You, In Order
(That’s not to say that I am orderly.)
Alive (physically embodied) second.
Those are what I see as my primaries. When I have to “side”, I take the highest (most inclusive) side I can.
When I think, I try as often as I can to think of myself as one of the Consciousness (the category isn’t dependent on having a view, like mine, that all consciousnesses are one Consciousness, but it’s certainly compatible with it).
I find that the higher the level I’m able to consider myself on in any situation, the better my decision-making tends to be. Thinking of myself as alive makes me more widely compassionate and understanding than thinking of myself as human does.
Of course, it’s not always possible to think that big. Thinking from consciousness doesn’t help me pick groceries (though gods willing, one day it will!). And of course, sometimes in the course of living, one has to “drill down” even farther than being human. (Personally, even thinking about things from an anthrocentric perspective makes me nervous — somebody’s going to have to be understanding and compassionate about aliens someday! …But I fully admit that that’s probably just me. ;)
I used to really resist smaller-group thinking, but since it can be legitimately necessary at times, I’m trying to get the hang of doing it — without deteriorating into us-and-them thinking, if possible, since that almost never seems to produce much good. (Usually, if I find that an issue is presented as having an us-or-them binary solution, the middle way is usually a function of seeing things from a level or two higher. Neat, huh?)
So, since humanity is first divided in half, it would seem that I’m also:
…Okay, I can do that. It means that it’s my job to consider my gender when issues are raised that affect women as a group, and to speak up when they’re being ignored, and if necessary, side with women when women and men side against each other (which I wish they’d stop doing). Note that that doesn’t always mean I’ll agree with “most women”, but it does mean that what’s good for women as a group will inform my decisions about what I do agree with.
But then it gets tricky.
(Read more for the enumerating of race, nationality, and other trickiness. …But anyway, think about yourself…do you agree with me so far? Is categorizing that widely useful to you? Would it be for everyone? How do you “Order” yourself?)
Now I have to ask whether these categories in which I define myself are mine or not. If they’re mine, then race and nationality would go quite far towards the bottom — I get nothing but frustrated by the ways in which my whiteness or Americanness try to play into my decisions, and they often conflict with the higher categories. Yes, those things mean that society gives me privilege I don’t deserve at times. I’d be happy to let it go (to equalize); but any time I’m offered a chance to let privilege go, in order to be able to do so I’ll have to be able to think of myself as part of something bigger than whiteness or Americanness. So I don’t see much value in “thinking like” or being mentally part of the “white race” (insofar as there actually is one) or the “American nation” (of immigrants). To do so inevitably seems to beg some decisions (that would benefit me “as a white” or “as an American”) which would simultaneously be wrong when considered “as a conscious being” or “as a human”. And if there’s anything I demand of my list, it’s a minimum of cognitive dissonance!
But if how I consider myself has anything to do with how others consider me, then I don’t see that I have much of a choice, because society is going to want racial and national considerations to be pretty much right up there underneath gender. (Or above it. Or even higher, since nations have been known to ask people to forget that we’re all human and kill each other over politics.)
I’m going to finish the list by ignoring what “should be” in the eyes of the world as it is, but I didn’t want to give the impression that I was actually ignoring it, or wasn’t aware of it. It’s just not how I like to make my decisions, and I don’t think I would make better decisions if I took my color or country of origin into consideration more. (If anything, I’d prefer to ignore them even more, but unfortunately as long as “white privilege” and “Western privilege” are real things, it’s not safe to forget about them entirely. I can’t affect them directly for the most part, but I can mitigate them in some instances — or rather, if I ignore them entirely then I risk missing an opportunity to mitigate them, which would be a sin of ignorance or omission on my part, but no less a sin*.)
So, based on me? Unfortunately, I think I have to split fifth place:
I’m a rational thinker and a parent fifth.
I just can’t see either of those winning out against the other. People have asked me about situations where I’d have to rationally act in a way that didn’t benefit my child at all (or children in general; part of being a parent is that you become obligated to all children, by virtue of coming to understand their helplessness and potential in a very direct way) … but I’ve never been able to conceive of such a situation, myself. The laws of rationality simply don’t stretch that far — if the decision seems logical but would directly harm my child, or children in general, then rationality itself would demand that I not do it. Similarly, anything I might do for the (actual, not imaginary) benefit of my child or children in general is rationally permitted, by virtue of that benefit. It’s rational to take care of children, even though the emotional nature of child-rearing seems like it would be at odds with rational thinking. (Any parent will tell you that it isn’t, though — a huge portion of parenting involves being able to see past your emotions to do what’s actually good for the children.) That’s not to say I might not be forced to act against my children, ever — I might, if, say, my kid gets involved in a war and I have the means to end it, but not without damage to her (human is higher on the list than parent…and yes, this can cause dissonance, but I didn’t say there’d be none, only as little as I can manage…and that’s a pretty extreme situation!) — but I don’t think I could be forced to make such a decision for rational reasons.
Therefore rationality doesn’t go higher than parenthood. But also, again, neither does parenthood trump rationality. So, a tie it is.
I could go farther, I guess, but past that point it gets rather petty, and anyway when it comes to decision-making, there’s rarely one that I can’t make using one of those categories as a guide. For me, it’s best to keep the categories to a minimum, and to always use the highest applicable one — but in my life I try to avoid unnecessary judgment and strife, and categories can lead to those. I can see people with different lives having use for more and/or smaller categories, though.
What about you? Do you have levels of group-membership that you ascribe to, and which guide your decision-making?
*Don’t get hung up on the word; you know what I mean. A Wrong Thing.