Social Constructionism and Dreaming: Another World Is Possible

Sunday, March 15th, 2020

Bittersweet spring greetings. First and foremost, I wish you and the people you love, play, and work with good health and equanimity as we weather a global pandemic.

I’ve been musing for some time about social constructionism. It helps me understand and frame the profound social inequities we fight together and challenges me to dream and help build, with others, another world.

Social constructionism is a theory of knowledge… that examines the development of jointly constructed understandings of the world that form the basis for shared assumptions about reality.

–Wikipedia

I love Wikipedia’s definition of social constructionism, Wikipedia itself being a “jointly constructed understanding of the world.” It’s nicely circular, self-referential, social.

I’m not an expert on social constructionist theory, and I sure don’t want to be one, but in my embodied understanding of the concept, supplemented with a smattering of lay resources, I do feel a strong sympatico with it. For me, social constructionism puts to words a wisdom I feel in my body, intuitively, from before words.

Social constructionism laughs at the “shoulds” of humans, decenters particular social “agreements,” and puts language to my embodied distaste for many of the fictions (money, authoritarian religion, and two-party politics, to name a few) that our society centers itself on.

It is easier for us to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.

–Streetpost sticker on my street

When you begin to meditate on how much the “pillars” of our society are not real, but social constructs, it’s easy to imagine toppling them down and replacing them with something else, something much better.

I am writing this as we are in the grips of a worldwide pandemic of COVID-19. New York City hasn’t closed its schools yet, but I think we’ll hear that announcement any day now. My son Max is coming home from college soon and will be with us for the rest of the semester. Hand sanitizer can’t be found anywhere in the city, and my friend who works at our local food coop shook his head at how many people were doing grocery shops at eight in the morning, including me.

This global crisis, as with any other, is an invitation to examine what’s not working, imagine a better world, and transform ourselves together. When I talked with Max, he laughed and noted that NYC will now have tens of thousands of college-age students with plenty of time on their hands. Time to organize! (Just not en masse, in an embodied way.)

Yesterday, Max DJ-ed his last college radio show for the year and dedicated it to “music for a prefiguratively* liberated world that solves the health crisis with mutual aid and community organizing rather than militarization and protection of economic interests.”

That’s some powerful dreaming.

He goes on:

We’re living in a different world than a few weeks ago.

The capitalist state is crumbling and struggling.

We should envision and practice the world we want to live in,

And take apart the world we have been living in.

I, too, have been dreaming of another world for as long as I can remember. I bet you have, too. There’s plenty to dream and organize for. Nationalized healthcare. Free and accessible public transit. Housing for all. An end to racism and capitalism.

I close with a few quotes that inspire and energize me in this moment. Perhaps they’ll have the same effect on you:

Never give up honing your knife. Maintain good ethics & boundaries. And, pray for a clear voice to help others.

–Chrystos

 

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. Maybe many of us won’t be here to greet her, but on a quiet day, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing.

–Arundhati Roy

 

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun

–The Beatles 

*Prefigurative politics are the modes of organization and social relationships that strive to reflect the future society being sought by the group.

–Wikipedia


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