I just had one of those creative conversations, where I was moved to say things I didn’t know I knew.
I found myself saying, “Intersectionality is true in a deep sense. Our existence is radically intersectional. But it is not an intersection of social categories. It is an intersection of love relationships — participation in transcendent being in which we experience our personal being.”
I also related this with an old thought: “In my meandering journey through atheism, I learned to disbelieve in many different notions of God. Though I’ve found an understanding of God I cannot even doubt, my past atheisms all survive in me. I still disbelieve in every one of my rejected notions of God.
“Years ago, when my daughters came to me and proclaimed their atheism, I asked them what it was they disbelieved in. They would explain, and I’d say ‘Wonderful! Definitely refuse to believe in that!'” To have a healthy faith, it is important to disbelieve everything you find unpersuasive
I also realized last week, talking with another friend that the notion of institutional racism is rooted in a legitimate intuition that there are institutional personalities. Our participation in these collective forms of being — these egregores — do, in fact, change how we perceive, think and respond to the world, and not always for the better.
But to change the collective personality of an organization requires profound structural changes — changes in how participants in the organization interact and exchange service with one another. Attempting to change the mindsets of all the people within the organization, and worse, doing so through coercive means, will only create new forms of institutional oppression.
The organization must be redesigned to make people naturally want what is better for everyone. The most effective way to change an organization’s personhood is service design.
A conversation with yet a third friend gave me a third insight. Identity crises are an essential part of young adulthood. In youth, we outgrow the roles we are given by our parents and seek new ones. And this role is almost always a category of some kind or another that we share with others we see as our people.
My friend reminded me how, in our profoundly musical generation we adopted music genres and specific bands as our identities. When we met someone else who loved our music we knew something about their ideals and behavioral norms. We were very protective of these identities, scorning poseurs who tried to appropriate our style. If we’d found a way to defend the boundaries of our identities with coercive force, perhaps we would have done it. But adults barely noticed what we were doing and even if they had, they would never have indulged our feelings of ownership over the borrowed foundations of our selfhood.
Young people today favor different categories, and unfortunately many of these identities have been politicized and are enforced by nominal adults in positions of authority.
But it is important to remember, those who are still in this stage are doing their best to establish their selfhood. We cannot condemn them for that. But as adults we have a responsibility to help them mature past this stage.