Bring A Little Hope [on Merely A Thought Monday]

emerging with frame copy

 

“Multiculturalism asserts that people with different roots can co-exist, that they can learn to read the image-banks of others, that they can and should look across frontiers of race, language, gender and age without prejudice or illusion, and learn to think against this background of a hybridized society. It proposed – modestly enough – that some of the most interesting things in history and culture happen at the interface between cultures. It wants to study border situations, not only because they are fascinating in themselves, but because understanding them may bring with it a little hope for the world.” ~ Robert Hughes

I read in my newspaper that tribalism is the new normal [insert eye roll here]. There’s nothing new in tribalism. Fear-full people lost in a very small Us-N-Them tale is as old as the old gods. It’s pulled out and paraded about when power structures are shifting.

I marveled at the utter absurdity of it. No one can deny that our airwaves and e-waves are choked with noisy proclamations of division and fear.  However, it only takes a quick scan through the rest of my newspaper to grasp the undeniable reality of our situation: global markets, global economies, populations on the move, United Nations, NATO, WTO, multinational corporations, Bitcoin, international space stations, satellites, not to mention some of our greatest challenges like global warming, and invasive plant and insect species (made possible through global shipping and the necessity of sharing/exploiting resources). Take a stroll down the aisle of your local supermarket and educate yourself on the scope, depth and breadth of your food sources. Count the countries represented on the shelves.

Tribalism is not new. It was normal a few centuries ago. Nowadays it is a construct, an old dry log to toss on a fire to stoke divisions and create distractions.  It’s a headline to sell newspapers. Division sells. Good theatre requires hot conflict. People are easier to control when divided. There’s nothing new there, either.

There is a truism in change processes: people hold on tightest to what they know just before releasing their fear and walking into the unknown future. They take a step back, temporarily entrench, before answering the call of growth and change. Call that tribalism if you must, or denial, or the conservative impulse. It’s a process step. “Age and stage,” as 20 likes to say.

What’s actually new? All the world is now a crossroads. People with different roots ARE coexisting – that, after all, IS the great experiment and central promise of these United States. Looking across the frontiers of race, language, gender and age – without prejudice or illusion – is the hope in our emergence. It is the cathedral we are building.

The other direction can only bring our decrease. And, as history has taught us again and again, that’s an ugly path. There’s nothing new in that, either.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on EMERGING HUMANS EMERGING

 

 

Let’s Be Us

a detail from my painting, May You Be

a detail from my painting, May You Be

[continued from Put Down The Hammer]

It is night and I am sitting alone in the sanctuary. I’ve been setting up chairs for a performance and now that the job is complete I’m taking a moment to savor the silence and review this day.

The temperatures have been unseasonably warm and when I opened the back door this morning for Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog I was greeted by the sound of birds singing. It was an April sound in the middle of December. I was so taken by the sound that I called Kerri, “Come and listen to this!” We stood in the doorway for many minutes. It was beautiful as well as a little disconcerting. “El Niño or global warming?” I asked.

Arnie wrote a comment to my last post. He asked: Can it be that we don’t want the ‘we’ in our society – we aren’t comfortable with the ‘we’ and only feel our identity by living out the “us and them”? I am an idealist but, of course, he is right. David Berreby wrote a terrific book called, Us and Them. We are hardwired to perceive the world through a lens of Us and Them. It’s a survival imperative to distinguish between friend and foe. However, a point that is most salient to me: the delineation of Us is mutable. It is not a fixed state but largely circumstantial. That is especially true in this modern age. There is an out of fashion phrase used to describe these United States: a melting pot. There could not be a better metaphor for an ever fluid definition of US. We need not melt but we do need to acknowledge that we are in the same pot. “Give us your tired, your hungry, your poor,…” is central to our national identity (not always central to our national rhetoric) and is a sacred, central statement of an ever-changing US.

We are among the first humans in history to have the pleasure of seeing our planet Earth from space and, as it has been said, from space there are no visible borders. The definition of US depends upon how far out we pull the camera. From space WE are the human race. There are a bevy of alien invasion movies that carry a common theme: when attacked WE inhabitants of Earth will pull together. Or, said another way, until there is a THEM that invades from another planet, WE will be incapable of recognizing full inclusion in the Earth pot.

To Arnie’s point, there is a lot of responsibility that comes with WE. A few months ago, Kerri and I were in Chicago for the day and passed a homeless man, holding a filthy cardboard sign asking for help. He was young, in his early 20’s, and more filthy than his sign. He was suffering. We walked by him. On the train home we had a long conversation about our responsibility to that young man or to any member of our community that is suffering. Many years ago I was with a student group in Bali. We were invited to Udayana University and one member of our group gave a talk about homelessness in America. Our Balinese hosts were shocked. “How could a member of your community be without a home?” they asked. The concept was abhorrent to them, unthinkable. “You are the wealthiest people on Earth…,” they stammered. Later, a Balinese professor said to me, “When you came here today, we wanted to be like you Americans. As you leave, we are proud to be Balinese.”

Us. Them. We. Like me. Not like me. Me. Little words with far-reaching impact. I am not the same person I was only a few years ago. I find it infinitely hopeful – especially now – that, just like me, the delineation of US is mutable, ever changing. It begs the question, Who are WE? And, to another of Arnie’s points, the answer to the question depends upon where we decide to place our focus.