What’s up with Personal & Cultural Identity?

On a personal level in trying to create or affirm a strong sense of who we are, we often try to distance ourselves from the confusing or painful elements of our past. Sometimes we reject all of it – even those elements which could positively impact the forging of our “unique” identities. This is the baby/bathwater syndrome.

Similarly, on a societal level, in the process of re-creating or affirming a national identity in our modern world, many make the mistake of rejecting their ethnic origins as being tied to the suffering of the past: poverty, oppression, persecution, lack of education, equality, opportunity. Others, in order to feel a heightened sense of importance, legitimacy, power, etc. reject cultures they know little about, or those which are very different from their own. Thus it isn’t hard to imagine a day will come when all unique cultural elements will be reduced to a few curious artifacts entombed in the glass cases of museums.

In truth, our diverse ethnicities are as deeply entwined as threads in the vast and rich tapestry of our humanity, which is replete with commonalities despite our best efforts to deny them. In truth we all came from the same origins, the same original pair (whether called Adam & Eve or something else). And we all came from the same place, whether we choose to believe it or not: Africa. Our “motherland” which for eons we’ve ironically and tragically ignored, neglected, forgotten, left behind. This is a black thread which is woven throughout our multi-colored human tapestry.

So I wish we could turn the world inside out for a while. You know, everything would be reversed:

– white would be black or brown, yellow, red and vice versa

– the rich would be poor and the poor nations would be wealthy and rich with resources

– persecutors would be persecuted

– hunters would be hunted

– Muslims would be Christians, Hindus would be Muslims, Catholics would be Protestants etc. Better yet, everyone would be Buddhists, because they are (usually) accepting of everyone.

– “conservatives” would be “liberals” (omg)

– slums would be mansions

– deserts would become jungles or oceans

– the thin would be fat

– the hungry would be well-fed and the gluttonous would be starved

– etc.

What’s the point? Well, if I were an optimist I’d hope people would thus become more compassionate and understanding of each other. They’d realize first-hand what’s going on in other parts of our country and our small world, what it’s like to live like the “others”. Things might change, become more balanced, thoughtful, equal, fair, shared, peaceful.

Another option would be a visit by aliens from another planet. That would be a great unifying distraction from us fighting one another here on earth. No longer would we be focused on our so-called differences – rather we’d join together in solidarity to deal with this new “other”. Ideally they’d be evolved, benevolent, gentle, nonthreatening, so we’d have no excuse to project our antipathy onto them, and maybe we’d learn a helpful thing or two!

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