TAA 0009 – C. Travis Webb and Seph Rodney discuss “context collapse.” This is the idea that “new media” has radically decontextualized the facts of our lives and cultures. We don’t have enough information to make judgments about one another. Is this a new phenomenon, and is it necessarily bad? How might we deal with it?

Context Collapse

by | Feb 28, 2018

S. Rodney: …I was thinking about this today, actually. That… my therapist back in L.A. described it to me as duck bites. It’s not like someone takes a huge chunk out of me everyday, but the little things, and they just kind of slowly erode my humanity. Right?

Like I’m sick and being in the queue at a supermarket, and having chosen my pastry on the way to work, and having the bad clothes… And having the woman in front of me–a white women–the same–pastry bag, clothes, etc…

And the guy asks her what’s in the bag. And she sells him, and he rings it up.

Then for me he starts to open my bag! Didn’t even ask me as. He was asking me as he’s opening it, and I’m like you just dehumanized me. Why? Why am I different? So, duck bites…

C.T. Webb: Victor Frankel talks about these people in the chow line in concentration camps, in the most unspeakable conditions in the history of the world. I mean you have to put it right up there with the Maafa… I mean on the list of really terrible, awful things human beings have done to each other.

And he’s talking about it when they served food, right. That if you got in line and someone in your barracks, or a friend, was doling out the food they would scoop down to the bottom–because the very limited nutritional content that was in these big, giant vats of food was at the bottom.

So they would scoop way down to the bottom, and you knew that you were going to get a good portion.
But the men that he had the most respect for were the ones that never lifted their eyes, and only stared at the pot and ladled from the middle of the pot for everyone. Now that kind of commitment, and discipline, to de-contextualizing the doling out of food, [for some of them] literally the last meal on earth.

That’s a kind of [self-imposed] context collapse… the fact that you are taking an embodied real world situation and not using the cues that surround you to change your behavior. Right?

…I mean can you imagine the commitment to your ethical principle, to not look up and see your brother is in line, or maybe the guy that gave you his last cigarette is in line…

The [tzadik] have made it a normative requirement to treat everyone the same way, which is to say respectfully… That’s an enormous good.


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