Humanistic Sociocentrism

There must be a common term for this and it is certainly well-known. A kind of wishful thinking of the trailblazer type. A combination of utopianism, humanism, naïveté, forward-thinking, and ethnocentrism. You wish for society to change in a given way, you predict that society will eventually switch to that direction, you wait patiently for social changes to happen, and you eventually notice that you’re in the minority.

Been thinking about “dreamers” («rêveurs», in Amélie), artists, idealists, intellectuals, marginals, elites, trend-setters. May even consider myself part of that group, somehow. A tiny minority. Running the gamut from hyper-specialist to Renaissance-type polymath. Getting jobs in different sectors but mostly in fields such as business, academia, expressive culture, or diplomacy.

Using the pattern of “ethnocentrism,” sociocentrism as social limits on thinking. Not necessarily thinking your social class to be better than others. But failing to notice that members of other social groups (in this case, the majority groups) may not think along the same lines as you do.

It might be what prevents some people to become successful politicians. Social life might be better that way.

About enkerli

French-speaking ethnographer, homeroaster, anthropologist, musician, coffee enthusiast. View all posts by enkerli

13 responses to “Humanistic Sociocentrism

  • The Geek Niche (Draft) « Disparate

    […] If I don’t stop myself, I even get the urge to talk about the politics of geek groups, especially in terms of idealism.  […]

  • enkerli

    Let’s hope it won’t go to the extreme.

  • Yara

    The point I was trying to make, those people who are told allez-en chez vous, well the chez-vous is Québec and not some foreign country… So it’s quite hurtful when someone is telling you a) you’re not one of us when you thought you were a Québécois or atleast a néo-québécois but nonetheless a part of the Québécois community, b) this is not your home, when you’ve been living here most of your life and cannot fathom living anywhere else.

    It seems you got that too … except that there is now a third and scarier attitude which is. Well not only you are not one of us and this is not your home, but you are also hostile, a terrorist and so whatever privileges you think you have a citizen, well forget them because we can put you in jail for 5 years without prosecution.

    And this is where we are now and what lies behind the r’tourne don’ chez vous

    Y.

  • enkerli

    To me, identity is about assessing who’s in and who’s out of a particular group. In this case, the notion could be, “you’re one of us as long as you do it our way.” Actually, I’ve had pretty much that discussion with Europeans who were very frustrated at being told “si t’es pas content, r’tourne-toi z’en cheu-vous!” These Europeans thought it demonstrated close-mindedness on the part of Québécois as a whole. To me, it’s a statement of “we’re building our own imagined community and we welcome everyone who’s agreeing with us but we don’t want to be told, by outsiders, how we should behave.” It sounds petty, parochial, provincial, etc. But it’s quite specific a discourse. It applies to Québécois pure laine as well, to an extent.
    Even though I was born and raised here, I pretty much was the target of a similar attitude. Which really made me perceive myself as a “citizen of the world.”
    Interestingly enough, Switzerland is almost the reverse. Yes, there’s a rule for everything (anything which is not forbidden is required). And there’s a lot of outright xenophobia. But, if you’re recognized as a Swiss citizen, the expectations are very different than if you’re a foreigner. At least, in my experience.

    G’night!

  • Yara

    hmm … didn’t get the rhetorical question. But I’m getting to DoDo time so my brain is shutting down😉

    Guten nacht!

  • enkerli

    Isn’t this what group identity is all about?

  • Yara

    Totally agree. Despite those incidents though, I would still prefer to be in Québec over any where else. As for the ADQ, it raises some serious questions about what a plural society should be in the future. Personnally, I understand where it’s coming from but my anxiety levels shoots up anyway when I hear people saying, if they don’t want to do it our way qu’ils rentrent chez eux. The question I ask is: what if their “chez eux” is here?

    y.

