/*amazon_ad_exclude = "christian"*/ The Skin I Am In: Under our Clothing, We All Wear a Birthday Suit

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Under our Clothing, We All Wear a Birthday Suit

A few years ago I relocated to the South. Albeit, coming from my suburban, middle-class, Midwestern roots, I wasn't exactly on the front line of progression. But for Heaven's sake, the South seems to be suffering from a long-induced coma and doesn't realize that (chronologically speaking) we are in the 21st century. In spite of this, I often don't feel comfortable freely expressing my opinion. I have come to appreciate just how painful it is to be repeatedly biting one's tongue. At times I make subtle corrections or ask challenging questions to thoughtless remarks, but rarely do I spark debate. I am opinionated, not confrontational. Needless to say, I was grateful to discover this platform which enables my passive-aggression. And here I will deliver my naked truth in nothing but my revealing birthday suit.

Now for Tangent #2:
While there is truth in our nation being comprised of millions of spoiled, loud-mouthed chauvinists, it is also fair to say that we live in a self-righteous, judgmental society. Our culture holds staunch doctrines on what is socially acceptable, rejecting other forms of behavior that, in reality, may be perfectly healthy. We are guilty of inventing corruption by labeling certain common and natural behaviors as vile. Examples include profanity, nudity and sex (yes, some expressions of these are vile. The significance is in the intention). For example, what is a parent's immediate inclination when subjected to crimeless nudity in the presence of their children (like in a movie)? It is to hurriedly prevent the image from meeting their child's eyes, meanwhile sending the message that it must be something off-limits and alluring. This patterned behavior is a product of cultural conditioning. I wouldn't exactly let my kids watch unfiltered Cinemax, and I readily admit, I am far too modest to be seen anywhere in public absent my layers of protective apparel (or as suggested in the title, my birthday suit). But as we all know, Europe, not to mention other parts of the world, boasts nude beaches aplenty. Once pondered, you realize it should be no big deal. It's only a body. People used to be (and in some countries still are) unclothed all the time. Assuredly the locals aren't staring and snickering and developing lascivious thoughts as a result. They're conditioned to be as lackadaisical about nudity as we are about ordering take-out. If our culture embraced the human body as a natural apparatus, I can tell you without question that the pornography industry would not be the money-making machine that it is. Recall the failed attempt at prohibition? (I know you're not old enough to remember it, but you went over it in history class). Referencing Tangent # 1.....people want what they can't have. If something is 'off-limits' it only propagates the appeal. Nevertheless, our culture will not come out of the closet anytime soon, without it's clothes on.

Afterward: do not manipulate my message into something it is not. I am not advocating that we all run to our local town square and shed all of our clothing. These things require baby steps. Undergarments should be worn initially.


john said...

A former student of mine, and friend of yours, sent me a link to your blog.

It is not clear to me that our society is as judgemental and morally self-confident as it ought to be. People who reflexively condemn 'being judgemental' usually don't notice that this attitude is itself judgemental ...

All cultures hold attitudes on what is socially acceptable. To judge such attitudes you have to be confortable that such judgement is both right and possible, which pretty much boils down to being judgemental and morally self-confident. To do the topic justice you need to establish what standards you will use to judge. A cultural practice which advances one goal may not be as efficient at advancing other goals. To be coherent you need to at least list those goals you consider important and then determine which practices are better or worse for obtaining those goals.

If I recall correctly, William Henry set out to do this and listed goals such as: independence, wealth, and freedom in his book "In Defense of Elitism". It has been a decade since I read it, but I do recommend reading this rather slim volume if you want to look deeper into the things that have concerned you.


The shortest and best defense of traditional social decorum I've read was a Wall Street Journal editorial called "Guardrails". It isn't easy to find, but I might be able to do so if you asked via email.

A key point is that many of the rules of traditional decorum and behavior are arbitrarily constraining and not entirely necessary for some people. People with large reservoirs of wealth / self-discipline / intelligence can break the rules, get roughed up a bit, and go on to lead happy stable lives. We can understand why such people figuratively tore down these traditional guardrails. But most people don't have enormous reserves of such advantages and if they run off the road because someone tore down the guardrails, they don't have fun and get back on the road. Instead they plunge off the mountain, not uncommonly taking others with them.

Consider that a social rule might be annoying to YOU but an advantage to society in general.


1984 referred to three basic classes: High, Middle, and Low. It is always the Middle (or the hated petite bourgeoisie of Marxist rhetoric) that tends to be uptight about sex. I'd like to suggest why ...

Basically, the key reason you get to be 'Middle' rather than 'Low' is the practice of self-discipline and restraint. Sex is merely one of the key observables, and one of the most seductive, which creates a challenge to self-discipline. The Middle isn't so high above the Low, in general, that a collapse of self-discipline won't land them in the opium den or on skid row. Middle class prudery is both a form of pride as well as self-defense.

The High have the resources to not worry about self-discipline so much. Since they can indulge without destroying themselves, they do. The real question is whether they indulge themselves in secret (think the Victorians) or in public (Britney Spears anyone)?


On your first post ...

Actually, I'm actively unconventional on many levels. A great deal of my opinions are either counter-intuitive or not particularly popular. But I don't hold them *because* they are counter-intuitive or unpopular but because I believe I have much better data than most.

