“It’s just a social construct”

If you live in a world where the Vulcan salute is a standard way of expressing good will and salutation, shouldn’t you be eager to do it well instead of dismissing it as “just a social construct”?

Courtesy is a great example of how concern for culture-transcendent categories (love, respect, honor, gender, value) amplifies our concern for social constructs (gestures, colors, symbols, apparel, phrases, tones).

For example: Shaking someone’s hand isn’t inherently courteous. But if you live in America and you want to be courteous, you end up learning to shake another’s hand. You don’t dismiss it with, “Shaking hands is just a social construct.” Instead you say, “What are the culturally appropriate expressions of this culture-transcendent category of human honor and respect?”

I wonder if dismissing such expressions as mere “social constructs” is often a way of dismissing the reality to which the social construct is meant to point. We humans have a way of veiling our complaints about messages with complaints about manners. Maybe we are too arrogant to submit to reasonable standard cultural expressions because we didn’t get to pick them. Maybe we are upset that our identity and culture is largely involuntary.