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March 13, 2006


"People can't distinguish, it seems, between describing dissent and being dissent." Celia Farber, journalist for Harper's, in an article about the link between HIV and AIDS, which she reports is questioned by some.

I've no clue about that debate, but I do know that publicly voicing concerns about possible disagreements is punishable. How to pursue a line of critique without succumbing to personally-directed aggression is the challenge. I've actually managed some humor this time around, trying to enact Burke's comic frame instead of the tragic one. We did it in Stephen's class some time back, when Shannon presented on defamiliarization. In particular I'll repeat the quote on perception; it uses vision as a metaphor:

"Humans, too, are victims of selective blindness. We often fail to see things around us because they are too familiar and seem to convey no new information, or because we are focusing our attention elsewhere. We don't know nearly enough about attention though it's a vital survival function. Visual attention seems to be a pair of processes. The first, the process of focusing on a stimulus or idea, has received a lot of research. The other equally important process involves concurrent decisions about which stimuli to ignore. Let me emphasize that. Visual attention is always partly, and often largely, selective blindness to other stimuli considered to be irrelevant at the moment" (from How a Poet Sees).

I'm being told (in no uncertain terms, mind you) what has fallen outside the range of my vision, beyond the blinders of my focused attention. My actions have been psychologized and my intentions impugned. My own ear has been sculpted over time to certain tunes and pitches, to frequencies that rub (push, pull) in conditioned ways.

It has been suggested that my style of presentation appears "teacherly", as if I am trying to convey something that I know which others don't. Oy. If this is how I've been read (heard, received) no wonder the rejection is so intense. I imagine myself more as an explorer. I suppose this is problematic as well? But one must understand my orientation - I do not think I'm leading, rather I'm one of many on a journey together. I guess I'm not convinced any of us is actually qualified "to lead" this journey, so I'm not willing to submit passively to authority or procedures that strike me as arbitrary or simply conditioned by precedent.

So, I dissent. Not only that, I dissent incorrectly. She can't follow the rules for anything, can she?!! Because my conformity quotient is so low, I have to describe my dissent as dissent, instead of as .... whatever attributions it garners. In my case, does this mean that describing dissent and being dissent are indistinguishable? I name the interpellation. Someday, I might have to work out the distinctions between interpellation (as a function of ideologies) and valence (as a function of group relations). I've equated them before.

Posted by Steph at March 13, 2006 9:42 AM


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