K.C. Alexander: Generous Orthodoxy (Look It Up, Goddamnit)
K.C. Alexander wrote a helluva book with Necrotech, and now she’s back with a sequel that, I expect, will probably break your nose with a hard high-kick and make you like it. Here she is, talking about Generous Orthodoxy, and how that relates to — well, gender, and religion, and progress and — I’ll just let you read it.
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Do I have your attention now?
Let’s be honest: if I am here on Terribleminds, most readers don’t need me to grab ‘em by the neck and shake the stupid out. Nevertheless, I can only hope that this will reach the greymatter of those who need to hear it—or their callused skulls, anyway.
To make this easy as possible, I’ll save everyone the trouble of looking it up (or explaining it to everyone for me). The following is (one of several) definitions, spoken by Malcolm Gladwell on his podcast, Revisionist History.
“That phrase, Generous Orthodoxy, comes from a theologian named Hans Frei. It’s an oxymoron, of course. To be orthodox is to be committed to tradition. To be generous, as Frei defines it, is to be open to change. But Frei thought the best way to live our lives was to find the middle ground because orthodoxy without generosity leads to blindness and generosity without orthodoxy is shallow and empty.”
Some claim orthodoxy applies only to religion. If so, this post is for you. And if you, like me, believe that orthodoxy refers to all and any traditions, this post is also for you.
In short: pay a-fucking-ttention. Because change is upon us, and you can either embrace generosity or you can continue down the path of social warfare—where we will grind the hidebound into the dirt with spiked boots. And probably defecate thereabouts, too. Because naturally.
(I’d like to point out that my website does say that I am a struggling Buddhist.)
Okay, so having thoroughly buried the lede, here we are: at the crossroads of hatred and acceptance, intolerance and change. Where the orthodox views of generations before have come full circle and the generosity of modern generations is met with disgust, denial, scorn and violence.
I’m genderqueer. I’ve mentioned this before, but for anyone who doesn’t know what that is, it means that on the spectrum of male to female, I fall somewhere in between. And I like it that way. Even so, I have in my life people who love me, but who do not understand, accept or even tolerate this facet of my world. It defies centuries of tradition, rejects the concept of the gender roles our world believes in, and they feel that it forces change upon those who have never known (or felt) anything like it before.
What, you may ask, does this have to do with Generous Orthodoxy? A simpleminded question with a so-simple-people-can’t-grasp-it answer:
It means that one can remain within their orthodoxy (male and female is a Thing™ and it remains in this world) while also embracing generosity (there are people who do not feel male or female, or perhaps feel both, and this does not affect my belief in male/female as a whole, but I can respect them and call them what they wish anyway).
When it comes to religion, of course, it can get so much more complicated. I do recommend you check out “Generous Orthodoxy” on Gladwell’s podcast. It’s a deeply emotional and passionately intellectual view at this concept, using real people, places and events.
Anyway, in terms of the gender binary, in terms of trans folx, in terms of gay and lesbian, in terms of other religions, all the skin colors, other languages, all the peoples, my point here is that we cunting well exist and the choices you make from here boil down to only a few.
Change is Inevitable
Everything changes. Everything. Tradition, for all it has existed for millennia, has never not changed. The way Germans celebrate Christmas is vastly different from a hundred years ago. The way we treat Halloween has changed wildly over the generations.
The way we mind the house, raise our kids, even the way we care for our bodies and attend church has changed. (Used to be tradition that one bathed only on special days, or that whole families share one bath, one at a time. Fucking hell, right? We changed that happily, didn’t we?)
So, why not embrace those changes, a little at a time from generation to generation, and retain that orthodoxy as well? It’s, after all, only a matter of time before your bigoted, hate-filled ass is left to rot. Why not ensure that your world is as wide and cultured and educated as possible instead?
Take It to the Grave
Do you like…arguments? I bet you do, I bet you do! Say no more, man, say no more… A rock’s as good as a brick in a window.
Which you may or may not know already, but if you’re going to take your intolerance and inability to accept change to the grave, you deserve it.
