Posted by: JDM..... | January 12, 2015

PC, Extremism…

and King of the Mountain.….

Let’s forget for a moment that we are right and try to just take a look at our species objectively in its entirety. Sounds easy, I suppose, but over the span of 6,000 to a couple of million years, depending upon whose objectivity one accepts as the definitive objective absolute, humanity has not yet seemed up to that task. A handful of individuals have…..and were typically demonized, abused, tortured, killed, or all of the above and more for their efforts.

The family dog licks itself at the most inopportune times, because it can; his family, and the rest of its species, create “Truths ” for the same reason. Perhaps a truly objective view would identify the two behaviors as indistinguishable.

At various times over the years I have observed the meandering paths of global obsessions, and I eventually came to wonder why we do that and what it means. Honestly, I don’t know, but I think I can invent as valid a Truth as the next person, so I will; and I don’t even own a dog.

~*~*~

To begin with, the fundamental theme doesn’t appear to change; in addition to nourishment, shelter, and nurturing, human beings apparently cannot exist without conflict. If none presents itself spontaneously, we will create it just as we produce our own food, build our dwelling places, and cleave into self-congratulatory groups.

We engage in interpersonal conflicts, local conflicts, and international conflicts. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am aware that I can also participate in rather vigorous conflicts all by myself.

The present times offer no exception to this historical Truth, and we currently see conflicts underway concerning the natural, species-normal behavior of “differentiation“, or “discrimination” as the purveyors of social correctitude would prefer, in several main venues.

The first word, “differentiation“, merely acknowledges variant characteristics, and is therefore colorless, tasteless, and without any enticing aroma, rendering it flat, uninteresting, and potentially dangerous. The latter term, on the other hand, “discrimination“, is more popular because it demands that differences be arranged according to numerous scales of value. Human beings are incapable of processing the idea of two or more considerations wherein there is no pecking order or resident King of the Mountain. One of the leading focal points of human conflict then would be the question of “race“.

RACE

Race is a powerful concept, word, and ad hoc weapon, with a long and sometimes volatile history. The irony that another word of identical spelling and pronunciation describes a competition where somebody wins and everyone else loses first occurred to me many years ago.

I have observed the “race” conflict from a few vantage points and have adopted two Truths about it that guide my views. (1) Defining “race” is not unlike trying to describe the appearance of an oil slick. One must approach the word itself in such broad terms that it conveys little information, with even that being vague, at best. One cannot define “race” without incorporating the factor of continuous change, and identifying the science behind those changes. (2) Many physical anthropologists and biological scientists have rejected “race” as a legitimate concept, pointing out the relatively insignificant genetic differences among human populations despite the wide variety of observable physical differences. Such variations facilitated the compulsive human sorting instinct, giving us useful descriptive short cuts such as Caucasian, Asian, a litany of terms with which to identify dark skinned natives of Africa, and so on. Professional sorters, like physical anthropologists and biologists, don’t generally split any hairs beyond the taxonomic placement of modern human beings in the pigeon hole labeled “Homo Sapiens.”

The meaning of the word “race” has generally involved matters of observable and/or describable physical, geographical and cultural variations among individuals and groups. Context plays a huge role in arriving at a definition. At the height of the Industrial Revolution, during the nineteenth century, when tens of thousands of people emigrated from Ireland to the United States annually, the Irish tended to be referred to as a “race” rather than a nationality. People of the religion and culture of Judaism have also been considered by some at various times to be a “race“. The word is also used instead of the more scientifically preferred taxonomic description, “Homo Sapiens“, to describe humanity as a whole. Settling upon a stable and universally accepted definition for “race” is like trying to come up with a specific and universally accepted identity for “somebody”. Much conflict could be avoided, or at least eased, should the use of the word “race” in its pseudo-scientific context be demoted to extinct archaism status, leaving the term to its less inflammatory use as a reference to certain sporting contests.

RELIGION

Allegorically speaking, I presume that the one of the initial sputterings of human brain activity, when that loosely described creature discovered the ability to stand upright, was to ponder the question “Why and how am I here?” A split second later, a second individual arrived at the same internal conflict, and it was immediately recognized that each knew a different Truth than the other. The most effective solution was, of course, homicide, and it might have worked except for the large number of upright bipeds participating in the melee. We’re still working on it, though, and we still believe in pugilism, football, and other substitutions for the preferred resolution.

The original gridiron for this process, religion, has historically been inseparable from the combat variation, loosely represented in the form of contact sports for the “everyman” as mentioned above.

