We Are a Culture of Being Dumped On

A fascinating view on the diminution of our senses in the 21st century.

Here is a paragraph that stimulates the senses:

As on a dump, stimuli falls on us indiscriminately and haphazardly, with few basic distinctions between the sweet and the salty, the loud and the quiet, the illuminated and the obscure, the aromatic and the odorless, surviving the onslaught. Every subtle thing either grows imperceptible or reaches us as pure matter void of form, an ill-shapen piece or a clumsy lump at the etymological root of “dump.”

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“Subjectivization” and Football?

I found the mention of this densely theoretical term in, of all places, a reflective piece on college football. The question posed in the piece is why do Americans anxiously attach themselves to something they know, at least from its current manifestation, to be ethically suspect. Of late American college football has been plagued by multiple controversies ranging from injuries, to monetary exploitation to sexual assaults by star players.

The answer to that question is “subjectivization”: It’s a term borrowed from French intellectual Michel Foucault. Subjectivization is a practice in which individuals subject themselves to a set of behavioral regulations, and by doing so acquire a sense of their identities.

Ordinary, day-to-day living abounds in instances of subjectivization:

Just as a practicing Christian may create and obtain new forms of self-knowledge through confession, prayer and the observance of Lent, a sports fan can come to understand himself as a particular sort of person — a Southerner, for example, or a “real man” — by adhering to certain rituals, like reading the sports page and watching ESPN every day to gather more and more knowledge about his team, by talking with other fans about that team in the right ways (and proving that he knows more than them), by learning and participating in the songs, chants, dress, tailgate rituals, game-day traditions and home décor choices of its fans.

What of those who resist subjectivization? Or, as Jimmy Ruffin sang in a melancholic mood, “What becomes of the broken hearted?”

I’m convinced they rejoice in secrecy. To abstain from subjectivization is an honorable thing to do. It’s to be proud in one’s autonomy.