You appear overly sanguine that your logic will prove to be relatively irrefutable. As for not endorsing "a conservative rationale" I don't know how you define that term. Most people are quite imprecise in how they define their terms, and the phrase you use is unusably vague.

A book I consider essential for classifying how people approach the deep (and mostly unconcious) assumptions about the world we live in is "A Conflict of Visions" by Thomas Sowell


The Naked Blogger said...

Firstly, let me express that I do not hold any of my opinions simply *because* they are unpopular. In fact, on the contrary, I feel I must keep quiet my values, just to avoid being ostracized. Additionally, I certainly don't claim to be original in my unconventionalism. Yes, this post was ambiguous, as it was intended as an introduction, not a dissertation. I have specific issues which I intend to outline, but have been organizing them before slapping them into a post. I also give more detail in how my beliefs “rarely support a conservative rationale.”

Obviously, I have not read the editorial you mentioned, but to preface such, guardrails do not concern me. It is the one-lane road that I criticize. I absolutely confer that societies need guardrails! I am neither amoral, nor an anarchist. Each person needs to be rooted in a moral foundation, but that foundation can take on different shapes or styles and still produce acceptable results. It is the popular notion that the only acceptable moral code is one rooted in Christianity.

I specifically emphasized that I am not suggesting anyone adopt my ideals. I simply encourage people to look at things objectively. In my opinion, too many of us simply and unquestioningly accept what we've been 'told' to think as the only truth. I am not discouraging anyone from keeping their traditions, so long as they have pondered the possibilities. As an example, one of my cousins is currently finishing up his seminary. While we do not see eye-to-eye on most religious topics, I respect him whole-heartedly because he has put such a great deal of work, thought, and energy into developing his belief-system. Furthermore, he does not carry an outwardly judgmental attitude towards people of other faiths.

I currently live in a very conservative part of the country, where judgments toward any walk of life other than the majority, are made public. The close-minded attitude is very stifling! There do not seem to be any new thoughts formulated by the general masses. Everything done or discussed is just a regurgitation of what is socially acceptable. I go into further detail in a post I have yet to make public discussing the role of the 'housewife'. Since each of us has our own experiences which lead us to cultivate certain principles and ideals, we probably won't have a similar outlook. Let's be proactive and agree to disagree.

Lastly, I do find some of your points interesting. You introduced some thought-provoking elements and I appreciate the lesson to outline at least three objectives. I may not be able to eloquently convey my message, but each of us has a right to express our opinions on our respective forums. Understand, this is merely intended to be an outlet for me to express some of my grievances within traditional society. I am neither teaching a course, nor attempting to incite a following.

Anonymous said...

From a favorite movie mine

"You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for a buck fifty in late charges at the public library. "

john said...

*cough* ... The movie was "Good Will Hunting". I loved it as well. My liberal education was acheived at the library, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

Yes, it is unfair to expect a dissertation. Actually, I don't think a dissertation is often very useful. Those few I've read are too stilted and specific to be informative.


Don't worry about eloquence, and don't be put off by my chest beating. If you weren't interesting to talk to I'd stop.

I understand the fear of ostracism and I've experienced it. This sounds like a necessary outlet for you and I'm happy to listen. I'm sorry if I came across too strongly. Look; I sympathize if you think you are surrounded by rubes. But just because the unsophisticated practitioners of tradition can not explain why a tradition is desirable does not mean there is no wisdom in it. On the other hand, because a tradition was once wise doesn't mean it still is.

A key question is: do you just want to have more fun and feel deprived of the opportunity? Are you after a pressure release valve or are you pursuing personal enlightenment? Do you have a different moral code or the same moral code with a few exceptions?

Perhaps you just want to tell Mrs. Grundy to stuff it. Something like the lyrics to "Harper Valley PTA". http://www.oldielyrics.com/lyrics/jeannie_c_riley/harper_valley_p_t_a.html

If you are going with an attempt for an entire moral code you will be interested in things like my comments below. [Quick into for about $40 and you might find it in a library ... http://www.teach12.com/ttcx/coursedesclong2.aspx?cid=408 I highly recommend The Teaching Company www.teach12.com]

In the classic (Greek / Aristotle) vision a virtue was a middle ground between two vices. ("The Golden Mean" of Aristotle). The virtue of Courage was the golden mean between the vice of Cowardice and the vice of foolish bravado. [Side note: Courage this requires the virtue of Prudence to tell the difference.]

In the Christian system a virtue is the opposite of vice. One can not have too much Faith, Charity, Love, etc.

Anyway, later ...


The Domestic Traveler said...

I do completely understand the need for tradition, I even embrace it on occasion. But as you pointed out, there comes a time to realize that a particular tradition is no longer useful. In order for the human race to survive (let alone advance), it must accept change. When the majority of the human race feels best-suited in it's comfort zones, it requires a non-conformist to stimulate such.

I don't so much have a problem with the 'adopted' moral code itself, but in the blatant hypocrisy in which it is so often carried out.

We do agree on one thing:
Good Will Hunting is an excellent flick.

Take care

Frank said...

hehe, very nice piece.

Everybody naked!!! ;)