Tuesday, April 27

Viva la Difference

People love to point out differences. Size, shape, color- especially color as in “that person is a different color and therefore something to be feared”- we can’t get enough of that. Pointing out differences in a pejorative way these days is considered Politically Incorrect and branded as racist.

There have been studies that concluded that we tend to identify with those with similarities rather than differences. It appears that preference is built in as a survival mechanism from our hunter gatherer days when our lives depended on being able to tell the difference between a friend, enemy or a bear looking for lunch. We couldn’t be too careful about who was approaching us. Who is that? Can I trust them?

It turns out, white folks really do look alike to black folks and vice versa. I noticed this phenomen immediately when I was in Japan, a very homogeneous country, where a foreigner sticks out big time.

This instinct is not as racism (though there is plenty of that going on) but a outdated prejudice carried over from our caveman days. The fear of “others” rears it’s ugly head when a dominant culture feels threatened by minorities. It’s not really their fault, i.e. the commies, gays, blacks, Mexicans, Jews, Moslems, Christians Serbs, Armenians, etc. Such reactions are a reflex response to, when the going gets rough, blame “those people”.

The Industrial Revolution and urbanization reenforced this with standardization- sameness over different. We feel safer when everyone and everything is the same, constant, and unchanging. Guess what, that’s an illusion, nothing stays the same. We have forgotten that differences stimulate thinking, creativity and diversity- our most important advantage- that allows us to adapt to change.

We need to stop being petty about differences in culture, race, ideology and drop the guilt trip on ourselves when we react to differences in others, it’s okay.

Living in boring white bread Eugene Oregon, I miss living in San Francisco where everyone came in different sizes, colors, languages and cultures- it was so much fun and broadened my mind. It’s time for us to celebrate and embrace our differences.

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