A New Perspective on Perspectives

I had an interesting revelation today thanks to my boss. My new job has opened my eyes to many things, not the least of which is how sheltered a life I was raised in. I don’t necessarily mean a life sheltered from all experience like a creeper, although there were some aspects of my childhood that made me feel like I was that kind of sheltered. I mean more that the places I’ve grown up, the schools I’ve been to, have all been very sheltered environments from real issues in the world. No matter how much I think I understand the issues of racism, homosexuality, and any other big social issue of our time, I was not brought up in social situations where these issues really existed at all. Religion was an issue, but only because 1) my mother made it an issue in every conversation we ever had, and 2) she put in Catholic school, which was not completely full of Catholics. Even so, the non-Catholic portion of the population was certainly the minority (no pun intended). diversity_0

Because of this very closed view on such issues, I’ve tried to take the most tolerant stance I could think of. I’ve developed the outlook that intolerance exist because it is acknowledged. The more you acknowledge the color of one’s skin, or their religious or sexual orientation, the more of an issue it becomes. If you don’t acknowledge someone’s differences, especially when those differences can cause a negative stereotype to some people, than the issue of those differences goes away. Quite a naive outlook, I’m sure, when written out, but in my mind this was a very tolerant and equal way of thinking. My motto in these situations would be, “I don’t care what color you are, what person you like to sleep with, what god you think is in the sky. I’m going to treat you as I expect to be treated, equally, fairly, and according to my actions alone.”

Unbeknownst to me, being the inexperienced child I still am, I did not really consider how this kind of view could be seen negatively. My view has always caused me to be baffled by the idea of political correctness, especially regarding diversity in the workplace. I always felt that diversity is forced, it always has to be questioned and adjusted so there’s a little bit of everyone just in case someone might get offended if their particular *insert representative trait here* isn’t represented alongside the rest of the population. I actually couldn’t have been more wrong.

I can’t really say that my boss’s view has changed my own, simply because I haven’t had the time to see if it will impact me for the long term. Her view was simply this: For people of color (not just black people, but all non-Caucasians), women, homosexuals, etc., it is an issue no matter what they do. For someone like me, a basic Caucasian, it is easy to ignore or shoo away the issue because for me it isn’t an issue at all. To ignore another’s differences may put them on an equal plane in your mind, but from their perspective it is disrespectful to ignore the obvious. You don’t have to make it an issue, but you also don’t want to dismiss those attributes as if they don’t exist at all. It is not as if they want to make it an issue or force you to think about it, but when it is such an issue in their daily lives, you don’t want to act like it isn’t that big of a deal, especially when some of these people have grown up struggling to simply be accepted for what they are.

I never considered how making differences an non-issue could be misconstrued in this way. I have great respect for my boss, so to say something I thought was so tolerant and have it upset her in this kind of way bothered me quite a bit. Again, I can’t say I’m going to change my whole outlook because of this discussion I had with her, but it certainly will help me change the way I address the issue in front of others. I still think that, in the future, dismissing our differences as nothing to worry about would be ideal. I mean no disrespect to history and the struggles people have had to go through to get stubborn idiots to treat them as equals, as they deserve to be treated. I do believe, however, that when things like sex, sexual orientation, color, religion, etc. are not focused on, either in a positive or negative light, then the world will become a more peaceful place. As I’ve tried to explain through my discussions on religion, if people would just accept that humans are all different and stop making our differences something to argue about, especially those differences which people can’t help, acceptance and tolerance would be the norm. But again, alas, human nature is prone to find something to argue about. The only thing we can do is lessen the anger and catch ourselves when we fall into judgment as best as we can.

~Rana

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6 thoughts on “A New Perspective on Perspectives

  1. Very well put and something to think about.

    I was raised in a quite similarly “sheltered” environment. The place I live know is much more diverse but still feels miles from the real world away. And I had/have the same approach regarding differences in people I met. Simply overlook those differences and treat the people as equals.

