Thursday, May 09, 2013

Know thy neighbor?

In the wake of the discovery of the 3 abducted women in Cleveland, there has been a good deal of head-scratching and soul-searching about a variety of topics. On NPR this morning, there was discussion of the "missing white woman" issue, in which abducted white women get more attention than women of color do.  That is a worthwhile thread.

Yesterday, however, on the drive in I heard discussions of the "how well do you know your neighbor?" theme. That is a potentially bad path to go down. The more people sit around speculating about their neighbors, the more repressive a society you get.  In its most benign form, you get the world of John Cheever and/or Archie Bunker (where we do, to a certain extent, still live), in which repressive heteronormativity abounds. And it's not just amongst the white and affluent.  Think about how communities of color have voted on things like gay marriage in North Carolina and elsewhere. It's not all good.

In the worst case, you get Stalinism or the Cultural Revolution in China, in which people were really attentive to what their neighbors were up to. Right now Putin is trying to push through very restrictive laws about pornography to "protect children", but which will let the state establish infrastructure that will allow it to watch other things. They're already pretty good at it in China, and look what happens to the Falun Gong.  Organ harvesting by the state.

Don't get me wrong, there is a value to neighborhood cohesiveness, but there's also merit in people having autonomy and privacy.


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