The New Taboos

Posted on Nov 24, 2011

Every year brings change and this is no different. Why should it be? While we all deal with our personal issues, it’s important to put them into context of our society at large. Why? Well, put into context, issues seem both easier to deal with and easier to understand. So much of our interactions are a product of current technology. Communities have always been defined by the scope of interaction. In smaller tribes, certain values were important because of how they propped up and promoted the given society. The structure of online interactions are the same. We seek community, and in order to do so, certain rules must be constructed. We are a product of our time and place, just as much a product of the eternal and seemingly transcendant nature of interpersonal relationships on both and intimate and casual scale. The rules, because they arise more or less organically, are maleable. The phrases LOL, OKK, pwned, and countless others were, sadly, not decided on by committee. And the idea of casual sex has gone from something we don’t speak about. ever. to something often discussed on sitcoms.

Lets re-hash the Hegelian Dialectical Model: Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis. In culture the thesis (status quo) is always challenged (antithesis) and after discussion or cultural natural selection, the synthesis is reached.

Taboo, those things forbidden or frowned upon by any given society, definitely has its place. It warns us away of potential danger although It’s less germaine in the post-modern age. We are creatures of judgement, and emotion, while instrumental in making decisions, often pushes us to incorrect judgement based on our initial reaction to the unfamiliar.

Modern society has many taboos, but because we live in interesting times, they seem to have squarely switched places with the old ones. The infamous taboos dealt with race and public appearance. It was bad form to have tattoos; people with body art were relegated to circus freakshows or the wandering lifestyle of the nomad (e.g. the sailor). If you were of mixed race or a minority you were kept segregated from mainstream culture and society. As these judgements were made by those in authority they became dogma.

Thanks to postmodern standards of truth, we realize that judgements based on arbitrary characteristics need to be re-examined, and while there are always those that try to cling to the old ways for dear life, we are quickly—and quickly is a relative term—and rightfully purging them from society.

Science has shown us: sexual preference is not just a mere preference, race is only cosmetic, mental illness has chemical origins, addiction is a disease. Postmodern truth helps temper emotion, not replace it, so now our judgements address long standing taboos instead of creating them left and right. Easier said than done, but the tools are thankfully there.

Our propensity for questioning everything has given us the tools to turn taboo on its head, and the longer an idea hangs around it transmutes from the antithesis, to the new thesis. Our propensity for the new gives us the impulse to push the envelope and redefine standards of beauty, draw on old traditions to create new ones. From body modification to smartphone etiquette, we’re all just trying to feel it out based on…a feeling. While evidence helps us cut through some of the clutter, it provides little direction for forward progress.

The danger is in permitting everything, even those things in poor taste. But I’ll be willing to accept the word ‘totes’ if it means that two people, regardless of race or sexual orientation, can have their relationship properly recognized.

 

 

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