The percent of humanity that identifies with some form of religion or believes in the existence of some form of deity depends upon who one asks. When two differing answers occupy the same space at the same time, natural law requires that the defender of one kill, or at least damage the dignity and credibility, of the defender of the other.

This arena remains vigorous and fundamentally unchanged, no pun intended, but certainly acknowledged. Less conflict occurred around such matters early on because precursors to modern humanity likely explained environmental phenomena they did not understand as magic or some sort of communicative rumblings of an unseen superior being. Since they presumably understood little or nothing at first, it would not be unreasonable to suggest that they basically worshipped everything. That couldn’t have lasted long, though,

The real conflicts began when human beings discovered grain-based intoxicants and invented “civilization”, which enabled them to settle in one place so they could produce the stuff. This could not have been as easy as it might sound, however. Wanderers by nature, they knew only the ways of small, independent family groups and tribes. At that stage, Homo Sapiens was not accustomed to marching to the beat of anyone’s drum but his own.

Those who were able to achieve King of the Mountain status through wisdom and guile, and probably by being able to kick everyone else’s butt, capitalized on the well established reverence, awe, fear, and magical thinking always applied to appearances and instances of the Unknown and developed more organized forms of early religion with built in hierarchies and levels of authority. At the top of that allegorical man-made Mountain resided what was probably the first multi-tasker who protected the grain and food supples in addition to his primary role as the sole communicant with, and spokesman for, the settlement’s Big Kahuna(s).

I’ve opined before that I don’t think humankind has fundamentally changed very much down through the ages, except in his breeding habits and increasingly effective ways of killing each other, as well as inadvertently contributing to their own early exits. This particular Truth having an “across the board” component, I suspect the world’s umpteen versions of collective religion have evolved accordingly. History provides a rich continuum of supporting events, ages, and eras. Currently, the world is experiencing an “above and beyond the call” campaign by the purveyors of one particular alleged Truth to Shanghai and impose absolute control over the allegedly evil believers of all other alleged Truths, which of course, are universally “unapproved”. Some things never change.

POLITICS

Politics and collective religious practices are more alike than different in that they tend to serve dual purposes (multi-tasking again), those being overseeing and managing the well being of their fellow group members while at the same time making a living from the process. That’s where it gets interesting, as the idea of “making a living” may entail virtually anything from room, board, and a small stipend to absolute control and authority which coincidentally redefines “making a living” as whatever extent the population can be exploited to.

As with most elements of the human experience, there are the good and the bad, those who serve and those who exploit. The bottom line is, no Golden Goose lives forever.

LANGUAGE

As demonstrated, language is the oil slick of human communication, being quite random and unpredictable except perhaps to a fractals physicist, the inclusion of which would do little more than add another Truth and alleged Deity to an already complex stew.

The most egregious offense known to man is the spoken word. We slog through complex legal processes in response to everything from shoplifting to rape or homicide, but the reaction to one person uttering “that” word or phrase to one who despises that word or phrase, and who takes it quite personally, may be immediate, violent, and is often excused as justifiable. To complicate matters, the lexicon, like the host language itself, exists in a continuous process of change, absorbing new terminology and presumed philosophies almost daily, while relabeling those that have fallen out of favor as “archaisms”, or criminal offenses, and remanding them to the compost heap of language.

In our particular culture, this acceleration is facilitated to some extent by the reward factor. Being identified as belonging to a subpopulation officially approved as “special” for any one of an infinite number of reasons usually includes special considerations and/or financial benefits. One has nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain by presenting as emotionally distraught about some comment sourced from The lexicon of the moment.

The PC Phenomenon

The cultural tic known today as being “politically correct ” is, of course, nothing new, although that particular expression itself appeared in the lexicon as recently as 1990 or so. Identifying and enforcing the “group conscience”, or the fiat of some totalitarian Honcho, of course, ensures that the “political correctitude” and “Truths” of some populations will conflict with or offend the “political correctitude” and “Truths” of another. This phenomenon occurs across the board, from internationally down to neighborhood squabbles.

Current methodologies for establishing and promoting or enforcing differing versions of “political correctitude” and “Truths” may be grossly dissimilar. The behaviors of some Middle Eastern groups, as exercised according to the dictates of their particular versions of “political correctitude” and “Truth“, that we find reprehensible and unjustifiable under our own particular versions of “political correctitude” and “Truth“, and the behaviors of some western groups, including the United States, are nevertheless essentially little more than different facets of a similar coin. At their respective roots, each is the expression of one group imposing its personal “political correctitude” and “Truth” upon the other. King of the Mountain is humanity’s oldest game.

