By arm’s length communication I mean “our deepest levels of meaning, emotion, and intention are either implied or more often concealed from the person(s) we are speaking with.” (see: Communication at arm’s length)
When we do arm’s length communication too much, we retard both psychological and sociological growth. We harm both ourselves and others.
Arm’s length communication is often a type of “sociological communication.” That is, communication that holds cultural, sociological or historical assertions above individual psychological experience. This can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing.
It’s good when it helps us see and bad when it blinds us. Bolsheviks were blinded by sociological fantasies that led them to murder tens of millions. It is good for us to understand that today, especially as our society is being torn apart by arm’s length fallacies.
I will now present an example of this tragedy as it is playing out this morning. What happened is Trump allegedly asked an intelligence analyst of Korean extraction, “Where are you from?”
As someone who has extensive experience with East Asia and Asian-Americans, I am aware that this question drives many of them up the wall. One example:
This makes my blood boil. It must have been so awful to be standing there having her expertise invalidated and trivialized. (Source: asianamerican)
As an ordinary American, I am also aware that this question with precisely that wording was extremely normal well into the 1980s and beyond. A younger friend I discussed this with this morning said she still considers it to be a normal question.
“Where are you from?” means what is your ancestry. When most Americans ask this of each other it means what is your ethnic background, what ethnicity or mix of ethnicities do you identify with or feel close to. It does not mean I think you are a bad person or are not an American. In a nation of many immigrant groups, it is a normal thing to ask. Indeed, it is the quintessential American question. Or used to be before SJWs came along.
Information about your ancestry or ethnicity says something (arm’s length) about your psychology and some levels of your “identity.” Isn’t it ironic that a commenter on an Asian-American site would be incensed that the president asked someone about their identity and then proposed that that identity might well-serve US national interests?
Here is another comment from a South Asian that says the opposite:
Being a Chinese speaking South Asian that type of response isn’t surprising. (Source: AZNIDENTITY)
Having lived in East Asia for a long time, I am well-aware that “Where are you from?” is almost always the first question anyone asks me in that part of the world. Chinese, Japanese, Australians, Europeans, other Americans all ask it. It can become boring to answer when the query is rote arm’s length stuff coming from someone who obviously does not care, but that is nothing to be offended by.
We are in a semiotic pickle and I don’t know what to do about it either. There are many other examples of the above, most of them stemming from identity politics in one way or another.
What is happening is that arm’s length identity concepts are being idiosyncratically defined by identity groups and then the demand is made that those definitions be known and accepted by everyone else or “blood will boil.”