Taking up with me

June 22, 2010

In reflecting on the issue of speaking for others, I came across a pair of conflicting words that exist in me and in those I know. The words being “assumption” and “insight”, the latter of which I pride myself to have and the other that which I feel attacks me when I am not daring to make myself as loud and as visible as can be. What I am meaning to say then is when people describe me without my knowing, without my presence and without my seeing a need to do so is that I look at their descriptions of me and cry out that these are assumptions. Baseless, naive assumptions.

The conflict between the two words is that what I do when I claim insight for myself and what others do that I call assumptions are both acts of explanation of the other. The “other” here being in line with Derek Attridge’s idea of “the other”. The “other” that comes into our static lives and allows the dynamic to happen, but only if we let it. So, your friend can have insight into you as a person, but as well a culture, idea or machine. The same holds so for an assumption, though the word assume can have meanings beyond this. So, then, how do others and I separate our assumptions from insight? Perhaps I am an assumptious ass after all. Both words involve me speaking for others and that act often can be one of the sleightest forms of language as violence.

Of the two words, assumption holds the most interest in its meaning and origin. I, of course, at this point assume this, but I will try to explain why now. Insight speaks for itself, it is sight in, it is sight inwards. Insight looks into its subject. (If you hit up the dictionary, you will find definitions in close proximity to this idea.) Assumption, on the other hand, comes from the same root as consume: sumere, to take up. You can also assume power and as such have an assumption of power. An assumption therefor takes, but what and how does it take? Does it always take up, as in taking up a cause? And then is this the cause of its subject or the cause of the sender of the assumption? Does it take up the power of a subject? Or does assumption take from its subject?

We should narrow down these possible meanings by concentrating on the word as an act of explaining. An assumption of power seeks not to explain power. An assumption of the other does. This is why the distinction is being made, the concern here is the motive for explaining and how that motive affects the explanation.

What I find, when I remember my acts of assumption(which of course there are) and times that I have learned of the assumptions of others about me, of about others, is that the explanation is in a way dismissive. The assumption tends to explain away its subject. It defines it then departs from it.

Let us get fictious here. Say Snoop Dog and I go to the projects, and I do not particularly want to be in the projects. And let us say that Snoop Dog remembers when he was not a rich hollywood figure. The two of us have a question on our minds, if Snoop Dog rose up out of these projects then why do the rest not? So, we debate this between ourselves. I speak first and I blame apathy. These people, I say, just do not care to leave. Snoop turns to me, looks at his sneaks and he shakes his head. No, he says, they care to leave, at least some. They just don’t get out. Well, I say, why the hell not? I was lucky, he reminds me. Or maybe I was special. You were special in talent, I nod. Hell nah Edward, I was special in luck.

Who has the insight and the assumption? I will guess that most think Snoop has the insight because he was IN the situation. He speaks from within and when speaking of the place.looks in towards his past. But, others from such situations look in and may say something different. They may agree with my accusation of apathy. “I cared to leave.” At this point, we give Snoop credit for some insight, but he is still assuming at some level for others. He has penetrated into the way he feels, but he hasn’t penetrated as far into the way the others feel.

Insight succeeds when it accounts for this relational bias. That though a person can provide insight by having been close or a part of the subject, it is still relating the self to the other and its explanations acknowledge this bias. Say Snoop says he was special in luck because he knows he cannot account for the feelings of others. He allows a space for the other to enter, or better yet, he allows more room to explore the other. My statement that they do not care, that I plaster apathy upon them all, allows me to move on from where I do not want to be. They do not care, so why should I? And the assumer moves on. The subject is explained away and not further pursued.

This is how the assumption takes, it takes from the subject the chance to be pursued and the chance to explain for itself, but it also takes up the cause of the assumer: to depart and not deal with the subject. I am outside the projects, assuming for the cause of not caring to know. Assuming because the assumer is pre-occupied with its self. We assume to explain away, never lingering upon the subject.

So, now insight, eh? Insight is special, but not special in luck like our fictious Snoop says. Insight is special in that not everyone is equal in ability or occurance to do insight. I say this, because I have met people who are poor assumers and whose supposed insight is laughable. Could this be because they assume too much? Because they have loose rigour in exploring the other? I can not tell, so I will not assume they just do not care to. I can only observe the differences in how people are able to understand others and their behaviors when they attempt to explain others. To say they are lazy assumes some ability on my part to look into their thoughts. I can only observe the lack of insight and say there is a difference in insight, but I can not say they lack the ability for insight until they admit to me such.

Assumption goes past a borderline; a liminal barrier where exists the space between what we can observe and acknowledge, and what we are guessing at. Insight is always pushing that border back further and further, looking to observe and understand. Assumption barely notices the borderline as it races to explain away the subject.

Right now, where that borderline lies with me in this website.. well I cannot be sure. If you would like to remind me that I am assuming, then I say in advance: I know, but lets see if it ends up as insight.


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