THE PREJUDICE THAT UNITES US

12 03 2016

It’s been quite a month. Republicans are starting to fear that the Trumpenstein monster they have created might be about to tear them, and their party, limb from limb. “The Ku Klux Klan endorsed Ronald Reagan,” they admit, “but he refused their endorsement.” That conveniently ignores the fact that the KKK endorsed Reagan because he embodied their principles, and in rejecting the Ku Klux Klan, Reagan did not abandon the ideas for which they endorsed him. The whirlwind the GOP has been sowing for fifty years, ever since Barry Goldwater, may be about to blow them away.

Meanwhile, among Democrats, Hillary Clinton is doing exactly what I predicted she would, stealing Bernie Sanders’ somewhat radical rhetoric. I don’t expect her embrace of his positions to last much past the election. If she wins the nomination but loses the election, I suspect that, in spite of his doing everything he can to avoid being “Naderized” by the Democrats, Sanders will, indeed, be “Naderized,” blamed for raising peoples’ expectations too high and making them dissatisfied with, and less than enthusiastic about, Ms. Clinton.

And Barack Obama, on top of shilling for the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, has just defended his administration’s half-hearted, half-assed show of regulating Wall Street. It must be really schizy to be  a “progressive” Democrat.

I could spend the hour commenting on all this foolishness, but this is the “Deep Green Perspective,” and what I try to do here  is go to the roots of what’s happening. Tonight, I’m going to examine prejudice, and in particular the one prejudice that nearly all of us share.

We’re all familiar with the prejudices that divide us.

There’s sexism–a strong attachment to gender roles, and a dislike for anyone who flouts them. For example, Hillary Clinton raises a lot of hackles by being a powerful woman. It’s possible to dislike Ms. Clinton without being sexist–a brief perusal of her record will give you plenty of reasons to be uncomfortable with the possibility of her being President–but a great deal of the visceral opposition to her comes from men who are conditioned to expect women to support them in whatever they choose to do, and not to have an agenda of their own outside of the priorities of housework and childcare. The fact that very few women today are in a position to make housework and childcare their primary occupation only increases the level of discomfort and cognitive dissonance in these men–and in women who were brought up to believe they would find fulfilment playing the role of mother/homemaker, but who are, for economic reasons, unable to do so–or who find that it does not, actually, leave them feeling fulfilled.

In earlier times, sexism “worked” for most people, because life required a lot of heavy lifting that men did better than women, and because women are physiologically much better equipped to take care of the young children who result when we thoughtlessly obey the genetic programming that urges us to breed. Starting a hundred and fifty years ago or so, a change began to take place in our society and our consciousness, and now sexism is outmoded and viewed by a large and growing segment of the population as demeaning to women and also to the men who embody it.

Another major divider for us is racism–the notion that one’s skin color and ancestry makes one inherently superior, and others, inferior. When we look at the history of racism, we can see that it has evolved over the centuries, especially recently. In the 19th century, different nationalities of white folks despised each other for their ethnicity–a form of “nationalism,” perhaps, a prejudice I will address in a few minutes–but, in the latter half of the twentieth century, “racism” has come to mean the notion, widely held (often unconsciously) by white folks, that we are somehow better, more deserving of success and respect, than people whose recent ancestors lived in Africa, Central/South America, or Asia, or who are genuine, been-here-for-millenia Native Americans. I got news for ya, whitey–we’re all Africans. Get over it.

Nationalism is the belief that my country and its people are more deserving of success and dominance than other countries. It sparks colonialism, exploitation, and war. Think of the British, French, and Spanish empires, two and a half world wars, and dozens or maybe hundreds of more localized conflicts.  Its hold on people is weakening, but it is still a strong force in some people and some countries. India and Pakistan come to mind, as does “American exceptionalism,” the idea that America is the world’s leading country because of our supposed democratic values and economic success, and that therefore we owe it to the world to interfere with other countries as we see fit. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and many countries in Central and South America come to mind. None of these are American success stories, but the myth persists.

