The Queer Question: Essays on Desire and Democracy

By Scott Tucker | Go to book overview

"QUEERER THAN WE IMAGINE"

A Defense of Identity
and Solidarity

The purpose of nature," wrote Spinoza, "is to make all men uniform, as children of a common mother." As a freethinking Jew living and writing in the relative shelter of the Dutch Republic, Spinoza had good reason to value tolerance; and his particular variant of natural philosophy was a real advance beyond feudalism and fanaticism. Jane Jacobs quotes his dictum in her book, The Question of Separatism: Québéc and the Struggle Over Sovereignty, and she points out that his view became the common sense of the later Enlightenment: "People always seem to want to believe they are in harmony with the world as it is ordered by nature or the gods to be. Perhaps such a belief is necessary to human morale.... Universality and uniformity, as ideals, subtly influenced how people thought about education, politics, economics, government, everything."

Jacobs writes, "naturalists went on studying nature and its ways," and "what they found in nature was a force hostile to uniformity, a force that insisted upon diversity." Whether modem science is so uniformly opposed to uniformity is really a fairly complex topic, but there is a strong current of thought stressing natural diversity and variation. A more truly plural conception of nature might well raise human morale above any narrow

____________________
Earlier versions published in The Humanist, March/April 1994, and Fighting Words: An Open Letter to Queers and Radicals ( London: Cassell, 1995).

-59-

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