"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Mar 26, 2010

Typing Aloud Whilst I Slowly Go Blind 3

Isonomy. (also, Wiki and Wiki-On-Isocracy)

Something like, "equality before the law, or, equality in tradition."

I'm not in favor of interpreting the efficacy/extent of isonomy exclusively with relation to states or governments. I'm not sold on the usefulness of states.*

But, since I first discovered the term in Christian Meier's brilliant Athens, some many years ago now, and he used it to explain the development of pre-state phratries, especially those which began to break away from exclusively tribal affiliations, and particularly those which violated then existent Attican norms, I might have a latent bias.

Isonomy. Equality before some custom, some accepted standard, some useful approximation. **

An interesting concept.

But does it work?

Can we truly live as equals before a standard which itself exists separate from our multitude of existences, such that we can judge our actions and measure our equality before it?

Dunno. Don't think so. I don't think that we could ever really verify the reality of that standard, it's intended autonomy from our lives, any claims about its objective application to demonstrably different persons, or whether or not our own apprehension of it approached the perfection necessary to decide if all persons, everywhere, measured equal before it.

But, as the sort of concept which must of necessity have a "reach which exceeds it's grasp," I think then that we can really dig out a place wherein we give isonomy a limited and specific function.

To repeat, I don't think we can treat any law, custom, tradition or set of principles as universal, such that we can measure the equality of it's application to any and every person who ever existed, or just who exist within a specific social group, during a specific period.

But we can treat with isonomy as a gyroscope, functional for very specific tasks, according to evolving but agreed-to metrics. No need for universality, exactly defined. No need for identical planes of existence.

Just agreements to keep, given such and such environment, during such and such a period of time. Agreements to understand how a custom, law, standard or tradition creates inequalities.

For example:

No woman exists with exact identity to any other woman. Not one. Not every woman possesses a uterus. No woman occupies the exact space, time or personhood of any other. The category "woman," like any other fiction, serves a communicative need, but does not express a universal condition. But, enough women have a uterus, that the possession of one (if we can really treat any organ as a "possession") approaches the norm.

Not every man exists with exact identity...yadda yadda yadda. Most men get by without a uterus. Enough that any given man not having a uterus approaches the norm.

Women have wombs, men don't. Against some allegedly universal standard (person, human, citizen) women and men fail to measure up as functionally equal (or, identical, level). Women and men have different genders.

(Caveat: I don't hold any position which follows from gender difference to subservience of one gender to another.)

A person enforcing a law defining how a woman "uses" her uterus cannot apply that force equally to both a man and a woman, cannot treat the law as a universal, because nearly one half of any group of subjects or citizens lacks the organ in question.

Because it applies only to women, can only apply to women.

In applying the law, enforcement erases the presuppositions (any chance, really) of  "equality before the law." Or, in other words, any law requiring women to use their wombs in any manner at all necessarily treats with women as unequal to men, before the law. It isolates women as possessing generative organs in need of regulation, in relation to men who have generative organs which don't require regulation.

Let's repeat: it creates an enforceable inequity. Not the functional non-equality of variation, such that men and women have physiological differences, discussed above.  A very different sort of inequality. One which sets up women as subjects of enforcement never applied to men.

As I wrote above, I don't think isonomy works, that people can apply it in real and contingent circumstances. But, I do think it can serve a gyroscopic function. A function outlined, in the negative, by abortion, contraception and gender laws. We cannot enforce equality before any standard, because no circumstances remain so unchanging and no standard so universal that enforcement will achieve the intended outcome. But we can look at the existing standards and ask, "Do these create or enforce demonstrable inequality?"

Again: such as abortion laws.

* - "The state" works as an operative fiction. Look for "the state" and you'll just find people getting together to tell other people what to do, backing up those orders with violence or the threat of violence. People filling offices. Offices treated as separate from the occupying person. Offices treated as a sacred category independent of any personality. Personality subordinated to the office. Minds colonized to treat the office itself as a conveyor of the authority to tell others what to do, and back it up with force. In other words, fiction, but a story so widely believed that it allows operators and officeholders to wield it with tremendous utility.

** - The law, for example, can only ever approximate. The claim to universality, in any law passed to provide sanction for the government of others, fails the moment someone attempts to enforce it, to demonstrate in any use of it's sanction. No situation allows for "perfect" universality, since causality, distance and duration all function to separate, to engender contingency. All events unfold with particularity, and the environments in which we move (and these environments include ourselves, as participators) trap us in those contingencies, so to speak. The enforcement of law (plainly, the use of force or the threat of force) might come with the assumption that the law applies always, and in exactly the same manner, to every person, to all persons, in any possible set of events. But no set of events unfolds exactly identical to all others. Differences exist. Really. Persons develop differently, and live in varying circumstances. The use of force by three arresting officers against one person, at 4 pm, during a sunny afternoon, some summery Saturday, in a suburb of Boston will not result in the exact same outcome as the use of force against another person, several hundred miles away, during the winter, by 25 cops, midday and midweek, in a poor Pittsburgh neighborhood - even if the law they attempt to enforce looks identical on the books. The law can only approximate. Force (like any expenditure of calories, effort, labor) erases the claims to universality inherent in the law. For the law to "work," then, it's intended universality must fail.

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