Archives For Diversity

This is a continuation of the post about two distinctive worldveiws so prevalent in our society today. Let me say up front that even with violating my self imposed 500 word limit on posts this will only very lightly touch on the matter of good or evil. Lets pull a couple of quotes from yesterday’s post to concentrate on here.

Still, the distinction is real and important — and its implications touch on areas of our cultural life far beyond criminal justice. It helps to explain, for example, the very different ways that Platonic liberals and Pauline conservatives approach sex — with the former willing to trust in the power of rational sex education to help shape behavior, and the latter much more concerned about their children succumbing to sinful temptation no matter how many rational arguments they’re exposed to. 

SOURCE:  The real fault line in the culture war isn’t race or sex. It’s sin..

Different worldviews depending on whether you are a Platonic liberal or a Pauline conservative is an interesting concept.  I don’t necessarily agree with the liberal/conservative tags added but be that as it may. I will acknowledge that most people can probably be classified as one or the other of these groups. And then there are people like me, and I hope many others, who might look at it from a different angle.

As I always like to point out this issue is not black/white, Plato/Paul but instead shades of both. As the quote from yesterday said it is too simplistic that one view holds people as good and the other as people are evil because they are always sinful.  Let’s look at Paul and his teaching first.

In order to understand the words of Paul so dominant in the Christian bible you must look at his life’s experiences to see how his philosophy was shaped. Paul was first and foremost a Jewish scholar. He was all about rules. Rules on how to live, what to eat, how to pray, rules about everything. These rules are to keep you from sinning. Paul’s education and everything about him was jewish. When he saw his vision on the road to Damascus it made him realize that he had part of  it wrong. But only part. Since he was a very educated man he wrote much about his new-found faith but intertwined it with his jewish beliefs of rules and sin. I am one of those who align with Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts that Paul took the simple messages of Jesus and made them complicated.

Plato on the other hand generally believed in the goodness of man. He believed that this innate goodness came from our creator and was deeply embedded in us. He was more about shedding off faulty traditions than about rules. Plato was a very complicated guy but for this discussion his idea of innatism is at the center.  Innatism is a philosophical doctrine that holds that the mind is born with ideas/knowledge, and that therefore the mind is not a ‘blank slate’ at birth and that knowledge is generally about wanting to become one with your creator. Therefore he, unlike Paul,concluded that man is at his foundation good as it comes from God who is good.

Plato or Paul?  To me these are two different interpretations of how to live our lives. I personally gather some insight from both but probably align more with Plato. As my Quaker friends say I believe that “there is the light of God in all of us” and that light was given to us by our creator. But I also recognize that temptations are always there. So am I a Platonic liberal or a Pauline conservative?  I am a shade of grey somewhere in between.

JEFFREY BROWN: But couldn’t you make the argument that it would be better if we all spoke the same language, that we all understood each other? There would be — well, there would be more understanding in the world.

BOB HOLMAN: Well, I love that argument, and it makes so much sense, until you understand what understanding is.

Icon_apps_22 [Converted] [Converted]You know, language is much more than communication. When we talk about it on the surface, that’s what it is. But language is the way we think. And it’s the way it’s been handed down through generations. If you begin to think in another language, that’s fine.

But if you have to lose the way that your family has been speaking, that’s not so fine. That’s losing who you are. And when we lose who we are, that’s when we become this homogenized consumer of life, rather than a citizen who comes from a place and knows who you are.

SOURCE:  What does the world lose when a language dies?.

The above quotes came from a transcript of a recent PBS Newshour segment about languages that are being lost in recent years. I will tell you up front so there is no confusion that I simply don’t buy much of the reasons to lament this happening. To me less languages in the world is instead something to celebrate.

Being deaf and living fully in the hearing world I know that communications is vital to how we live our daily lives. Daily conversations, yes even chit-chat is important. When communications is broken for whatever reason conflict often arises, sometimes deadly conflict. I have often said that the times I feel the most lonely is when I am surrounded by people who I am unable to communicate with. Sitting with a group of people and not being able to join in on whatever the topic of conversation happens to be about is totally isolating to me.

Even communications between those of us who are deaf are often nearly impossible because of different languages. The 20% or so of the deaf are those who were born deaf and part of the Deaf culture. They use a sign language called ASL. For the other 80% of us who went deaf after learning how to speak we use Signed English if we use signing at all, and many don’t. While the two share some common signs they are very different in context and application.  I have great difficulty knowing what a person using ASL is saying.