EXTREMISM

By stepping outside of the accepted and essentially mandated traditional boundaries of a society or culture, one enters the realm of “extremism”. Whether one so violates the established “mores” in a constructive or destructive manner, the action is generally perceived as a threat to the group’s status quo..

This is just a part of a body of laws beyond the control of humanity that determine how everything within our universal environment functions. People interact, react, and respond to each other interpersonally, inter-culturally, and internationally according to what we see as natural laws not unlike the manner in which different components under any scientific focus interact, react, and respond to each other. There are parallels among the fields of chemistry, physics, math, the social sciences, and so forth just as there are parallels between different languages to express the same concepts. Human beings, in all configurations, are both predictable and predictably unpredictable to a large extent.

Predictably then, at least in some ways, my actions and reactions could be foreseen by one who knows where and how to look, at least part of the time, especially if they occupy a cubicle at the NSA or some other bathroom peep hole.

As I watch, listen to, or read the news and learn of the latest atrocities committed by extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and IS, I struggle to understand how such attitudes and acts can be construed as moral, correct, and in fact required by them and their sympathizers. One source of information after another parrots the same script until, at some point, some commentator or columnist abandons the rhythm and offers an alternative tune. The new track may be one with which I agree or one which I am revolted by, as if the originator has perpetrated a painful violation of the cultural mores to which I subscribe. When I am the one stepping over the barbed wire to think and perhaps write or voice the unacceptable, it feels perfectly reasonable and invigorating, however.

This can be a serious matter, especially at times when the energy levels of the conflicts in play are as high as they are today. There exists great tension now among the differing concepts of “race, religion, language, and political correctitude” in general. Groups of people sharing similar physical, cultural, and ethnic resumes are on edge as they talk of harmony. Interesting. In the venue of race, there may have been less tension when people were neither seeking changes in the relationships between subpopulations nor voicing any concerns about harmony. That is not to say that those who were experiencing “also-ran” status on the stage of life were pleased with that state of affairs or that they did not ache for change. There was just less tension, or a different variety of tension, when the process of change was not quite so volatile.

The religious conflicts, as usual, mostly boil down to issues of control, power, and ultimately some sort of exploitation, and this is where I tend to argue with, and violate, the boundaries of our own particular cultural barbed wire.

My first civilian job following discharge from the Navy was with a major oil company during the same time period that the peoples of the Middle East decided it was time to park the camels and ride around in Bentely’s just like the strangers who had been sucking that black stuff out of their dunes for half a century. The “free ride” for Big Oil came to an end, accompanied by higher expenses, higher prices, new regulations, and changing procedures. The days of $0.299 per gallon gasoline and the neighborhood “g’rage” were gone or on the way out. Those in their early fifties may recall the gasoline rationing days of the early seventies. People would get up at 4 a.m. to wait in line for several hours on alternate days to buy fixed amounts of fuel. Had the west exploited the middle east? Of course they had, but on an economic and cultural level, not a religious one. Nevertheless, if I understand the supposed viewpoint of some Middle Eastern groups correctly, the intense and extended presence of western interests presented a cultural and religious intrusion that they feared was threatening their traditional way of life.

It’s nice to fantasize over how much better it might have been had the bearers of western culture self-regulated more attentively during their lemming run to the oil fields, in a manner more conducive to harmony with the Middle Eastern cultures. It would be nice if those representatives of the Middle East registering their displeasure with the west were to have proceeded in ways more conducive to harmony with our western culture. But that would be out of character with human nature. The challenge, therefore, is for all of the participants in this hoedown to come to a realization that there will be more benefit to the interests of each by coming to some sort of accord. That’s a western viewpoint, however. The involved Middle Eastern cultures don’t see the world, or life, through the same eyes. Thus, it may be unrealistic to strive to see eye to eye. But, if the killing would stop, perhaps that may evolve in time. We ceased exchanging lead with North Korea in 1953 and we still don’t like each other. But, we’re workin’ on it.

On the domestic field, Race is likewise intertwined with political, religious, linguistic, and other dimensions of human existence. For conflicts in that venue to abate, there must be some additional changes, and they it’s not a one sided issue. Somebody has to blink, and each party thinks it should be “the other guy”. Everybody has a valid argument, even though it tends to be selective and somewhat biased, but few have been articulate regarding solutions.

One significant characteristic that leaders seem to share in common is that they initiate forward motion without contingencies. They know what needs to be done in order to achieve a goal, they believe in the goal, not just because it serves some Narcissistic need or narrow agenda, but because they know it is the right thing to do; they believe in their approach, and they believe in themselves. Those that choose to follow, will. Those who do not so choose, will not follow, but neither will they be obstacles.

 

~-~* * *~-~

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories