Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ignorance is Certainly NOT Bliss

If you are reading this right now, then you have caught me in a heated mood. Also, this has very good potential to become quite lengthy. You have been warned.

Originally, I had planned on my next post going in a VERY different direction, but about five minutes ago I saw something online that caused me to immediately log in, and begin writing about what had just offended practically every fiber of my being.

I will begin with another one of my favorite quotes (I have many):

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought, without accepting it." - Aristotle

I chose to hi-lite that, because I want everyone who opens this post to see it, even if they read nothing else that I write tonight.

Now, where do I even start? I will not say what exactly it was that I saw, as I do not believe in pointing fingers, and starting unnecessary drama. Also, I don't want to make anyone feel embarrassed, as that is not my goal for this post. I'll just say this:

Understanding others, in all aspects of life, is something that is very, very important to me. I often make an attempt to speak up when I hear people being disrespectful about someone else's culture or way of life. Choosing to study anthropology has definitely put this understanding within reach, as learning how and why we should do so is it's own undergraduate course: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology. I think that every single college student in the US should have to take, and pass, this class in order to graduate with a diploma. Seriously.

My heart genuinely breaks when I hear people talking about others who are different than them in a negative manner, calling them "weird," "wrong," or "gross." What is weird about them? Is it because they don't live the way you do? Is it because they marry people of the same sex? Or maybe they marry more than one person? Or they eat fried grasshoppers? Or they don't wear any clothes? Or they put their daughters into a "fattening hut" to become beautiful before they are married? No. You only think they are "weird" because you do not understand why. Or, because you are under the delusion that your way of life is "right."

Ugh. I shudder at the thought.

If you think that your way of life is the "right" way, I have news for you, my friend. You are terribly, terribly mistaken.

One of the responses that I most often hear is that people call these other cultures "wrong" because their practices and/or beliefs go against that person's religion. I know that this is a very touchy subject, but let me tell you something, I believe in God. And I am willing to bet that no matter what religion, if any, that you follow, your god/creator/supreme being did the same thing my God did. He/she/it/they created everyone. Including those people who are, as you might say, "living in sin." So in my eyes, that is not an excuse. And yes, they may be going against the teachings of your religion, but that does not mean that their way of life is wrong in the grand scheme of things; it is simply wrong in your realm of the universe. And I'm sorry to tell you that there is a BIG difference.

I could go on and on, but for length's sake, I'll move forward.

Another thing that makes my heart ache: hearing people telling their children or friends to steer clear of TV shows, or books that detail the lives of people who live in a way that they don't agree with.

Why don't we just prop open the jaws of Ignorance, and begin shoveling kids in by the bucket-full, hmm??

I think this is what infuriates me the most. Many people complain about these types of TV shows, such as the ones on TLC (Sister Wives, My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding, etc), calling them useless. I think they are absolutely wonderful. They are teaching us about the many cultures that exist right in our own backyards! They are showing us that we do not have to travel to the middle of the Amazon to find diversity. We can find it in our own society. The backbone of humanity is variety. Differences are what outline all of the beautiful cultures that exist on this earth. And the thought that people are viewing these programs not as a learning opportunity to enrich our minds and broaden our horizons, but as a threat, makes me sick.

 If there is one road to world peace, it is education. And not taking any, and every opportunity to learn about the world and the people who inhabit it is what is keeping us at a stand-still.

That being said, there is a serious difference between appreciation, and acceptance. I am not saying that we have to agree with the way of life of every single group of people on this earth. That is pretty much impossible. But what I am trying to say through all this rambling, is that it is crucial that we try to understand why all of these different cultures live life the way that they do. And how they came to be. Who, and what, they evolved from. How they fit into the giant puzzle of the world. That is what must be appreciated.

The only way that we can truly appreciate these things, is by trying to view the world from outside of our own perspective. Everything is objective. Our own biases are the only things standing in our way.

Ignorance will get us nowhere. And I beg you, please, do not give in to that close-minded, unenlightened, ugly-souled person that we all have the potential to become. Life is beautiful, and people are beautiful.

I will end this with another quote that I love:

"Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace." - The Dalai Lama


*P.S. - If you'd like to skim over it, I've posted a link to a very interesting anthropological article that will really put this whole "understanding" thing into perspective for you. It did for me! (hint: reverse the words "Nacirema," and Notgnihsaw," and then read it again to see if you get it ;)   )