  • enkerli

    Too bad about those experiences. Overall, what you’re saying is pretty much what I meant to say. On some occasions where they’re intolerant, Quebeckers use their own “progressive” attitude as an argument for their intolerance. In my experience, intellectuals in New England do pretty much the same thing.
    In the MidWest, it’s a bit different. More of what Malcolm X called the fox. Outright racism but disguised as politeness. It’s a bit weird and may sound a bit similar to what is done by Quebeckers and New Englanders, but with some differences. Including the fact that anybody might do it.
    South Carolina is the place where I saw the most unapologetic forms of racism, twenty years ago. In a way, it was almost refreshing.
    One anecdote I’ve used in class recently and that you would really understand. Three middle-aged Québécoises at the Berri métro station, talking together: “In Quebec, we’re very open-minded. We’re not like Muslims.”
    I was just getting back from teaching and I was, honestly, pretty angry.
    As you note, much of it has to do with unthinking secularism. As a secularist myself, I’m quite critical of that form because I find it associated with cultish obedience to moralistic evaluation of others. Not my thing.

    BTW, what you say of your arrival in 89 is parallel to what I felt as a European accented Québécois throughout my childhood. I was ostracized and called a damn French. Still now, I perceived that people occasionally give me a hard time because I sound like a snob, or something. Hence my anti-snob stance.

    Lest you think this is an outsider’s critique. Even anthropologists can be quite intolerant on occasion.

    Ah, well…

  • Yara

    Well, I think in Montreal it’s a question of what is progressiveness, and for Québec’s uban elite, a big part of it has to be absolute laïcité, which is quite understandable given the history. So they have a lot of trouble understanding why some people see no conflict between religion, progress and politics.

    In rural Québec , it is I’m afraid partly xenophobia. I mean most of these towns have never seen a Muslim in their lives except on TV and you can imagine the impression they have.

    Racism in Québec is not the in your face hostile type. It will never be, on that I totally agree. It would simply betray Québécois ambivalence, which I htink is a fundamental part of québécois identity. Racism in Québec is of the Tranquille type … A few weeks ago a muslim engineer, a PQ member if I remember correctly, did an experiment. He applied for a job in some agricultural organism with all the credentials such a post would need. His application was never answered, after 20 attempts. He then sent he exact same CV but changed his name to Marc Tremblay. He got an interview the next day. He eventually filed a complaint and was compensated.

    5 years ago, I was teaching in a music school. One of my students, a doctor, 48 years old, found out I was muslim and said: You know I read a book about Islam, you came here because you were afraid of how they treat women right? I laughed. I said no, it has nothing to do with that and I told her that I swam, skated, went out with friends, boys and girls, basically did everything I do here. And her reaction: You know that’s not the truth, you’re not telling the truth. Her ideas were so set in she basically accused m of being a liar or atleast “brain-washed”, and that’s after reading one damn book, God know which one of the hundreds of thousands of junk literature who can buy here about Islam. I mean what do you do with that?

    First day I ever took the metro, 1989. My parents and I were harrassed by punks on the orange line, calling us names, laughing at us, making gestures, and no one budged to stop them in that metro car. We had just arrived so none of us spoke french and so we couldn’t even defend ourselves. Eventhough I couldn’t understand a word, I memorized what they said. It took a few weeks to finally understand the meanings of the words.

    And that’s just me, who doesn’t even “look” like a muslim. So imagine a veiled woman or a man with a beard …

    I mean, Québec is ofcourse one of the most tolerant and open socieities on earth, but let’s not kid ourselves, with that’s happening around us, Quebecers are no more immune than others to fear and xenophobia.

    Y.

