Seasons Greetings, Bureaucracy Stylee

When I receive something like the e-card below I generally wonder–and I use that word literally–what it is like to not feel insulted; what it is like to not want to lash out and demand some respect for myself, for language, for all of us. Let’s see if I can unpack that.
I am fully aware that I am the odd one, the one who’s brain wiring is curious, and that my emotional response to this kind of blatant public lying is bizarre relative to social norms.  Indeed, referring to the use of words/phrases such as “My deepest gratitude,” “instrumental,” and “joyous” blatant lying is, I suspect, offensive.  But at a minimum it is a norm violation.
Since I was an adolescent I have had this sort of visceral response to implicit demands that I perform a role, on command, in public ritual.  Even when that expectation is passive–in this case I can literally do nothing, and I do not transgress expectations–that bugs me.  Why? I want to call out “Bullshit!”
As I grew older I found I am not alone.  Fiction has no shortage of narratives that lampoon this sort of “fake community”  ritual with over-the-top expressions of communal ties and “deep” human emotion.  I when I receive something like the above I wonder what it would be like to not immediately think of Catcher in the RyeCatch-22, or a character like Dolores Umbridge.  And, of course, Foucault: discipline.
These sorts of bureaucratic communications are rote, unthinking, ritual. And therein lies the absence, for me, of human dignity. And I think what really bugs me is that I am drawn into a performance in which I have not just a lack of interest, but an active disinterest. I do not wish to perform the role society assigns me.  This also manifests itself in my strong emotional distaste for Hallmark (and similar corporations and their products) .
Jeez, just chill already.
folks will say.  And intellectually I get that (though I most definitely did not a teen).
But it may surprise some to learn that what I hear is:
Your intellectual and emotional response is illegitimate.
And culturally my response is, by definition, illegitimate.
Rituals are a glue in society, but some (many? most?) of us “on the autism spectrum” find some (many? most?) of them offensive because they place public demands on our emotions and behavior and, well, that’s just inconsiderate and rude.
Do your thing, but please leave me out of it!
I want to shout.  I resent having to “pretend” that you did not just lie to me / abuse the English language / trivialize important human emotional experience.  Fuck that: I don’t care to be a member of your “civilized,” “mutual admiration society” with all of its
Bowing and squawking
Running after tidbits
Bobbing and squinting
Just like a nitwit [1]
You can imagine how wonderfully well I fulfill some of the societal expectations of a boyfriend, husband, father, or son.
[1] Two Little Hitlers, Elvis Costello.

About Will H. Moore

I am a political science professor who also contributes to Political Violence @ a Glance and sometimes to Mobilizing Ideas . Twitter: @WilHMoo
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s