’t centered around identity alone but I would argue that truth itself is being debated. For Little Finger reality is simply power based and the way to climb the ladder is to create chaos and take advantage of the opportunities it spurs (while I disagree with him, I have often advocated for this strategy and is why I was happy to see Trump win over Clinton, for example. I always say, if they won’t give you a seat at the table, keep turning over the table; if they want stability, they should give you a stake in it). Varys, instead, holds on to his noble lie and acknowledges its importance. Where they both agree is that the realm is a lie, that the thousand blades of Aegon’s enemies, actually aren’t. They agree that the realm is founded on lies accepted as truth. Little Finger ends by pointing out other illusions people cling to aside from the realm; the gods and love.
“…and some are given a chance to climb, but they refuse; they cling to the realm, or the gods, or love. Illusions! Only the ladder is real; the climb is all there is.Little Finger, Game of Thrones
Now I disagree with Varys’ portray of the noble lie, in and of itsef. The world needs changing and always will and a little chaos is sometimes neccessary in accomplishing that. What puts me on Varys’ side is that he at least acknowledges that there is value to the lie. For Little Finger, only power has value.
Here, I am combining the idea of being a noun with clinging on to a lie. Verbs are real. People act and do, but the transition of actions into meaning, is what makes nouns possible. Animals are verbs. A lion does not consider his place in the world, feel depressed, or long to be something more. The lion is what it needs to be, when it needs to be and that is ever changing. Humans have narrative; we are a species of story tellers. We tell lies that mean something to us.
Clinging to the realm, or the gods, or love is exactly what we should be doing. It’s the defining characteristic of who we are. The ladder is real but its meaningless without identity. What good is power in a world void of beauty? Interestingly I’ve often thought, cynically, as I don’t believe it’s fully authentic, that in every romantic relationship there is the one with power and the one who clings to love. Even if true, I don’t doubt for a moment which I would choose; the fool who gets to be in love! Everytime!
There is something interesting I breifly mentioned earlier, that Bryan Callen assumes that being treated as verbs rather than nouns would be less accomodating; furries couldn’t ask for litter boxes because their identity doesn’t fucking matter! I know this is going to make me sound like a crazy cultural relativist but shitting in a toilet belongs to ideology as well. Its the very ideology we don’t question because its so normal but many people in the world, for example, don’t even use toilet paper. Furries are silly to us percisely because we’ve bough into the narrative of what it means to be an adult in modern day society; because we bought into the narratvie of the noun ‘adult’. The shedding of the narratives that make up identity brings us closer to a sort of dry reality but further away from our humanity. Nouns, idnetities make life fun. The problem is when nouns become so stingent that there is no place for divergence; non-binary gender, furries, fetishists of all kinds, even to some extent, divergent fashions.
We might even here (since they brought up furries) consider fetishism. Some feminists have long argued that breasts are unfairly (and unnaturally) fetishized. They argue that women should be able to be topless whereever men are. On this issue I agree completely, in fact, I don’t think there is any reason why people shouldn’t be able to walk around naked if they so choose. But I agree with a caution; the fitishization of breasts brings with it sexual pleasure for both men and women. Take it for granted that its a completely unnatural fallacy, is it still not more pleasurable to believe in the lie? If we all walked around naked, we’d start to lose appreciation and excitement for the human form, its percisely because we are dressed, that we spend so much time trying to get our lovers undressed! If there is no taboo to break, what is left us? We need the ideological framework in order to play our games and dream into existence other realities.
What I posit then, is firstly, that a society is more inclusive in a world where identites are not formed; one kills someone but is not then a murderer at its most extreme. But such a world is impossible; there is always an underlying ideology that is most strong when you don’t know its there; what it means to be an adult is not common sense or normal, it is a part of an ideolgical structure. Secondly, I posit that to be human one requires ideological frameworks that makes us nouns, and allows us to act out our dreams; this includes adulting (as fetishistic as being a furry). Taken a step further, to love in the sense of noun and not a verb. We all love with our feelings, and we may act it out with sex, but when its a noun, it has a state of permanancy that does not exist with the verb. The laymen say “I love her but I’m not in love with her.” This is exactly right, to love is to enter the state of imagined permancy; to treat love as a noun and not simply a verb, its the being in love that we want to be permanent but seldom is unless we dream into existence. But there is a problem with nouns and permanency when there is too few of them. We need a garden of diversity in order to stop us from becoming lunatics. I know the noun is absurd, and so I treat all absurd nouns with openness and acceptance. If we don’t accept the absurdity of underlying ideological structures, we are well on our way to fascist delusions, where very few nouns are appropriate; aryan and so on. It’s an important aspect of inclusivity and diversity because a world void of dreamed up identity and fictitious nouns will never exist; the point is to acknowledge them and let that lead us to not being so judgemental about deviant behavior.
What to you think about identity? Truth? And how do we make sure that we are as diverse and inclusive as possible?