If only we all could talk directly with each other without the social, political, or physical barriers of different languages much of the world’s current problems would cease to exist. Because I am not privy to many conversations around me I often come to very  wrong conclusions about what is being discussed.  Because, for the most part Christians and Muslims speak different languages communication at the grass-roots level are simply not possible.  Communications is everything in today’s world. Speaking  and writing different languages kills communications.  Languages are not to be confused with thoughts. They are not the same thing. Thoughts, philosophies, cultures and such promote different ways of thinking. We should never lose our ability to think differently than the crowd.

About Islam and terrorism…

February 4, 2015

I have been meaning to study more about the Muslim world. I know it rivals Christianity as the largest religion in the world. Here are some supposed facts I recently found about it from a recent on-line article. Click the source below to see the complete article.

2015-01-23_11-29-371. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world.

2. European Muslims are more moderate on sharia law.

Eighty-four percent of Muslims in South Asia, 77 percent of percent of Muslims in Southeast Asia, and 74 percent of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa believe that sharia law should be official law in their respective countries. Only 18 percent of Muslims in Europe believe that sharia law should be enshrined in addition to (or in lieu of) the existing law.

3. Some Muslims are immersed in an environment that permits and nourishes the core beliefs they cite as reasons for acting as they have.

For example: 2.3 percent of Muslims in Europe believe that people who leave the Muslim faith should be executed. By contrast, 63 percent of Muslims in South Asia share that belief, as do 44 percent of Muslims in the Middle East, and 20 percent of Muslims in Southeast Asia.

4. Just north of ten percent of Muslims worldwide support and sanction religously motivated violence against civilians in at least some contexts.

That’s about 195 million, according to the most accurate polling of Muslim beliefs.

7. There are seeming contradictions in how much Muslims support women’s rights.

In Europe, 44 percent of Muslims think that women should at all times submit to their husbands, but 88 percent believe that women ought to choose for themselves whether they should wear a veil in public. Outside of Europe, strong majorities of Muslims believe that women must obey their husbands and wear their veils outside their home. 

8. There are big geographic differences in how people interpret the truth of the Islamic faith.

In 32 of the 39 countries surveyed, half or more Muslims say there is only one correct way to understand the teachings of Islam. In the United States, nearly six in ten Muslims think there are many ways to interpret Islam.

SOURCE:  8 facts you need to know about Islam and terrorism.

Some of these statistics surprised me. I have always thought that the radicals who seem so dominant in the news were completely out of step with the average follower of that religion. But this article seems to say not as much out of tune as I thought.  Over three-fourths of the Asian and Middle East muslims think that Sharia law should be the only law of their countries. 195 million support religiously sanctioned violence and about half say that if you leave Islam you should be executed!!  The vast majority of practicing muslims don’t support any form women’s rights or even human rights in general.

These numbers say that muslims are more aligned with some ISIS  ideology than I originally believed.  I certainly don’t want to paint with too broad a brush here and it does seem that at least muslims in western countries, which are a distinct minority of muslims,  are less rigid than in the rest of muslim the world. One of the most basic things that confuses me about Islam is that they seem to put much more emphasis on their prophet Mohammad than they do God himself.  Why is that? Is it ok to have a picture of God but not Mohammad? I guess I need to study this religion more…. but what I have found so far kind of startles me….

A few months after I came to America, one of my American friends showed me a picture of her sister. “Isn’t she precious?” she said. I was taken aback ; her sister had Down’s syndrome. On another occasion, when I first met my new neighbor, she revealed that she had a mentally retarded son who was sixteen but had the mental capacity of a five-year-old. I admire Americans’ openness about disability….

In Asia, the disabled are treated as less than fully human… Mental retardation or physical disability is a stigma to a family, partly because of the influence of Buddhism. According to Buddhism, life is a series of causes and consequences, and a person’s disability may be punishment for having behaved badly in a former life or for having a cruel ancestor. Thus, family members with mentally retarded children are often ashamed and rarely tell others about them. An elementary school classmate of mine in Korea had a handicapped brother. Whenever I visited her house, her mother put him in a bathroom or somewhere else where visitors couldn’t see him. Thirty years later, public perception of disabilities in Asia has not improved much. Even in Japan, the most industrially advanced and urbanized society in Asia, disabled people face discrimination, humiliation, and inconvenience every day.

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 810-820). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

This post of course is going to get rather personal with me. Being deaf I have experienced prejudices in my life even in the U.S. but it has probably been very minor compared to those in Asia.  America was not exempt from the description above, it is just that we for the most part conquered that phobia years ago whereas Asia has yet to approach it.

Almost anyone who doesn’t know me and approached me as a deaf person automatically assumes several things. The one that gets to me the most is that I am less intelligent than most. Even though the saying “deaf and dumb” is pretty much a thing of the past the thought still flourishes among many. The second thing is that since I am deaf I am not worth the effort to get to know me. Many simply write me off as a possible future friend.  I must admit that these feeling are not limited to just those of us who are deaf. They also apply to many who are handicapped in other ways. A person in a wheelchair is for the most part ignored by most.  I personally make a diligent effort to make eye contact and greet everyone I come across who is handicapped.

