I don’t get a lot of reader feedback. When I do it’s usually interesting. Apparently I am not frightening enough to prevent being stopped on the street to explain the recent Self and Being piece. Like most Americans (including myself) the questioner likes to keep things simple. We are not an intellectually inclined culture. Don’t believe me? Ask those you work with to talk about Scholia to an Implicit Text and see how speedily the vacuum will form and you are left alone in space. Actually (for those of you so inclined) the vacuum can be rather a pleasant place relatively free of noisy distraction. This isn’t meant snobbishly. Short term interest in a team score is a popular form of human activity. Someone has to do it, but not me. My form of time killing empty pursuit was muddling over self and being. I thought I made that clear, but seemingly not.
I think a wish to keep things simple is human common ground. I fault no one for this. I have the same habit and find it helpful. But no matter how useful or handy the habit this does not mean it is always accurate or sound. The basis we use as individuals or a society should be open to routine challenge and review. Our Nation (I believe rightly) holds that all people are created (note that use of “created” carries a strong bias) equal. We should know that the equality meant does not mean identical or the same. Gender alone is a significant inequality as are bodily traits and personal abilities. Practical and functional application of individualized equality is a lot more complex than the phrase we accept as true on its face value. Plus there is the question of how “equal” might be interpreted. The difference between equal opportunity meaning equal chance and equal opportunity as identical entitlements is quite huge. Slinging jargon around is not the answer when complex social relationships, duties, and obligations are in play. So, whether we like it or not distinctions of self and being or of equal chance and equal opportunity exert active roles in out hoped-for “simple” lives.

I prefer to keep ideas simple and clear. It’s by far easier to work on a less cluttered field, but there are hazards because simplifying can be excessive and lead to over-large notions that sound OK but are not functionally accurate. Whether beings are created equal or not a one-size, a one-rule fits all approach can be both misleading and quite unjust. That, like the warning that I seldom know what I’m talking about, can be kept in mind as I continue attempting to explain what in hell was in that earlier piece.

Qualms about stepping on toes or mocking sacred cows are lost on me who won’t be balked by convention. Except for a few ways I don’t care if someone is annoyed by what I write. The main reason to avoid blatant insult and rude challenge is that doing those things raises hackles rather than intellect. So in an effort to get at system and meaning I’ll skirt the minefield of culture, politic, and faith to open a less loaded field of examination. But remember, none of this means a thing.

Let’s imagine, however, there are only four tactics for being human. I’ll call them the gentle vegetarian herbivore, the murderous meat loving carnivore, the swings-both-ways omnivore, and last the cannibal. Those in the first three groups can have issues with one another. The vegetarian may be easily disgusted by the real or imagined violence and cruelty of the carnivore. Members of both those groups could scorn the omnivore as shallow and cowardly for following the easy path of taking things both ways. As human animals the herbivore, carnivore, and omnivore would have sorted out some form or other of accommodation or compromise. Herbivores could to not ruin carnivore barbecues by spraying the grills with ammonia and the carnivores could get along without mocking the others as “stupid grass eating cows.” Tensions would still remain between these different manners of being a person, but those strains would not have to be deadly unless one side or the other rigidly insisted on no compromise.

I haven’t mentioned the omnivores because I see them happily and amusedly watching from the sidelines as the vegetarians weave straw sandals and the meat eaters roar over steak done rare. At their ease, the omnivores enjoy a barbecued brat or smoky chicken while munching corn chips with salsa. They have it all and can feel justifiably above and free of the limitations of others.
Ah, but what of the fourth human strategy, the cannibal? Every cannibal is a person created equal to everyone else, but just how is their “difference” going to fit in when those in the three other groups are more-than-less groceries? I may be off on this conclusion, but I am pretty sure that a cannibal claiming to be “reformed” and only eating dead people simply would not be enough to remove the tension from “Howdy neighbor, want to come over for dinner tonight?” The cannibal may feel entirely justified by their deity telling them to convert or consume all other until only the faithful cannibals are left.

Stop there. Go back to that silliness of mine about being and self. If being represents the essential person let’s start there. We all began as milk drinkers. After that the happenstance of local custom begins shaping what’s consumed and how it’s prepared. There’s no conferred superiority to ravioli or stir fry. Neither food springs from the earth. They are cultural creations. So if beings are equal then the “stuff” they carry around can be a real equality game changer. I say that because there’s no way to say vegetarianism and cannibalism are equal choices. I can respect a person as a being, but some of the baggage going into their demonstration of “self” changes that.

But, oh well, people throng up the shore to BE happy. But to BE at all requires some awareness of what is BEING and what is SELF. Ah, but it’s best to ignore me, so just go be happy.