Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Common sense and jogging

Maybe it's just me. That's what I think whenever I think about the binary of common sense and weirdness. As the Marxist revolutionary Antonio Gramsci once pointed out, common sense itself operates as a form of class control and a site of class struggle.

The very sense of common sense, and its corollary weirdness or strangeness, work as socially and historically contingent concepts. A recent story really brings them home -- Republican candidate Rick Perry's penchant to carry a fire arm while jogging. As this Slate story notes:

Reporters asked newly announced presidential candidate Rick Perry on Monday whether he carries a gun while campaigning. Perry refused to answer, but he does seem to carry guns in unexpected places. He shot a coyote while jogging in 2010, for example. What's the safest way to carry a gun while running?

After talking about practical ways to carry a fire arm while jogging, the story justifies carrying a gun while jogging:

While Perry shot the coyote in defense of his puppy, animals attack runners with some regularity. Mountain lions, wolves, and grizzly bears have all killed joggers. Last year, a kangaroo attacked an Australian runner. The current barefoot running fad raises special risks: In 2010, a copperhead snake bit the foot of a North Carolina man who was running across the state to protest cuts to social services funding. (Rick Perry says he carries his gun to combat snakes.)

Most gun-and-run enthusiasts in Internet chat rooms, however, seem more concerned about attacks by humans than by wild animals. The Explainer is unaware of any statistical analysis of attacks against runners, but sexual assaults and other crimes against female runners appear to be depressingly common. In 2010 alone, female runners suffered attacks in Malibu, San Diego, Galveston, Winnipeg, Seattle, and McAllen, Texas. Some of the most infamous attacks on women have been perpetrated against runners, including the 1989 Central Park jogger case and the murder of Chandra Levy in Washington, D.C.'s Rock Creek Park.

Of particular interest to me is this second paragraph. For me, it implies how identity may structure common sense. As a jogger I have never come under physical threat by an attacker, nor have I thought such things were likely. Jogging, for me, is a very peaceful activity. If it were not a peaceful activity, or at least if I perceived that it might not be peaceful, then I might have a very different reaction to carrying guns while jogging.

This poses three problems. First, do other sources, schemas, and sites of reason come into play that I have not considered? Within this blog post, the reasoning subject appears fairly homological and monological. The female subject gets reduced to possible, experienced, and imagined violence; as Donna Haraway pointed out some time ago, that reduces women to an effect of a discourse, stealing their agency. It seems that there might be other experiences and ways of thinking that might come into play in structuring whether women think of toting guns while jogging as weird. Second, it seems somewhat problematic to create this female speaking subject. In this sense, there might be multiple notions of weirdness and common sense from a female perspective. Furthermore, the very notion of people in what is considered female bodies might start from another perspective that frames common sense (such as liberalism, Marxism, libertarianism). To be a women and expected to frame an answer from a women's perspective, in this sense, amounts to a problematic notion, as it is patronizing and objectifying. Third, what right does someone have to represent someone outside their own subject position? Can people be allowed to speak without having their ideas dictated to them?

Of course, this does not get me out of, or even start to answer, the fundamental set of questions that run throughout this post:

  • Is carrying a gun while you jog a weird thing?
  • What makes it so (not) weird?
  • What does it say about our own social location, society, and social processes that we find it (not) weird?

At this point, I lack any easy answers. I only seem to be moving in circles.

1 comment:

  1. "Is carrying a gun while you jog a weird thing?"

    Hmm maybe yes, maybe no. But if you are on a target list or you know that someone might attack or kill you, you really need to carry a gun.

    Jane R.Kerry