Looking at the wonderful Audubon Society bird photo awards, I had a moment of introspection related to the discourse of "gender identity" and my current reading of Ethan Watters's Crazy Like Us.
The bird photographer writes "... a parent expressing love to its offspring..." and I had a conditioned response of thinking, well, but does a Sandhill Crane really experience love?
But experiencing love isn't the point, loving actions are what matter.
This connects to what Watters says in the book about the American view of psychological wellness and illness: that it's all about what's going on inside the individual. While in some other cultures it's more about what plays out interpersonally and socially. And individual responses, and how they are given meaning, vary enormously across cultures.
When Watters writes, "In the modern Western world, the idea of PTSD is that of a broken spring in a clockwork brain," he's noting one facet of our broader tendency to mechanize the person, a weirdly paradoxical result of our incessant push towards individualism. The clockwork brain, the Mr. Potato Head body with its interchangeable parts, the male brain in the female body, the brain as a computer, the wish to "upload" one's identity into a computer, the brain in a vat.
The current obsession with "gender identity" is just one mote in the whirlwind dust devil whipped up by our solipsistic spin on reality. We're about to disappear into our own navels.
Back in eighteen-and-whatever, Marx wrote, "All that is solid melts into air" in a prescient vision of capitalism. I will add, "All that is seen melts into feeling."