“Arthur remembered the island where all those birds had lived together peacefully, preserving their own kinds of civilization without war–because they claimed no boundaries. The fantastic thing about war was that it was fought about nothing–literally nothing. It was geography which was the cause, political geography. Nations did not need to have the same kind of civilization, nor the same kind of leader, any more than the puffins and guillemots did. They could keep their own civilizations if they would give each other freedom of trade and free massage and access to the world. Countries would have to become counties–but counties which could keep their own culture and local laws. The imaginary lines on the earth only need be unimagined.”
–The Once and Future King
I used to work at a museum in my second year of college. Leading tours, giving presentations, and prompting young kids on how to approach visual arts and form an opinion. It was great fun and a warming experience as I always enjoyed interacting with the kids.
Now one particular semester, we were assigned a tour theme of “Seeing Lines,” in which we were to point out the various kinds of lines in art and ask the tour groups what they thought of these approaches to lines. Which I thought was rather dull. I’m sure people were smarter than me having to condescend to point out lines for them. But I noticed that for younger groups, noticing lines within art did prompt them to look deeper into artwork and be able to say more than, “It’s pretty!” or “It’s colorful!” They were able to build complexity and definition that they had not seen before, and so grasp more than just the superficial first impression of art. In such respects, this “Seeing Lines” theme was a success.
But would this approach be as successful in real life? If we go about noticing differences between each other, would we say that’s a “success?” I think not. Not when negligible lines become necessary.
It’s a detrimental thing when we notice the differences between people that are not necessary to be noticed. Yes, someone may have different skin color from you, have different values, but actively and consciously noticing these lines between you and them serves no purpose whatsoever but to create tension.
Awareness is a good thing, sure. We shouldn’t live out a false sort of peace through blindness ignorance, but there IS a point when people begin to see too much for their own good. Race, ethnicity, nationality, sex, class, culture, religion, political affiliation–all of these are dividing lines that shouldn’t be actively pointed out. Of course, they’re hard to ignore–they’re our way of living! In that sense, we really can’t NOT notice lines because we will always have our differences, and they will remain, whether for good or bad.
But while acknowledging differences, why can’t we also forget them?
American slavery, Hitler’s crusade against the Jews, and so on. Historically, a group has always been asserting its dominance and superiority over others, but these are lessons we’ve conquered time and time again. And through such lessons, society’s mindset has evolved to become more aware of the underdogs. Affirmative action, LGBT, and civil rights have progressively become more prominent, and we as a result have become quicker to stand up for our minorities. These are great signs.
However, in promoting a noble cause, people’s attitudes surprisingly become hostile in the reverse. In the past, the mindset was: “You’re the minority, thus you’re in the wrong and the bad guy.” But today, the new evolved mindset is: “You’re not an underdog, thus you’re the bad guy.” Or “I’m an underdog, you mocked and wronged me in the past, thus you’re the bad guy.” This is evidenced by public hostilities towards police nowadays. Although we’ve learned that it’s wrong to be hateful, spiteful, and bitter, or in other words bigoted, our approach to dealing with bigots is pointing fingers and yelling, “You’re wrong, you piece of s***!”
Yikes, I didn’t know that WE were supposed to be the evil crusaders here.
With the new mindset to save our underdogs, society’s drawn a line–a line that separates those who fall into OUR definition of what’s right or wrong. But I wonder, how is this not bigotry in reverse? Yes, government systems are corrupt. Yes, there are rotten people in the world. Yes, we should stem bigotry. But how in the world are we toaccomplish that when we’re being bigoted towards bigots ourselves? In hunting down those who hold different values from us and cursing them out, practically forcing them to “see sense,” we’ve become the new bigots. We might think that we’re championing peace and harmony, but when being bigots, we more than lose our right to preach justice.
Therefore, flaunting our differences and saying “You’re not like me” is never the answer. Instead, we should completely reshape how we perceive differences. Let’s stop seeing them–or more precisely, stop stop noticing these lines actively. Be aware and confident in our individuality, yes, but stop pointing out what makes us so different from one another.
Because if the parent generation keeps pointing out these lines, even if you’re pointing out bigot from saint, the next generation will also catch this societal disease of raising awareness as to why one group’s better than the other, and the cycle will never end.
In an enlightened future, people will hopefully have stopped pointing out these lines. In that future, someone will look at Caucasians and Africans and not consciously label them as “white and black,” but simply think, “humans.” In that hopefully near future, people will be able to laugh over the fact that long ago, silly people had once fought wars over religion, racism, or sexism. That these silly people had ever given credence to lines and differences.
One particular bigot in this future might say, “I hate blacks, gays, and women,” but the people in that new enlightened era will look at them not in hate or spite, but in puzzlement and amusement, and good-naturedly think that person silly for having noticed such negligible distinctions. Then that bigot, in lieu of majority amiability, will reconsider his own spite silly and not pursue it in turn. Peace will be preserved.
So let’s try to breed a generation that can celebrate likeness, not differences. Should we be wary of cultural or individual uniqueness? Heavens no! But we shouldn’t flaunt or shove our differences in others’ faces, comparing who is right or wrong. Those lines don’t have to be drawn in the first place.
“If you keep on dividing, you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees.”