    As far as I recognize I didn’t offend anyone I met so far. But you (your boss) is right. But that makes things even more complicated …

    • Ha! Not for me. I still have about a week’s worth to go. I started a week late and was lazy for a bit, so I’ve got catching up to do. But I enjoy poetry, it allows me to communicate in a way that I can understand and I don’t have to care if others understand it the way I do or not. ^_^ hehehe

  2. Rana,
    I believe the issue is not “tolerance” or “intolerance”, but tolerance of what, and on what basis. For instance, I think we would a agree that we should not tolerate a child molester while we should be accepting of other races, people with disabilities, etc. But based on what? Whose standard? The pedophile may feel totally justified in what he is doing, and may even think it is good for the children he’s molesting. I think most parents would agree that we should not accept laziness and rotten attitudes from our children. These we understand intuitively, but the basis is very, very objective. When people begin to pick apart the basis for what they believe, accept, don’t believe, etc., they will come to one of three major conclusions. The first possible conclusion is that there is no external standard. But they will find it impossible to live according to this paradigm. Everyone doing what is right in his own eyes only works on an island alone. The second is that there is an external standard, but we cannot know it – or at least it is personal and we must not force it on others. If I am not mistaken, this is the place that you camp out. This gives us problems, because there are consequences to live out of sync with an external standard, just as there are consequences for grabbing onto a power line – whether with full knowledge of electricity or in ignorance. The third is that there IS an external standard, and that it is essential that we understand just what it is, because it certainly affects us. Now consider this also. Our failure to understand these external standards is not purely a personal matter. It affects our friends, family, and children. If I fail to understand the limits of my car, I am not only a danger to myself, but to others on the road.
    Now let me address the specific issues of “race, religion, and homosexuality that you mentioned according to the Biblical standard that I use for my own life. “Race” is a no brainer. All men are created in the image of God, and therefore inherently entitled to respect. “God is no respecter of persons” (meaning He is impartial and does not play favorites” We are to love others as we love ourselves. God’s plan of salvation began with the Jews, but was only His starting point, with an eye for redeeming all mankind. Next, “Religion” is a great contest of “whose god is God”, with demonic powers vying and competing with God, and God allowing this to go on so people can freely make their eternal choices. “The gods of the nations are idols”. In other words, there are many religious ideas out there, but they definitely do not have equal merit. As we search, we must maintain a heart of integrity. Next, the more delicate issue of homosexuality. This is very clear Biblically. It is one sin among many in which people are ensnared. It is contrary to nature. God forgives it like all sins, but requires repentance. The God of love does not embrace homosexuality, because the God of love would never embrace a future for the homosexual – or anyone for that matter – that is less than His best. Therefore God relentlessly seeks to turn us from all sin. Homosexuals are not special sinners. God only calls it out specifically (along with adultery (heterosexual sin!), fornication, theft, etc.) because it serves as a kind of boundary marker or guide rail. In other words, if a person is involved in these, he can be sure he is off the mark. One need not be involved in any of these, however, to be totally separate from God. These just give us hints.
    So what we’re dealing with here, is the issue of moral relativism. Relative to whom? To the person next to us, or to God? We are not each others judges. But it is fair to point others to the One who will surely judge. (And as judgmental as people can be, we’d fair much better with one another than with a holy God) Of course, you know the Christian provision for this dilemma – not excusing sin, but receiving God’s own payment for it. Anyway, this standard tells me when to be tolerant, and when to be intolerant. This same standard tells me when to be tolerant of my own behavior and attitudes and when to be intolerant. (And in false religion, there is confusion of both – guilt about rituals, etc. that God does not want us guilty about, and the excusing or mitigating of real sin, which God does not treat lightly at all. What you may be facing, Rana, is that you do not know what your standard is for being tolerant or intolerant, and realize rightly that upbringing, culture, our limited thinking, etc. is a very poor standard. Yet I’m sure you realize that we cannot just say, “It’s all good.” We all know it’s not. Take care.

