I began penning my response to Bill’s comment regarding my recent post, ‘Never a right time’, and realised that it constituted an essay’s worth of wordage, so I thought I’d post it instead as it also happens to be a fascinating discussion. The subject of prejudice will never get old unfortunately.
Not being terribly familiar with New Zealand society, and having graduated from the school of southern American hatred to the new let’s-all-hug-it-out world of pretending we like one another, I find the article … quaint. It is as if the Uni has just discovered — not love — but the idea that someone can stand up and say, “Hey, that kind of sucks a bit.”
I guess I’m used to the American way, which is to shout it out, if not pull a gun until the other guy listens. That aside, I have to agree with you. The whole idea of grabbing and Coke and teaching the world to sing ignores the fact that “prejudice” is a basic survival trait. The only ape species that doesn’t practice it is the Bonobo, and we all know how that turned out. Perhaps life would be better if we were all shagging each other indiscriminately in the street, but that, according to scientists, requires perfect abundance.
Instead of pink, feel-good platitudes, perhaps the good professor could spend time helping people to distinguish between traits that should be lauded and those that should not. Ah, but then, who gets to judge those? Bottom line? How about liking those who are in favor of your goals and (wisely) opposing those who oppose you.
I’m quite sure my French ancestors would have been horrified by my Togolese ancestors (and verse vica), but then again, someone overcame their prejudices long enough to make for caramel skin color. Time and exposure are the teachers, certainly. But none of that shit matters as long as those who have keep the good stuff from those who don’t. That is the root of prejudice, simple survival and greed.
The problem is, the old wounds are still very fresh for many, so the race card is pulled all too quickly sometimes in light of the idyllic, albeit fictional, utopia that our governments have been wanting us to strive toward since the second bloody world war. Actually, I think that notion of desired utopia is just part and parcel of being human, and fuels our internal drive to innovate. Problem is, since WW2, it has become a ‘thing’, an actual ‘thing’ that has shaped our modern societies, despite the gaping holes in social behaviour that are too often smoothed over with that magic egalitarian trowel, that is as nebulous as one of Grandma Shelby’s silent ones! You can’t see it, but it still stinks!
And yes, you are quite right in saying that what should be fostered is what comes naturally to us, wanting to build mutual respect, with respect to eliciting beneficial experiences that help us all get along and grow a little better. But who knows what the bigger picture really entails? All of this is based on the premise that we currently hold dear in our current society, the existentialist approach to life as being a singular, linear event that begins with nothing and ends with nothing. I mention it, only because it is a very powerful model that very much underpins the way most of us think about our lives and our interactions with others, think about it. It makes it imperative that we all get along so that we can experience the best one-off life possible. We lament pain, destruction and death because we believe we only have one shot at things. But in changing the basic premise, shifting from existentialist belief to something else changes the status quo fundamentally, and such aggressive prejudicial behaviour between people can be viewed in a different light, given the change of context. Thus a way of managing and dealing with it may be fostered.
So, what do I believe, what is my point? I believe prejudice is quite natural and normal, and that it forms a fundamental part of our experience as human beings. Things are what they are for good reason. We could all do with being more honest about who we are, and stop deflecting by over-emphasising the importance of ideals as if they have more significance than what can be directly experienced through our very present, real-time senses. Ideals are guidelines, not strict rules, and therein lies the crux of all of this. Reality never quite matches up to the ideal. Equality is a myth, and is unnecessary given our individualistic natures, it would serve no real positive purpose. We are all different for a damned good reason, what that reason is I don’t know with absolute clarity. But nobody ever stops to look at what is, and take stock of that, valuing what it is. We have all bought into the idealist notion that what we are is not quite it. That it isn’t enough. What if it is? What if, who we really are from moment to moment, day to day, and how we manage that, is all that matters?
Ok, now I’m done.