Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ancestor Worship vs. Utilitarianism

This article is gives the lie to the left's claims to be the empathic side of the ideological divide.

"A genealogist speaking to the Times at the weekend commented: "It is not just about collecting names. It is about understanding who you are, and how you came to be who you are today. It is about knowing yourself." Superficially that doesn't mean much - in the furthest reaches of the nature/nurture debate, nobody has ever suggested one's distant second cousin could be anything more than a curiosity. And yet that tells you all you need to know about the kind of person who family-trees for a hobby - who thinks that's time well spent, getting to "know yourself, understand who you are". If therapy is for people with more money than sense, genealogy is for those with more time than either."

Part of how people understand their lives is by comparison with others, those around them and those who have gone before. Sure, the details you get through geneolocial research aren't great but still it gives some context to our existence. While this is "pointless" in the ugly, utilitarian, sense it is, to go back to Socratic first principles, an entirely legitimate part of the examination of our lives which makes them worth living.

The left claims to be the emphathic side of the political divide. It "feels" for its many designated victims, it describes its enemies as cold Darth Vader parodies. However, for all this the left doesn't really seem to like homo sapiens too much. No real harm is identified in this article; instead the author just wants to vent her rage at how damned irrational we are for our desire to understand where we come from rather than serving the almighty utilitarian calculus.


Gracchi said...

Its a bit harsh to lump the whole left with Zoe Williams. I agree with you about the interest that heredity holds for many people, it helps them connect with history which is a good thing. But I do see some of her point and I think you shouldn't exemplify the whole left by one article. You would claim subtlety for the right, lets give the left the same privilege.

Matthew Sinclair said...

Yeah, sorry. I had other examples but the piece was getting too long winded. The environmentalists as in Madeleine Bunting's recent piece. The Marxist desire to create new people.