The admonishment that someone has missed seeing the forest for the trees, i.e. looked into the smaller details of individual trees rather than found the larger picture of the forest is excellent example of similarity as a cultural value enacted by the cultural practice of categorization. Placing all those trees and all of their potential individual differences into the single “forest” category makes it possible to know something about all of the trees and to avoid the additional work of learning more. Differences take time, really, who has time? Given the choice, who wouldn’t choose the more expedient route to understanding that categorization provides?
But we’re not always, or even often, given this choice. Doing so would also take time. Within a capitalist economy, time is money, and money is the goal towards which all our efforts must be focused. It’s no wonder that simplicity is such a strongly held belief. Survival in and of a capitalist economy depends on it. This is the cultural logic of late capitalism,* the logic employed to maintain a status quo where seeking out and appreciating differences isn’t only frowned upon, it is punishable by death; where the differences most in need of being appreciated are those that reveal the terrible realities created by wealth disparities and how the simplicity of classist, racist, sexist, heterosexist, ableist, and ageist stereotypes help rationalize the horrific damage they cause.
Published in the inaugural issue of Sequentials as a meta-ideologizing (a la Chela Sandoval) response to 1) the position that postmodernity destroys the possibility of meaning, 2) the binary opposition of surface and depth, and 3) the equation of meaning and depth, which presupposes an essentialist definition of meaning.