Morello, Eastwood, & Asexuality: A Round Up

Posted on 31 August, 2012


Why Does Anyone Care What Tom Morello Thinks?

Tom Morello / Paul Ryan

Tom and Paul, raging at different parts of the machine.

Rolling Stone reading beigeists were afflicted with vapors when it was reported that Paul Ryan counts Rage Against the Machine among his favorite bands.  It’s unclear whether he actually enjoys the music or if it was the work of some cynical public relations lackey’s profile modeling, but it’s also unclear whether it matters at all what music he likes.  And out of this, Tom Morello was jostled into a pique and inspired to write about how little he feels Ryan could possibly relate to the music they make.  You know, just in case some of the listeners and readers are too dumb to get the “corporations are bad” message, or to realize Ryan doesn’t agree, despite him endeavoring to make that point incredibly clear numerous times.

And let’s not forget that Morello’s response to this non-controversy was in Rolling Stone, a music publication that takes the safest critical stances on music of any publication on popular music today.  They’re about as radical as Paul Ryan, and they claim to like Rage Against the Machine, so what’s the problem?

Dirty Chairy

Dirty Chairy

“Mr. Chair, I yield the balance of my time.”

In the vein of people in media making sure we know where they stand on politics, Clint Eastwood gave a speech at the Republican National Convention.  Now, the chair thing was definitely bizarre.  That is without question.  But what were even more bizarre were the defenses and rationalizations of it.  Colin Schultz of the Smithsonian Magazine’s blog gives a pretty good summary of what the defense of this kind of insane behavior is: “…it turns out that the history of debating empty chairs is a rich one.

If your subject was invited to a fair debate on neutral ground and refused to come, then fine, use the rhetorical device to its fullest, even though I still think it looks insane.  However, if the only opponent you invited was the chair, and the chair was kind enough to take you up on your senile offer, don’t bully it in someone else’s place.  Ask it how it’s going to bring all four pillars of its platform to the same level and achieve much-needed stability.  On the other hand, I do support his decision not to invite the stool; it doesn’t have the backing necessary to be a real contender in this race.

The Complications of a Fourth Sexuality

Asexuality Flag

It’s not as boring as the flag suggests

The Independent in the UK recently had a short online-only piece about asexuality and the alienation it can cause.  People seem to have a hard time understanding just how much of life revolves around the procreative act, and the effect that can have on someone who doesn’t share one of the most universal desires with the rest of humanity.  For depressing confirmation, enjoy a quick perusal of the comments section of that article.

“Sex sells,” but there’s a reason for that.  It’s one of those things we recognize as a fundamental drive of the human being.  It’s so ubiquitous and fundamental that it’s recognized as one of the basic physiological needs in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, as well as one of the aspects at the level of love and belonging.  Evolutionarily speaking, we wouldn’t be around if it weren’t (generally) so.

Asexuals inhabit a world where everyone but them is addicted to the equivalent of a highly addictive drug.  There’s little they do in their life which isn’t in service to acquiring it, and much of people’s ideas of their own and others worth are tied up in how readily they can access it, or how much theirs is worth to others.

Jesse Bering, of Scientific American’s “Bering in Mind” blog, laments the lack of studies on asexuality, but seemingly unknowingly clarifies the reason why.  If science were able to determine that asexuality was a proper, inherent sexual orientation, it would pose a complex problem for current behavioral evolution dogma:

[I]f you’re on board theoretically with evolutionary psychology, almost all of human cognition and social behavior somehow boils down to sexual competition. So what would the evolutionary psychologist make of asexuality? If sex is nature’s feel-good ruse to get our genes out there, is there actually a natural category of human beings that is immune to evolution’s greatest gag?

It’s not that I think evolutionary psychology isn’t up to the task; it remains the best model we have yet to explain much of human behavior.  It’s just that it seems that most researchers and media proponents in the field are incredibly lazy, more interested in courting and defending decades-old controversy over decades-old findings than using the well appointed toolkit of an evolutionary view of behavior to actually explain anything more than what is philosophically or academically titillating.  Yes, yes, there may be an evolutionary component to rape, infidelity, etc…  How edgy, for 1975.

Asexuality may add a little complication to the reliability of the just-so stories that evolutionary psychology has been sadly stuck defending, but for those of us who take it seriously as a potentially revolutionary epistemological tool, it’s an important question whose answer can only add to the rigor of the discipline of psychology.  Maybe I’m wrong, but for something that puts such an interesting challenge before psychologists, it seems like it is attracting far too little academic attention to explain away as mere disinterest or professional indifference.