Sunday, August 9, 2009

Joshua Ferris's Then We Came To The End, Part III

Today I got some great insight into Joe Pope -- and the clearest explication yet of Ferris's perspective on "the group."

Joe is the middle manager at the advertising firm, situated between the partner (Lynn Mason) and the aggregate of staffers who form the "we" of the narrator.

Joe is "anti-group" (his phrase, not mine).

He tells the story of being in high school and participating, passively, in a serious beatdown of another kid who had flirted with a friend's girlfriend. Although Joe did not take part, neither did he intervene -- and this has left him with a serious aversion to being part of a group. He feels that he can only stay true to himself by avoiding participation in groups, because once you're in a group you lose the ability to make individual decisions:
"In college I never joined a fraternity. I didn't want a thing to do with fraternities. But I'll tell you what else I never did. I never joined that loose association of counterfraternities, either. That was every bit as much of a club.

I never bad-mouthed the frat boys because I liked those guys, individually, some of them I liked very well, and if I was ever tempted to bad-mouth them, I could feel it coming over me again. Joining the club, losing control. Losing my convictions.

That's what I'm guilty of. Believeing I'm better than the group. No better than anyone individually... There is no word for me. Someone better, smarter, more humane than any group."
I really like this chapter and Joe's exploration of his feelings. What makes us want to join some groups and not join others? What groups, formal or informal, am I more and less attached to?

I think writing this blog is an exploration of group-participation for me, since I used to keep my reflections personal and private. Now I'm sharing them, and I'm not always even sure who I am sharing them with. Joe Pope's thoughts will help me think about my own motives for this project and for other ways I interact with people.

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