I was reading a friend’s Friendster blog when I came across an entry on “competing role conflicts.” Multiple roles are an important aspect of modern society: we all have to go through about a dozen roles every day. At the very moment that I’m writing this blog entry, I am going through six roles:
- Young adult
- Filipino citizen
- Computer shop customer
At any given day, this short list of roles expands to a larger set of roles: taxpayer, employee, passenger, pedestrian, commuter, son, uncle, godfather, cousin, and so on and so forth. I may have six roles at this very moment, but I would add to to that whenever I feel like smoking a cigarette (smoker) or whenever I feel like running in place and quack like a duck while prophesizing the Apocalypse (lunatic).
Among premodern societies, there’s such a role as a “village whore:” the community’s resident sex slave. The village whore’s tent is on the far edge of the hamlet, where her only job is to pleasure the menfolk either in ritual ceremony (like rites of passage), or just for the libidinal desires of a man looking for some action. Yet even a role as low and base as the communal prostitute is not exempt from multiple roles: the village whore is the community’s taboo, the tribe’s pariah, is afflicted with sexually-transmitted diseases. She also happens to be a woman.
While we won’t be voting for whores anytime in 2010 (although I beg to differ, if by “whore” we mean a more general term), my small example of the multiple roles of a village whore can be exponentially increased in modern life. In Republic, Plato abhors the idea of multiple roles, at least from the perspective of an auxiliary becoming a philosopher-king, or of a shoemaker (an artisan) expected to defend the State.
Why that didn’t happen, I do not know.