Monday, October 28, 2013

A Case for Divergent Thinking

In just under 36 hours, Pinko will be here.
The house may be as clean as it's going to get, and out of all the errands I planned to do, I'll be lucky to accomplish two or three.  Cupcake's parents came over for dinner Saturday night.  Cupcake and Velvet helped clean and cook.  Her parents brought a bottle of wine from the old country and some yellow tea roses.  It was all very pleasant, and the apartment got cleaned in the process.

In the meantime, it appears that Pinko and I have been attempting to understand each other's communication style.  Overall, the conversations themselves have been well executed and encouraging, and it's essential that the two of us integrate the way we interact in Facebook threads with the way we interact in person which is kind of like four-way conversation between two people.  In the process, there has been friction which may be inevitable and ultimately good.

At issue, from my perspective, is intrinsic patriarchy as opposed to overt, oppressive patriarchy.  I'm not entirely sure what the issue at hand is from his perspective.  Could be evidence of crazy female stuff - which is a term he used when trying to describe my observed behavior - but only because that's how my behavior is commonly described by men who don't have a clue what is going on with me.

It all started on a Facebook thread which began with him asking a specific question regarding a contentious current event.  Should disability claim law be applied equally to all citizens regardless of how the disability was incurred, or should the circumstances surrounding the person's condition be a factor in the decision, particularly when the claimant's own actions resulted in the disability in the first place and those actions may very well have been illegal and were certainly morally repugnant to many in the community?  That was the question, but in putting the question to the group, he said he was perplexed because so many of his lefty buddies thought that the circumstances should negate the right to disability payments.

I didn't address the ethical dilemma about the disability award since to me, the answer was self-evident.  One pig is not more equal than another.  Instead, I focused on the context of this question, which was more interesting to me, and offered a suggestion as to why lefties might be bent out of shape regarding the disability settlement from UC Davis to Lt. Pepperspray Pike.

Pike calmly, and deliberately blasting handcuffed students in the face with pepper spray as if he's spraying roaches -Photo from an interesting article in The Atlantic:  Why I feel Bad for the Pepper Spraying Policeman, Lt. John Pike (Nov 19, 2011)

Results of Pike's behavior

Pinko seemed a bit disappointed because the responses from his buddies in the Journey Room (where I am an administrator) seemed just as emotionally motivated as those of random assholes across the internet.  In the Journey Room, we sometimes give current events a more thorough examination as compared to tossing off a simple knee-jerk reaction. I guess he thought we could be confronted this situation before coffee and remain neutral.  Our answers, in his view, were tangential at best, emotional at worst, and didn't pertain to the primary question at all - which in his view was the whole point of the discussion.  He asked about equal application of the law regardless of morality and/or ethics, and we provided reasons why we questioned the process by which the decision to reward a settlement was made.

Pinko made a disparaging remark, which he later explained was sarcastic.  I had no idea he was merely being snarky, so I'm pretty sure anyone could feel my head exploding in my response.  Pinko considers the lamentable fact that there is no font for sarcasm to be a tremendous oversight on the part of computer engineers everywhere.  He's right, of course. Without a snark font, I thought he used a supercilious tone to call me and another fellow hypocrites - sounding just like some TV producer or lawyer who finds support for his/her own biases in every remark.

If it had just been me he was calling a hypocrite, I may not have said anything else in the Facebook thread, but because I take my responsibilities as an administrator in this group seriously and feel generally protective of the integrity of the regular participants in group discussions, I came out swinging.

The whole public interaction turned out fine, but in the course of discussing the situation privately, it became clear that Pinko believes clear, rational answers are only derived via Aristotelian Logic.  He frowns on emotional reaction and irrational conclusions.  He will concede that people can be irrational without being emotional, and that people can be emotional without being irrational - but in his experience, he said, the two often go together.  And that's true.  When negating the remarks, reactions and responses of women, men often use the terms Emotional and Irrational in the same sentence.

I tried to explain (1) that if everyone to whom he posed his question initially made an emotional comment, it could be because the incident itself is so emotionally charged that a respondent needs to have his/her reaction before continuing the discussion.  Could be that everyone reacted that way because it's normal and shouldn't be condemned as invalid. (2) Sometimes a point may seem tangential or even unrelated to a specific issue - but that's because Aristotelian Logic is inflexibly linear. There is no room for divergent thinking.

Illustration of Sir Ken Robinson in

I'm sorry to say that Pinko had never thought about Aristotelian Logic as one of the Patriarchy's customary tools.  He was intrigued and interested in what I was saying, I think, and he was having fun discussing all this stuff.  By the time he asked me to explain what I meant about Logic, linear thinking and Patriarchy, he was having so much fun that he began playing with me and I didn't recognize we were playing. 