The thing about the world is this: those who do not embrace change are doomed to bitterness and suffering, forever bemoaning the loss of others’ respect, attention and love. (Whyyyyyyyy, you will whine to the nursing home caretaker who doesn’t give two shits and a used condom about you.)
This consequence may not happen immediately, and you’ll do a lot of damage on your way down (yay, you), but it will happen. Even a beloved grandmother is often avoided between holidays because her “well-meaning” racism causes discomfort.
And if we’re not lucky enough to have a “well-meaning” racist in our family, but a rabid and intolerant bigot whose prejudice and politics demean and invalidate us, then we sure as hell aren’t gonna go out of our way to visit, right?
This goes for everybody under the age of dead, too. Sure, you have all your racist, bigoted, intolerant troll-friends, but Jesus monkeytits, is that the life you want to live? Drowning in a cesspit of anger, violence, self-loathing and invisible “points” nobody else is keeping track of? Winning the game of troll is kind of like winning a one-way trip into the Bog of Eternal Stench—no matter how you spin it, you still come out smelling like an asshole.
Live and Let Live (or Don’t Stick Your Nose in Other People’s Business and Nobody Else Will Get All Up In Your Ass)
Okay, so say you just can’t accept that trans is a thing. Say you just don’t believe in lesbians being allowed to marry. Say you refuse to admit that the person over there with the brown skin probably isn’t a sanctified woman-beater.
Say you believe women belong in the kitchen.
Fine. I get that. Well, no, I don’t get it, and I don’t respect it, but I can and will leave you alone if you leave me alone. I’ll let you live your tiny-minded little narrow life while I live my expansive (and yes, bitter because fuck you) and open-minded life, and may our paths never cross.
And if they do—say at the crossroads of hatred and acceptance, intolerance and change—I will meet your eyes so that you know that I exist and so that I acknowledge that you exist, and then I will turn left onto Change Boulevard while you ride that assbike of yours right up Hatred Lane.
Here’s the thing that I cannot understand but do accept: I will never, ever change your view of the world. But here’s something maybe you can accept, too: your view of the world doesn’t have to change in order for you to live the life you choose.
Unless, of course, your chosen life includes active or passive involvement in lynchings, beatings, shootings, hate-preaching, deliberate acts of bigotry and proselytizing about the glories of the good ol’ days (y’know, when eugenics was a thing and we were interring hundreds of thousands of our own country’s people because stupid fucking assholes decided that was the perfect chance to be racist af to a different class of non-whites).
But I digress.
In the end, these three choices are the root of every semantic and pedantic version out there: generosity within your orthodoxy, orthodoxy without generosity, or merely staying in your lane where you are most comfortable.
There’s a trick choice in there. Can you spot it?
(Hint: staying in your lane is just fine, but you can bet that beloved asshole of yours that we’ll be in there, too. Kissing our queers. Succeeding in our black and brown skins. Majoring in liberal arts and marine biology and something other than math with our various Eastern- and South- and Euro-Asian features. And cracking that glass ceiling with our female-minded fury.)
I guess what I’m saying is this:
Don’t start none, won’t be none. But in the meantime, maybe give a real hard thought about where you want to be in ten years. Do you want to be the one riding the wave of progress (and all the riches that come with it)? Or the one drowning in the wave of violence you, with your undying need to feel superior, brought upon yourself.
I mean, if you ask me, I figure getting stomped by the tides of change, and the people that come with it, is one hell of a fast-track to losing your shirt. And your dignity.
And your money.
So make your choice.
We’re gonna live, a happy mix of orthodoxy and generosity, and at this point, you can do the same… or you can sink into the bog. I hear drowning in a bog is the perfect way to remain unchanging; each limb, each bone, hair and teeth untouched by time. Forever alone. And long forgotten.
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K.C. Alexander is the author of Necrotech and Nanoshock (out now!)—profane transhumanist bloodbaths that take no prisoners and name no corpses. And she does not tolerate shit, but in the most infuriating way possible.