I can’t imagine the obstacles put in front of people with handicaps in Asia. To be put into a virtual closet away from family and friends is shameful to me. Asians need to get over the idea that mental and physical handicaps are God’s punishment for past actions. At least for Christianity Jesus tells us very directly that that is not the case.  Stigma is hard to break in any culture. I am at least grateful that we have done a better job in this area than our Asian brothers and sisters. But haven’t we found that to be true in so many areas in this yin/yang study?

2014-06-24_16-41-17

This is a continuation of my Friday posts about the book “Yin/Yang and American Culture” by Kim Eun. It is a book well worth reading about the differences between American and much of the rest of the world. This post is about American Women…

“There are two kinds of women in the world: American women and women.” This is a joke among Asian men doing business internationally. American women have been liberated and empowered to such a degree that they belong in a category all their own among the women of the world. Compared with their counterparts in other countries, American women have accomplished a great deal in career advancement. Even European nations that maintain progressive, family oriented programs lag far behind the United States in providing equal employment opportunities to women. In Japan, Germany, and other European and Asian countries, women face serious obstacles to achieving workplace equality. They are expected to assist men and are given lower wages, less stable employment, and fewer opportunities for advancement.

Furthermore, in Confucian tradition, women could not interrupt men’s conversations or speak loudly or be aggressive. Women were told, “If a hen cries, the family will disintegrate.” Many Asian women still do not assert their rights at home or at work. Asian men tend to resent assertive women, and Asian women are afraid of offending their men. Many Japanese women still speak in a higher-than-natural pitch (for social acceptance), especially in formal settings, on the phone, or when dealing with customers. Supposedly, Japanese men are attracted to high-pitched voices ; they perceive women with lower voices as too aggressive or unfeminine.

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 751-754). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

I consider equality of condition and opportunity to be by far the greatest American tradition and am proud that women have come so far in our society during my lifetime. Those of us who are over sixty remember when American women’s place was generally in the home. She had little opportunities outside of that environment. The shortage of men to do factory work during World War II showed women that they could do almost anything they desired. Once they discovered that they didn’t look back.

The subservient attitudes of and toward women in much the rest of the world saddens me. Asian cultures are beginning to break down barriers but not fast enough.  And then there are the Muslim countries who treat women worse than slaves. Burkas should go the way of slave chains in this world. To treat such a significant portion of any population that way is shameful to me. I know traditions are hard to break in some cultures but break they eventually must. I hope that the American model will eventually incite changes in the rest of the world. We definitely have something to teach so many others in that regard.

It makes me proud to see that the rest of the world sees our accomplishments in this area.

 

StewWhen I was a kid I often heard that the USA was the great American melting pot. That implied that when people came to this country they gave up all their traditions and heritage and merged seamlessly into the American ethic. I was a pretty naive farm boy in my youth so it was years before I realized that the melting pot was not as homogeneous as I thought.

Those who grew up in large metropolitan areas very much realize that American is more of a stew than a melting pot. Take any major city and you will find “Little Italy”, “Chinatown”, and many other ethnic neighborhoods. I even recently learned that there is a “Little Ukraine” in NYC. Being deaf I have even come to understand that there are deaf enclaves in many cities where Deaf culture people congregate. They have their own groceries, and other type stores who all know ASL.

Originally these communities started as a way to hang out with people who spoke our language and understood the world as we do. They were ways to hold on to old world customs in the strange new world of the United States.  But since mass immigration is now several generations ago they have now morphed into centers to celebrate their uniqueness and there is nothing wrong with that.

I think that the U.S. has always been a stew rather than a melting pot. A stew is made up of many different components each contributing to the unique overall taste. If there was nothing but potatoes in a stew it would not be anything close to what it is.  By the same account if we just threw all the vegetables into a pot of cold water they would never come to be a stew but instead just a pot of veggies.  It takes time on the stove, or crockpot, for the parts to come together to be a stew.

On this blog I call the American Stew by the name of diversity. We are made up of many different parts with many different views. Our diversity is what makes us the great nation that we are. When we fail to recognize that fact we are damaging ourselves.  Slavery damaged us for hundreds of years as has bigotry among some of our population. Today the anti-diversity campaigns such as Left/Right, conservative/progressive, white/color, are still threatening the stew.

We have to all understand that being made up of a population of differences is what makes us unique in this world. It is what gives us our strength. For that reason we should all take up arms when bigotry and prejudices are used to attack any of us. We are a stew, not a melting pot.