What am I Talking About?: Essentialism

What am I Talking About?: Essentialism

Occasionally, on this site, we will discuss social and cultural issues, as this webzine’s purpose is to introduce and discuss aspects of Popular Culture. As such, the writers on this site will discuss many topics, but we may not always have room to give each topic its due within the space of the article. “What am I Talking About?” is a column meant to address that problem (so many words, so little space). In this column, which the other contributors on this site are free to use, we will define and discuss concepts and ideas relating to Popular Culture.

In my article “The ‘Cool Kid’ Fallacy“, I refer to essentialism, which is a cultural idea that is causing a lot of problems in American society (I can’t speak for other countries because I don’t live in them). Essentialism is a societal shorthand used to cut a lot of the human interaction out of human interaction. In American society we have constructed a lot of “essential” categories to file people away in. These categories are arbitrarily constructed cultural profiles determined by the perceptions of popular culture.

For example: I am a christian who lives in Alabama.

According to my essentialist profile, I am a

gun toting,

Bible thumping,

Conservative,

who hates homosexuals,

and does not believe in science.

In reality,

I do not own a gun,

my stance on the Bible is too complex to detail here,

declaring political sides is part of the problem,

“God is love” has no qualifications,

and I am a huge science fiction and technology fan

(Seriously look up cyborg anthropology. Its fascinating!)

Essentialism is a problem because it eliminates the need for communication, which is humanity’s only method for establishing connections. Instead of talking with someone, in order to get to know them, its much easier to just find out a single facet of a multifaceted human being and assume the rest, based on the essentialist profile.

I said it in the “Cool Kids” article, but I will say it again. Human existence is too nuanced and varied to assume any baseline for human experience (Translation: We all differnt).

Since we are currently confined to this planet, we do not have the luxury of discussing existential philosophy with the Tralfamadorians or hanging out with the hyper-intelligent shades of the color blue. We only have each other to relate to, and instead of making baseless assumptions about the people we meet, we need to talk to them and get to know them. You do not even have to agree with their views, just find them out for yourself and throw the Essentialist Dictionary away.