Where are we in history?

When you read the title of this post, you might be thinking, “I’ll tell you where we are, we’re right now. We’re at 2010 of course.

But what I mean is: what is unique about our historical era compared to others? Anything? This is a massive question, but one scrap of evidence is our casual and derogatory use of words like “gay” “homo” and “fag.”

Movies, TV shows and daily conversations often use these words as if they are just another expletive like “damn” or a humorous way to poke fun at someone. But one wonders, if these words are discriminatory, then why are they not just of a piece with racial slurs that are now much more out of fashion. Will more advanced cultures look back on our popular culture as crass and thoroughly marginalizing to a group of people. Well, of course they will look back at our pop culture as crass, but only because all pop culture is crass. Will they see these words though as we see racial epithets?

My guess is that they will, but that isn’t really the point in this post. The point is more inquisitive. What will be the knee-jerk insult in the future? Will we inhabit a blade-runner like future in which all that is low and wrong is signaled by a single dirty word: replicant. “You dirty replicant, go home!” or will the socially relevant division be genetic related, where those who can’t have blue eyes and blond hair will be labeled mutants or freaks. Or will the insult of choice be something else all together, perhaps something to do with who access to the newest cybernetic implants (just as iphones have become a neat social badge for successful young professionals and corporate BSDs (that’s Big Swinging Dick for those of you who haven’t been on the trading floor in a while))?

What these possibilities immediately raise is that our current insult of choice, “homo” or “fag” is not meant to be forever, and if it is temporary, then why is our insult now centered on sexuality when before it centered on skin color and in the future it may be based on genetic purity or mechanical sophistication? Are we going through some sort of historically deep insecurity with our sexuality? Must our pejorative terms always make reference to a real and excluded group of people, or can transcend that practice?

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but if there is something specific about sexuality that bothers us, the transition to another form of insult may mark an important historical change in how we think about ourselves.


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