identity onanism

i stayed up until 3 last night reading my old blog cover to cover (archive-end to archive-end?). when i was writing it back in 2002, i remember thinking that it was just sort of an outlet, no coherent themes or real /point/ in the blogosphere, just another person's personal journal. but upon reread it's actually hugely thematic: i used to be so aware of the world and so indignant and so articulate about my indignance, especially in my criticisms of the hyperliberalism at Smith. some anonymous person stumbling upon thousandships.com would actually find a lot to hang a hat on, and maybe that's why i picked up the slightly-more-than-average readership that i did.

i think i'd like to return to my indignant world-awareness, or at least community-awareness (since that's what it really was - it wasn't politics, it was me responding to a microcosm), but that seems to require immersing myself in a community, and identifying enough with it to generate indignance when it represents itself (both internally and externally) in a way i find unappealing.

then of course this becomes a question of community indentification in the first place - while I was at Smith, the community identity was handed to me. I was, by choice and by inertia, a Smithie. The environment of the campus was my environment, the acts of the sudents were - to a public eye - my actions, and so my investment of time and words in criticizing the environment was an exercise (though one of questionable success) in both self-defense and community betterment. I could be so critical sans guilt because, on a very real level, i criticized out of what essentially amounted to love.

But here I am now, ostensibly a grown-up, living in a city with the population of a small European nation, working at a company with hundreds of employees, flittering around among a handful of social circles and extracurricular activities. I don't have a community identification the way I used to - I'm not deeply invested enough in civis, in my job environment, even in a community of ethnic or cultural affiliation. I'm not in a "scene" and I'm not politically active.

Still, I remain critical and indignant and ranty. This is because i am critical and indignant and ranty, i enjoy being that way. But now I'm those things about small matters - matters that don't resonate in the Deep Philosophical way that my rants about Smith mattered.

Is it awful to want to take on an invested community identity so that I can have something meaningful to criticize? Yes. It probably is.

I would say "watch this space" here, anticipating more seriousness and perhaps some scathing criticisms of the status quo in upcoming posts. But in reality, I'm not going to bank on it. Odds are good that we will return, immediately and without backward glance, to our regularly scheduled snark.

1 comment:

Emily/ E-Squared said...

Hi there- please don't take this as internet stalking, but once you referred to this blog on Consumating and every once in a while I check it out.

Anyway, I just wanted to give a shout out on this post as a young person in a big town and also a Smithie to say that you're not alone in this feeling. I would also propose that it's not just race-class-gender whiplash from our particular undergraduate education, and perhaps could be seen as a problem of our generation as a whole. (Although perhaps there could be some good statistics taken here about how much of the alumnae population feels this way as compared to other schools.) I think about historical movements (particularly those of the 60's) and wonder why the hell our generation can't grasp onto a relevant civic issue and fight for it. But then I realize that historical lenses are often focused on particular communities and I can't make sweeping statements like that, even though I believe that technological advances over the last decade have provided us a global community with even more opinions, issues, and causes to commit to. It makes a lot more sense to feel overwhelmed when one is used to a universe of 2500 undergrads.

Anyway, I'm not sure if there's a real point here except to say that it's not awful to want to take on a community identity. It's a sign of wanting to be passionate and engaged. And not being able to is an awareness of the interconnectedness of the human experience.

(end rant)....