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Thursday, October 16, 2014

What's the difference?



What could possibly cause one graphic to inspire me and one graphic to leave me wondering whether my fellow Liberals/Progressives/Leftists are practicing their critical thinking skills? Take one moment to consider these banners before reading on, assuming you haven't yet decided to bail.

I am bound to ask what I don't hear others asking. What does being gay or being a parent have to do with opposing bullying?

When I see these messages and similar ones all over the internet and in the real world, I feel ambiguous at best. Sure, on one hand I am heartened to see that compassionate folks are standing against bad behavior. Also, I am dismayed by the unintended bright lines we are drawing around ourselves. The nationalistic lines (I'm an American or other). The smaller lines (I'm gay or black or Aspergers or Hispanic or feminist, and so on. I have been troubled by this for some time and this is as good a day as any to say, "I quit". I am done compartmentalizing my definition of myself and my support of fellow humans. I know it is popular and politically correct to say things like, "I'm a feminist" or "I'm an ally" (referencing LGBT issues) but I'm done.

I have decided that I can't make sense of a world, nor feel hopeful for a world, in which different sub-groups feel obliged to boldly state that they are banding together against bullying. What does that mean? Are there behaviors that are clearly good for people but about which we will not join hands? Will every group need a special banner or a T-shirt for every other positive thing upon which we agree or negative thing we oppose? How far down that path do we find ourselves now? This suggests that we are so parochial and clannish that we might well abandon hope for the united (or, at minimum,  more united) pursuit of betterment. I can't prove this isn't our nature, I simply decide not to feed it.

What would it be like if we imagined ourselves as members of the same team? While I respect a person's right to see themselves as a proud homosexual/parent/etc., I am a human, which is all I need to be to oppose bullying. As a human and a proud Humanist, I oppose the factionalizing of people. I suggest that long history shows factionalizing  people tends to produce more tension and discrimination and contention, not less. Essentially, bullying (as well as other forms of bad behavior) are not bad because they are anti-trans or anti-parent or anti-gay. Bad behavior is bad because it is counter to the well being of our fellow humans.

I am a Humanist. Period.

Okay, if aliens land tomorrow and they are not human, I may need to expand my definition in light of new information. Though it doesn't roll off the tongue, I may need to become a Sentientist (?).

Though I do not usually ask this, please like or share or whatever if you follow my point.
As always, feel free to speak in calm opposition to, or contend cantankerously with, that which you feel is poorly considered, baffling, or flatly wrong.



3 comments:

David Platt said...

--to the tune of the Dr Pepper commercial--
I'm a Sentientist! Chimps are Sentientists, whales are Sentientists, wouldn't you like to be a Sentientist, too?

I've always had a problem with the label Humanist. Even though most Humanists are not Christian, this name seems to come from a notion in the Book of Genesis in which "God" gives humans dominion over all the animals. But this fails to acknowledge that humans are animals, too.

John Forest said...

DP, thanks for your comments, amigo. They are always bright and energetic.
I can see why you might imagine a relationship between humanism and the bible and it may have that connotation so some. As I understand it, the following would be more accurate: The first Humanist Manifesto was issued by a conference held at the University of Chicago in 1933.[9] Signatories included the philosopher John Dewey, but the majority were ministers (chiefly Unitarian) and theologians. They identified humanism as an ideology that espouses reason, ethics, and social and economic justice, and they called for science to replace dogma and the supernatural as the basis of morality and decision-making.

Also, because I consider myself a Humanist and define humanism to mean that I am chiefly concerned with the well-being of humans, does not by definition or practice suggest that I fail to recognize my place among the animal kingdom or that I have no responsibility to my fellow animals on this planet. I can't say for sure what others think on these matters.

Stream Source said...

(If this came through more than once, I apologize. The applet is messing with me)

I am in agreement with you in the context of the discussion of those posters - no question. But...

Even if we make a statement, "I am humanist.' We have drawn another line around our 'self'. Most people and especially scientists and other critical thinkers require labels. They are useful (in most cases) and seem necessary for communication in our day to day world. However, these labels (as set forth in your commentary) are also the reason our day to day world continues to struggle with each other -- with our boundaries.

To those who are not humanist, any need to express this distinction immediately creates a barrier. "I have spoken" this is who I am and what I am (may be) different from you. The division comes in creating a distinction beyond our basic "human-ness'. The label game is further complicated by those who don't understand what 'humanist' means and whereby any lack of understanding is conducive to creating fear. Fear, the source of all that is destructive in the world.

With all that is whirling about and changing so fast that the entire system we created for deciphering it is collapsing upon itself, how can any of us staunchly identify with being "anything' other than human? And, as you point out, even this could be refuted should the world one day own up to the very real possibility that non-human life, exists... and may be among us, now. If or when this day arrives, I believe this world will be transformed beyond anything we recognize as 'normal' at present. I doubt there will be labels - there may be no need.