    • Hey Thunder.

      I can’t agree with your determination of the three conclusions of basis of belief. Your first conclusion, that of there being no external standard, you say, “Everyone doing what is right in his own eyes only works on an island alone.” However, when you look at the world, that is how people live. It is what causes all the conflict in the world, the fact that every person has their own concept of where the universal standards lie. Since, in your example, it is generally agreed upon that a molester is a bad person committing a bad act, then it can be assumed that there is a universal standard which determines that act to be bad. This does, to me at least, prove that there are a universal set of standards, but that we, as humans, cannot agree on the details of those standards. Regarding these consequences, which are you talking about? Those of society, established around the generally accepted lines of the universal standards, or are you talking about the consequences given by a higher power? All the consequences we know to exist in definite space and time are those we inflict upon each other, again, determined by the majority interpretation of where the universal standard lies. It is possible there are consequences after this life, but as I’ve said before, it is up to the individual to decide which known consequences to believe in and whether to work to avoid them or not. Just because it definitely will affect us does not mean we can fully understand it. Global warming has many interpretations and many questions which no one can agree on an answer to, but the idea of global weather change is still something which affects each of us. Just because an electric socket could shock me doesn’t mean I can understand the concept of electricity itself, the voltage of every socket I come in contact with, etc. At some point, we have to accept that we can’t understand it all, we simply don’t have the tools, and we aren’t meant to understand it all in this life. I may drive my dearest friends and family around in my car, but that doesn’t mean I’m a mechanic. In the same way, it is not possible, due to all of the physics involved, to predict precisely how your car will react in every given situation. You can stay in one extreme of those limits, never pushing the car to what you think is the limit of your car, but if you do that, you don’t actually know where the line is. You may stay safe, but that doesn’t make you an expert on the car an its limits.

      I agree, color is a no-brainer, but not for the same reason as you describe. It is a no-brainer because it is not something which a person cannot do anything about. They are born with their skin, it cannot be altered. The color of one’s skin does not change their intelligence, nor their species. ‘They’ are us, and nothing more or less. I’m not going to get into the religion debate with you again, as we both know where each of us stands there. Now, with homosexuality, I can’t disagree with you more. As I’ve pointed out in many debates of late regarding the subject, homosexual acts are NOT unnatural. It has been proven in many species, from birds such as Birds of Paradise to many different breeds of snake to gibbons and bonobos (our close cousin species), that homosexual acts are socially stabilizing actions. Male Birds of Paradise have homosexual relations to lower testosterone levels to avoid violent fights between competing males. Snakes have different ranks of males, some live with the sole purpose of distracting and tiring the other males by having sex so he can mate with the females at a later time. Gibbons and bonobos will literally pleasure each other after social conflicts to calm each other down and reestablish social balance and respect. There are very scarce but true accounts of eagles in Africa and kokopos in New Zealand who find homosexual mates and stay with that mate for life, despite the lack of offspring. Homosexuality is not unnatural. Humans may be intelligent enough to understand where babies come from, and so know that homosexual acts are not ‘productive,’ or contrary to the intentions of the two sexes, but that doesn’t mean it’s unnatural.

      On your last point, all I can say is that you are saying that God judges. Again I say that judgment is a flaw of man, an act of observing differences between another person and yourself and categorizing that person based on those observations. I don’t believe that god has flaws of any kind, and with judgment such an emotional, flawed aspect of our lives, I believe that god is above it and better than it. I know where I think the standards of the universe lie, and I accept that I cannot be completely sure. This is why I accepted my boss’s view so readily, and why I’m okay with you having the views that you have and am willing to listen to them. Because I accept that I can never truly know where the standard lies in this life, I also accept the journey of searching for that line, and accept that, when I do decide to stick with a certain position, that I may be wrong. My acceptance of this is what makes me content with the wandering road.

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