  • enkerli

    As is often the case, Quebec’s current political climate seems more complicated than this. We still don’t really know why people voted for this or that party. Sure, it’s likely that a good number of those who voted for ADQ share some of the ADQ’s opinions about how things should be done. But Quebeckers are typically very critical of those they elect.
    The fact that you are targeted has as much to do with journalists and other individuals than it has to do with Quebec’s conception of “open-mindedness” in a context of religious backlash after the Quiet Revolution. My perception is that some Muslim communities are targeted by Quebec’s media and «bien-pensants» because of a perception of “close-mindedness” on the part of Muslim leaders. Much of it has to do with gender (veil) and sexuality (homophobia). Apparently, even Austrian politicians use the same card on occasion.
    I really hope that your family and yourself will not be victims of acts of intolerance. My feeling is that they won’t happen unless opinionated people aren’t provoked. I get the impression that even the most intolerant people we hear about are unlikely to commit acts of active discrimination out of their intolerance on an individual level unless they feel directly threatened. For instance, the same people who publicly object to women wearing veils would probably not attack a specific veil-wearer directly. It’s not personal.
    Of course, it’s hard for me as part of the “visible majority” to know what others will go through. And it’s not really that I trust Quebeckers to do the right thing. It has more to do with taking a step back and looking at “my” society from a distance. Hard to do, but kind of fun, at some level.

  • Yara

    Like you,

    I started panicking when I saw that they were ahead and the only thing that kept me calm was seeing the media looking completely lost, which is always quite satisfying to see ;p

    I voted for QS, even though they’re separatists, hoping they would get enough votes to be more credible but I was really disappointed … I mean if I voted for them and not le parti vert who are federalists, that goes to show that for most people souvereignty is now way down on the list of priorities. For me, it isn’t an issue anymore in the sense that I don’t fear it. Whether it happens or not, I’m staying and I don’t think frankly that if it happens, it will be that earth-shaking. What worries me, is that what is replacing the souvereignty debate is not a concern with our system of health, education, etc. but fear of the other. The ADQ won en grande partie because of their position on the infamous accomodements raisonnables. And i’m afraid ethnic minorities are becoming political pawns for whoever wants public attention, especially the media. I admit, for the first time in my 20 years living in Quebec, I feel targeted and am worried about the future of Quebec pluralism, about my children.

    Imagine if one day in school, someone like the residents of Hérouxville comes and tells my daughter: hey does your dad beat your mom? You’re muslim?! oh. That “oh” scares me to death.

    Anyway, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. We’ll see what transpires.

    Y.

  • enkerli

    Well, it’s partly that. But there’s more. I was teaching Becker’s Outsiders and talking about musicians as marginals. Idealists, but marginals nonetheless. As someone who’s always been an intellectual (and usually ostracised because of anti-intellectualism), I tend to think about our status quite a bit. The elections just put things in a new focus.
    However, I also relate to the sentiment behind the Think Different Apple ads.

    Because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

    What I’m saying here is also related to my old line about naïveté as a blessing. I still think the line fitting, but I also observe that we tend to assume more agreement with our ideas than there really is.
    As for ADQ, well, like many an intellectual (including some musician friends, last night), I will admit that I was worried early during the night Monday when ADQ seemed like it might win the elections. Not that the signs were that strong (they were leading in many ridings but the PLQ had won more seats), but the effect was there. The pundits were scratching their head and this is where they started talking about the reasons behind the mainstream media’s surprise to those (possible) results. On Télé-Québec, one commentator said that many intellectuals had assumed that the QS would get more votes than it did. That commentator was probably right.
    As for ADQ’s voice in the assembly, I completely agree with you. My hopes for more debate on the federal level were overly enthusiastic, as always, but it’s quite possible that the three-way conversation will, in fact, do more than “realign the parties.”
    On the other hand, I’m not really sure this is the time we finally get the real discussion about Quebec’s position in Canada. The time is right, in some sense. People themselves are quite capable of distinguishing autonomy, sovereignty, nationalism, and separatism. But I’ve become quite disillusioned with public figures’ incapacity to reframe these types of ideas.
    Ah, well…

  • Yara

    Hmm. do I detect an election hangover here? I’ve made my peace with it. I’ve always voted for the loser so hey, nothing new here! Is it sociocentrism to say that many people who voted for the ADQ did it for very understandable reasons but the wrong reasons nevertheless?

    I for one am glad they have a voice now in l’Assemblée Nationale. Hopefully, representation will prevent isolation and extremism.

    But do I regard the ADQ with condescendance? YES. Sue me.

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