I thought I was trying to explain something serious since Priests and Academics have been the gatekeepers to accepted rational thought and reason for centuries, and during those centuries, emotion has been terminally negated.  In school - or anywhere these same priests and academics, as strong armed enforcers of Reason for the Patriarchy, have asserted their authority - convergent thinking is rewarded.  Divergent thinking is generally penalized and sometimes looked upon as a language processing disorder and remediated.  While it's a patriarchal imposition, it's not necessarily gender specific.  It's more about Church, State and Business stifling creativity, or any of thought process outside of the linear norms established by academic authority.

Convergent thinking requires that everyone remain focused on the point you introduced as if there is no other point.  Divergent thinking takes the original premise as a point of departure. In both cases, the train of thought runs in a straight line and is connected to the original point.  While I concur that the resulting discussions can be confusing unless divergent thinkers can connect their thinking to the point in a way others can follow, both ways of thinking are logical, rational and - to everyone except Solipsists, valid.  The Patriarchy is notoriously Solipsistic.

Pinko suspects that I project Patriarchy onto him because of my experience with other more stupid men.  Buzz Kill, for example.  While I agree that it makes sense to examine my own reactions to make sure I'm not using any of Pinko's remarks to support my own biases about Patriarchy, the thing is that privileged white men in the US frequently don't recognize how they reinforce and propagate Patriarchy.  In my view, the insistence that an opinion is only relevant and rational when it converges on a single, predetermined point illustrates Patriarchy in action.

By the end of our discussion, I realized that Pinko has had no experience with Jungian Feminists.   Jungian Feminists will take an interaction into messy, murky emotional areas that most people, especially men, prefer to avoid - and we'll point out how denying emotion may be the most damaging factor in the ruination of the planet through endless war and ecocide, perpetrated by Patriarchy and subsequently, Imperialism.  If we simply feel that something is wrong - mountain top removal or droning little kids in Pakistan - that's not enough for Imperialism and Patriarchy.  We have to be able to prove it's wrong using a rigid narrow band of reasoning championed throughout the centuries by Priests and Academics.  And in that proving, when we start to cry or shout in frustration at our own negation, that's crazy female behavior.  It's annoying, but as my mother always says, "Honey, Eve ate the apple."  She's right, of course.  That's how it is in this life, and priests and academics recorded the story of Eve and the apple in a way that ensured women would be dismissed throughout time as weak, emotional and all that other stuff.  The same priests and academics diluted Mary Magdalen's power and authority too.

I don't care about everyday manifestations of patriarchy right now.  In the first place, I'm used to it and in the second place, patriarchy will be part of the broad societal landscape for a while yet.  At the moment, I'm more interested in focusing all my energy on a single point that converges in my bedroom tomorrow night.

There is infinitely more to a relationship between two individuals than logic, and when both individuals are willing to see a situation differently, you have an opportunity for a splendid merging of the minds.  It looks to me like Pinko and I have that very opportunity - especially since he's asked me to tell him about Feminism.  As a Jungian Feminist, it's particularly exciting for me to get the opportunity to introduce feminism by way of the Goddess on Samhain.


ellen abbott said...

Eve ate the apple that gave her the greater knowledge. what else were Adam and his descendants going to do but to demonize her. I read an interesting theory about the Eve myth. that she was a priestess of the goddess, the snake being a symbol of wisdom. by demonizing the goddess and the snake, by having her ascendence get mankind thrown out of the Garden, the invading patriarchal tribes sublimated the goddess and her worship.

as for male and female communication styles, until our culture accepts that there is more than one way of being, more than one right way of doing things, and that they are all legitimate, then we will be trapped in this battle. I think, because we have lived under patriarchy for so long, that women are better at this than men. we have been forced to accept their approach whereas men have never seen the necessity. some of my husband's and my early fights were over the fact that I did things my way instead of the way he would have done them. me, being the feminist that I have always been, only got stubborn instead of acquiescing to his way.

PENolan said...

I haven't heard that story about Eve as a priestess of the Goddess before, ellen, but it sounds very likely. There's a book called When God was a Woman which I started but never finished. Sounds like the story belongs in there.

I'm just glad that Pinko is sincerely interested in listening to me. It's very attractive.

MaryKathryn said...

Wow BRAVO now THAT is some amazing stuff! I gotta print this one out! Natch I have lots 'o info on the whole backstory of "Adam and Eve" and of course it was not even an apple
Loved this one!
You Go girl!

Susan Partlan said...

I agree with the Jungian feminists. I'll be thinking of you and hoping all goes well with Pinko. In fact, I'll make a point of saying prayers for you both on Sunday morning at church, even though I'm not particularly religious. I'll be there singing, and there's a time for prayers, so why not use it to good purpose? xoxo

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