The following comment is not about Syria (there is some context to it) as I don’t know enough about the situation there to comment on it, but it is indirectly related.
Going through discussions like those on this forum on the one hand, and some other usual kinds of forums, one can’t help observing that:
1. If the people in a forum are only after totally selfish gains, solidarity consolidates extremely rapidly to the lowest point possible, as if enabled by gravity. It is like collective free fall that does not even harm the people involved in it, as they get a kind of immunity and can say or do things with impunity. It is like leaping down a cliff collectively. Of course, there will be a crash at some point, but things can move from one crash to another as if nothing happened, as long as life itself doesn’t become totally impossible for everyone on the planet.
2. If, on the other hand, the people in a forum are motivated by completely or mostly unselfish concerns, it is extremely hard to achieve even the minimum level of solidarity, climbing against all odds, as if against gravity, a bit like a group of people trying to fly together. Even if a good degree of solidarity is established, it comes at a great cost. And it can fall apart quite easily.
This has become more true in the last two or three decades, as we enter the digital age. One can think of it as binarisation of politics and of all the social and political issues. Some examples are given below.
The world, it seems, is divided into binary classes and all you have to do (in fact the only thing we are allowed to do in terms of political decision making) is to perform instant binary classification on all the individuals and groups in the world. Some example binary classes are:
– Those who are against J K Rowling and those who are not
– Those who are in favour of ‘fighting the virus’ and those who are not
– Those who are against Putin and those who are not
– Those who are strictly in favour of masks and those who are not
– Those who are against the new Michael Moore film and those who are not
– Those who are against Israel and those who are not
– Those who support Israel and those who don’t
– Those who are in favour of ‘cancel culture’ and those who are not
– Most importantly, for the last four years, those who are against the Reality TV POTUS and those who are not
These are like binary constraints and after a point it becomes impossible to satisfy all the constraints in any way at all. Everyone is forced into innumerable binary classes, because if you are not in one class (that is, declare yourself into one class), then you are, by definition, in the other class. As a result, the good kind of solidarity becomes impossible. It may still be achieved, but only by collectively ignoring the existence of some or many such constraints and collectively pretending they don’t exist. This naturally implies implicit sacrifice from a large number of people who are affected by these ignored constraints. It should be pointed out that most of the ignored constraints are not binary.
There is a name for this phenomenon and it is well known: polarisation. It was always there, but the difference is that, in the digital age, binaries are not about complicated matters like the interaction between global social welfare, human rights and justice and truth and sustainable growth. They are like being against J K Rowling or not and so on.
How do we deal with this hard hard problem of solidarity for unselfish purposes without sacrificing a (large?) number of people? This is perhaps the biggest challenge facing us, if we stick to truth and justice both (not one or the other).
The irony is that this is happening at a time when a consensus is emerging (rightly) all over the globe against a specific kind of binarisation which had existed for ages: Gender binaries.
Why do binaries exist? Why do they proliferate? Why do they dominate?
One can try to answer in common sense terms: informal logic and common sense psychology.
One reason is a deterministic view of the world, but that alone does not explain it, as even that view allows for non-binaries.
Another reason that seems obvious is along the same lines as why did religions, full of superstition, originate? In a world that they could not understand and were afraid of, human being tried to make sense of it. As a secular view of the reality became more and more popular and established, this need did seem to decrease with scientific and technological developments. However, these developments, along with social, political and economic developments (or regressions) brought about radical changes in societies. At this point, in 21C, we have reached a situation where, due to things like Reality Shows and Social Media (among other things) it is more and more possible to manipulate the perception of what is the reality, thus making it difficult to make sense of the world again. One could say more even than during prehistoric days. We again look for certainties where none exist. Every belief in total certainty about any non-trivial matter usually gives rise to a new binary opposition, perhaps more than one. Sometimes binary oppositions are created through dictates. When faced with any complicated matter which leads to some kind of fear(s), a perhaps natural response of those in power (i.e., those with the blessings of the materialistic Holy Trinity, even if they claim divine blessings), particularly those with regressive minds, is to issue a dictate, such as for banning something, to prohibit something, as if by that act alone the problems that give rise to the fear(s) will magically disappear. In a world full of deadly uncertainties, we seek refuge in creating artificial certainties of our own.
If we are secular, we might even try to use science to justify those, working backwards with logic and evidence. One way to deal with uncertainties is to abandon all principles and become totally cynical, as some ideologies and their followers do. Another way is to ignore uncertainties and pretend they don’t exist, that everything has been worked out by groups of some seemingly superhuman people with some authoritative labels. Still another way is to stick to the principles and at the same time face the uncertainties of life. This is much more difficult and it imposes a great deal more responsibility on us. It is true that such responsibility is too much for us, but the question is should we still face it? Because that is the ‘path of truth’. So far so good, because if we only care for the truth, then it is relatively easy to make good enough decisions and to act on them. But if we care equally for justice (recognising the fact about the uncertainties even there), then it is much more difficult to make decisions, to act upon them and to explain them and to justify them (the so-called ‘policy paralysis’). Perhaps naturally (?) we shy away from them. And take refuge in either cynicality (as opposed to skepticism) or artificial certainties (maybe for the Greater Good).
But science says there is no justice in nature, doesn’t it? I don’t agree with that. Why? That is for another day.
As I posted the above comment early morning today, a shout of “O Chhakke!” (“Hey <the_foulest_word_used_by_homophobics_and_transphobics>”), loud and clear enough for me to hear inside my house today evening, full of contempt, reminded me that my statement about an emerging global consensus against gender binaries was perhaps an overstatement. Or not very accurate.
How does it concern me personally? That is a long story that has to told some other time.
The fact that the word literally means a sixer and is also heavily used in the cricketing context (as also in card games), allows its free usage with impunity.
Even so, while the gender binary still continues in some places, those most vociferously fighting against this binary are also creating their own strict binary oppositions, believing in often non-existent certainties.