God's country

Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at jhu.edu
Wed Apr 5 08:02:45 PDT 2000

At 07:02 PM 4/4/00 -0400, Yoshie wrote:

>I agree with you on the church attendance question. All of my local
>leftist friends who actually go to church complain of spotty attendance,
>aging membership, absence of active ethical life on the part of their
>congregations, etc. That said, why should belief in "the relevance of
>religion for today's problems," regular church attendance, etc. be
>"culturally expected answers" at this point in history, though? Hypocrisy
>(especially of outward American piety) which you point out can be abolished
>if folks have the courage to say that they don't actually set store by
>religion. Surely such honesty would improve the morals of the people.

I think it is quite simple, at least for sociologists (or our brethern anthropologists) who have no problems with accepting the predominant role that habits, routines, institutions, rituals, stock-knowledge and assorted irrationality play in human behavior. Why would women opt for a "traditional wedding" and change their last names to that of their husbands and, at the same time, reject other vestiges of patriarchy, such as pay inequality or employment discimination? Why would people vote for the same old gang and, at the same time, loathe everythingthan smacks of the "gummint." Why would the supposedly effciency conscious corporate types insist on an eigh-hour plus workday, even though studies consistently show that longer work hours negatively imapact productivity. Why do teh same corporate types cling to th eideology of the market, even though corporation is THE anti-thesis of the market in almost every econ textbook.

The explanation is quite simple - because these beliefs and behaviours are viewed as being socially expected, "politically correct," the "right things to do" - and not doinf then would breach the socially expected norm of behaviour. Despite all the pretenses, our modern society is no more rational (and oftentimes even less) than supposedly "primitive" tribes.

BTW - most surveys are often nothing more than rituals that reproduce and uphold the myth of rationality that supposedly defines our society - i.e. asking for opinions as supposed determinants of of behaviour (even though most pollsters would deny that), public opinions being build on "informed consent" of the individuals (that's why th epolls are collected in the first place, the implied expectation of the relative permanence of expressed opinion (i.e. that it will not change five minutes later when the Rs answers a differently worded question or finds him/herself in a different situation), etc.

Indeed, irrationality is deeply seated in social fabric - so i would not hold my breath to see hypocrisy, multiple standards, prejudice etc. disappear any time soon.


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