Thursday, October 30, 2008
Branches on the Evolutionary Tree
Thoughts on Race, Culture, and Evolutionary Change....
1. "Race"-- the physical similarities we share with other humans based on our place of origin, is just that: adaptions our bodies have made to survive in a particular place.
2. "Culture" is a collection of norms and behaviors we've evolved over time, recognize as useful to our own survival (ie. rules on how to best cooperate as a tribe) & are transmitted through "traditions" and training to our young. Deeply instilled values grow over generations.
3. Feelings of competitiveness and mistrust between members of different cultures and races have deep roots. Conflicts between different tribes enable one cultural/racial group to win greater access to resources and territory.
4. Because of the travels made by our ancestors, "America" is a mishmash of cultures and races and overlapping/conflicting cultures and values. Over generations, transmissions of traditions and values between grandparents to grandchildren change drastically, as the "main culture" of America makes different demands, and the children see the teachings of their culture to be less and less relevant to what they feel is really needed for them to survive.
5. Children begin to mistrust or disregard their parents' teachings. (And some with very good reason-- as the parents have gotten pretty messed up by their own upbringing!) Culture begins to shift and sway more dramatically and less predictably than ever before. Alongside this phenomenon is the increasing saturation of mass media, and mass marketing. Television and "popular culture" replaces parental messages about traditions and values... the essential problem being that the shaping forces behind the mass media are likely to care less about the child's well-being than the parents do. The child is left on their own to sort out which messages to adopt, and which to reject-- with varying degrees of success.
6. America seems to be a nation of individual, self-created pockets of culture. The population of some areas still has strong cultural ties-- especially in rural areas. In other populations, especially urban, individuals seem to have a very fluid and changing concept of "culture"-- and form much smaller, much more specialized "tribes" within the larger population. They live side by side, but do not intermingle much. It is here that the teaching of "tolerance" between cultures and races has required the effort of these different groups to maintain "peace."
7. The "peace" that exists now in urban America is not really peace. "Tolerance" is different than "Equality", and true Peace is impossible without Justice. Justice = a reckoning, through honest conversation, resulting in greater understanding, acceptance, and compassion on the part of all-- leading to a natural and self-motivated desire for fairness and equality in all aspects of our relationships.
8. We have so far to go. Our inability to truly see other humans as our brothers and sisters is only the first step. It is equally vital for us to see and honor the links and relations between ourselves and our fellow creatures and plants. We are all part of the same tree: this is the tree of life-- literally!
9. We have the intelligence and the ability to think forward, and to re-form, consciously, our cultures to include certain values that are not only for our "tribe"'s benefit, but for the benefit of all. It is within our capacity to know what is "right," for the benefit of the whole. It is possible, through understanding and compassion, to cultivate a natural and self-motivated desire for balance in our relationships to all who live in the branches of this great tree.