Sunday, September 16, 2007

Chapter 6

In Johnson’s chapter six titled What it all Has to do With Us he discusses the idea and the role that individualism plays in our society. He also talks about the path of least resistance and what is truly means to be involved in oppression and privilege. I believe that Johnson’s thesis in this chapter is to explain that when considering the role of privilege and oppression you have to also consider the role of social categories and not focus so much on the individual. Johnson wants to point out that the social categories aren’t just something that one person can change, that it is a societal thing so much that we sometimes don’t even realize it.
Johnson first starts off chapter six by stating that society encourages us to think that the social world begins and ends with individuals, when in reality that isn’t true. When believing in the individual way of thinking, we find ourselves believing that everything is someone else’s fault and makes it hard to talk about such topics of racism or sexism. It also makes us not even acknowledge the existence of privilege because individualism so focused on the individual it fails to consider societies influence. This is why Johnson says the individualistic way of thinking is not correct and we must consider society as an influence in what goes on. Johnson talks about how individuals must play a part in social systems in order for social life to occur. He then brings up the concept of the path of least resistance. Johnson says that in the end the default position is to adopt the dominant version of reality and act as though it’s the only one there is (80). To explain the path of least resistance Johnson tells a story about being in an elevator and the fact that we all know to stand and face the front of the elevator in a relatively quiet manner. However, if someone was to stand in an elevator and face the back of the elevator, many people will give them odd looks and wonder what they are doing. However, they are not doing anything wrong, or hurting anyone in any way, it’s just that they are doing something that is not the social ‘norm’ so people find it weird and may judge them. So if you don’t want to be judged or looked at funny, people do what is socially accepted as normal, which would be the path of least resistance. Also, people know that there are other paths that exist but they do not choose that route because they are afraid of what will happen if they do. Johnson then goes on to point out that similar dynamics operate around the issue of privilege (80). People in a corporation tend to promote the people and mentor the people that are most like them, making it difficult for other people to get promoted. And Johnson states that what we experience as social life happens through a complex dynamic between systems such as families, schools, and workplace, along with the choice that people make as they participate in them. And through this process of these systems working together is how social life helps produce privilege and oppression. Johnson states that most of the time we do not even realize that the path of least resistance is there and that is what helps create and maintain privilege.
So do people really follow the path of least resistance in most cases still today? Of course they do. The path of least resistance is the path that will cause the least amount of fuss or attract the least amount of attention because that is what we view as socially normal. For instance, when men are sitting around and telling each other jokes, and one man says a very sexist joke and some of the men find it offensive but they just laugh and play along because they do not want to draw attention to themselves. They know that if they bring it up they will either get laughed at and teased or it may start a heated argument so they just take the path of least resistance and laugh along with the rest of the men. Also, school kids my tease one boy for having glasses and the other kids may think it is mean, but they do not say anything because they do not want to get made fun of either. So the path of least resistance is certainly a common path still today in many countless situations.
I enjoyed this chapter by Johnson. I feel that he did a good job of using a lot of examples to help explain his ideas better. I like the Monopoly analogy that he used throughout and also the stories he used to describe the path of least resistance. I think he did a very effective job of explaining his topics and his points in this chapter. I also found the concept of the path of least resistance very interesting and it helped me realize how prevalent it is in our society today in some many aspects.

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