americanexceptionalism

“Religionism” is another way we divide ourselves into those we like and trust, as opposed to those we don’t like and don’t trust. It’s odd to me that there’s no widely acknowledged “ism name” for this phenomenon, just the phrase, “religious intolerance.” Many wars have been fought because one group of people thought their religion was superior to their neighbor’s. The Book of Exodus in the Old Testament is one of the earliest examples of this, in which “God” tells the Hebrews to commit genocide against the original, Earth-Goddess worshiping inhabitants of Palestine and take the land for themselves. The my-way-or-the-highway Hebrews transmuted into the Christians, who used the power of the Roman Empire and other, subsequent states to conduct wars of proselytization against the pagans on the fringes of the Roman conquest. The first Muslims swept out of the Arabian desert and conquered the Middle East, northern Africa, and much of central Asia, which resulted in millions of forced conversions and millions of deaths, along with the virtual extinction of Buddhism in central Asia, Zoroastrianism in Persia, and Christianity in the Middle East and North Africa. The Christians attacked the Muslims over who should control Spain and Palestine, literally killed off nearly all traces of paganism in Europe, fought with each other over which brand of Christianity was the “right” one, and claimed Turtle Island in the name of their religion, destroying native cultures and forcibly converting the native Americans to “Christianity,” a practice that no doubt would have provoked a “money changers in the Temple” response from Jesus Himself, as would the practice of enslaving Africans and then forcing them to become “Christians.” “Religious intolerance” is, I think, a rather bland name for this bloody history. I prefer “religionism.”

While it’s kind of a subdivision of “sexism,” “heterosexism” is another prejudice that divides us, and one that is, in some ways, on the rise, as more and more people come out of the closet and decide to live the life their hearts demand, rather than stay safe within traditional sexual roles, arousing fear and anger in many of those who are stuck in traditional sexual roles and identities.

All these attitudes divide us from each other, but there’s one kind of prejudice that unites most of us, one that we engage in without even thinking about it. Whatever your gender/polarity preference, whether you’re black, yellow, or white, a supporter of the American or the Islamic state, whatever your religion, you probably think of humans as the rightfully dominant species on the planet. (Native Americans who have retained their traditional religion, which recognizes the interconnectivity of all species, are the exception to this.)

I’ve got news for you.  That’s a dangerously destructive prejudice. It’s called speciesism. Speciesism ignores the fact that we are inseparable from the web of life, not its independent beneficiaries. This potentially fatal misunderstanding is written into   Christianity and Judaism, right in the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis:

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth’”bigcity

I’m going to repeat that: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over…very living thing that moves upon the Earth.” We are starting to see where these instructions are taking us, and to understand that it is not a place we want to go. While some Christians and Jews have at least an intellectual understanding that there is a vast difference between careful stewardship and gross exploitation, the exploiters definitely have the upper hand in our culture, at least so far, even as it becomes abundantly clear that, as the world becomes “filled” with humans, our species, and many other complex species, are trembling on the brink of a horrendous, cataclysmic fall into extinction.

Far too many of us see the natural world as a blank, passive canvas awaiting the scrawl and sprawl of exploitive human economic activity–forestry, fossil fuel and mineral extraction, agriculture, fishing, manufacture, settlement. Whatever animals and plants may be living there had better get out of our way. Even many advocates of what they consider a more ecological lifestyle countenance the destruction of ecosystems to mine, manufacture, and place solar panels and wind turbines.

where your cell phone and computer, as well as solar panels and wind turbines, come from

where your cell phone and computer, as well as solar panels and wind turbines, come from

We are not the most important species on the planet, merely the cleverest, and possibly the most self-aware. Some of us, anyway. Greater self-awareness, I believe, is the direction of evolution. We need to grow up enough to understand that we just might be too clever, and selfish, for our own good, and that we can rein in both our cleverness and our selfishness for the benefit of ourselves and all the other beings with whom we share this planet. We need to further realize that our apparently unique awareness of the magnitude of the cosmos makes us function like a brain for the body of the natural world, and, like our own brain, we will not survive if we destroy the body in which we are embedded. We will either evolve, or we won’t survive. The good news is, we have a choice, if we will but free ourselves from our societal conditioning enough to make it.

dolphin

music: Rage Against the Machine, “Ashes in the Fall”


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3 responses

14 03 2016
Caz

Good stuff. We in fact are the most important species on the planet as only humans carry the spark of the Creator. There’s my 2 cents.

14 03 2016
brothermartin

I don’t know where you got that speciesist idea from, but every time I’m eye-to-eye with a non-human sentient being, I’ve seen “the Creator” looking back at me.

14 03 2016
Margaret C. Smith

I like the dolphin pic! Cetaceans have shown themselves to be masters at self-and-other-awareness within the context of their pods. We humans have much to learn.

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