another angle on beauty and ethics (part 1)

"La réproduction interdite" (1937)

This will, I’m afraid, be a multi-part post: there’s quite a lot of material to get through.

So. Sometimes, on an online forum, discussion can get heated. This is as true of the beauty world as it is of any other arena where I’ve participated in discussion. It’s as true now as it has been for the last couple of decades; I first posted in a chat-room in 1991. OK, I lurked first. For about two minutes. Then dived straight in.

We’re now at an interesting juncture in the political history of the internet. It is a political entity: it is a polis, a community or commonality of individuals who are united through some shared common something-or-other; as well as being a group thing, a collective entity in its own right. This is true at many levels from the micro (a small facebook private group/page) to the macro (the whole interweb world). MakeupAlley falls somewhere between these two poles.

Like elsewhere online (and in the non-virtual world), there will be ups and down in interpersonal relations; in behaviour between individuals, and interactions between an individual and the group; grouplets and groupuscules will form, grow, shrink, divide, divide against themselves, reunite, form alliances with other groups, and so on.

There will, of course, be fights. I mean, it may be virtual, but we’re still talking about human beings here.

Short bouts of fisticuffs in the school playground. Epic battles. Conspiracies, conquests, empire-building. Deaths. Disappearances. Prisoners of war. Looming threats of total annihilation.

a Microsoft bumper-sticker, allegedly

For which purposes, in the real world as in online (and other alternate ones), there is a need for rules. Many sites have versions and variants on “Good Netiquette Guides.” Here, for example, is Jezebel‘s current one (2010); and, to give some sense of the historical development, some earlier incarnations: the classic LifehackerGuide to Weblog Comments” (2005); Jezebel‘s comments FAQ— now with more meta (2007: see how there’s a move from questions to, well, answers; and the constructive role that commentating discussion has played); more of a full-on “Guide to Commenting,” pt. 1pt. 2— (last updated 2008). I cite Jezebel as the site’s been around for a long time, has been through cycles of controversy, generations of participants, and survived. A political parallel might have been Iceland, the Netherlands, Denmark, or Switzerland in the past; but nowadays less clear, given the instabilities of economic vagaries (for the former) and right-wing silliness. Maybe New Zealand still works, more or less (though, again, there’s that right-wingery which is absent in so few places worldwide…).

There’s nothing necessarily, inherently, quintessentially repressive about rules. Even anarchists have them–the serious ones who actually did something about putting ideas into practice, anyway. It all depends on the rules.

MakeupAlley has had a few issues with rules recently. I’m not saying it’s a crisis, let alone The End Times. But there are problems; problems that aren’t unique to them. Most MUAers muddle along, and things kind of work out. Much as they would do in everyday life–rather than in life as a polis living in the nuclear age.

For any MUAers worried about such things, here are a few parallels, classic guidelines and how-to manuals from political science and international relations that might be useful–jurisprudence, justice, the just war, rules of conduct, and appropriate mannered sneakiness.

  • Castiglione: The Book of the Courtier
  • Clausewitz: On War
  • Erasmus, Praise of Folly (Moriae encomium), Institutio principis christiani (On the Education of a Christian Prince), Complaint of Peace (Querela pacis)
  • Grotius: On the Rule of War and Peace (De Jure Belli ac Pacis)
  • Machiavelli: The PrinceThe Art of War, The Discourses
  • Mill: On Liberty, A Few Words on Non-Intervention
  • Rawls: A Theory of Justice
  • Sun Tzu: The Art of War
  • Thomas Aquinas: Summa theologica II: pt 1 qu.90-108 (aka the treatise on law), pt. 2 qu. 57-122(aka the treatise on justice)
  • Vegetius: On Military Matters (De Re Militari)
  • see also: Leo Tolstoy (The Kingdom of God is Within You, etc.), Bertrand Russell, Gandhi, Chomsky, and Quaker and Buddhist writings…
  • … and, last but not least, and to give some sort of sense of perspective to current affairs in the online world: no, not another of those crusty bearded guys, or a DWEM, but  a beautiful, stylish, immaculately-groomed lady. Aung San Suu Kyi. Her 2011 Reith Lectures (and the transcript thereof) may be found c/o here. Go listen.

Image at top: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

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