Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Evolution of Thought and Practice: Impact on Oppression

As the news zeroes in on issues of harassment, I find myself wondering why we can't think differently about the way action and thoughts evolve in matters like this and others.

When we look at oppression, harassment, disrespect, and injustice, we can always see a path towards betterment--it's as if humanity and dignity are the magnets moving us forward as we evolve towards greater and greater respect and care for one another. Know that I'm impacted, in a large part, by Teihard de Chardin's thought that we are continually evolving towards greater good. I recognize that idea has been challenged by some, but for now I accept that belief, a belief Pinker's research affirms.

The media, in general, takes a superficial and primitive approach to the evolution of thought and practice. Rather than looking deeply at the progression of thought as we move towards greater humanity, they zero in on a few sensational cases and repeat the message over and over again. While this does bring an issue to light, I believe the media can do more for our collective or individual intelligence or growth, rather than keep us mired in old ways and old think. I think the media can broaden and deepen their approach to news rather than using lots of sensationalism and exaggeration. While President Trump decries the media, he too promotes primitive thinking and action, rather than a deeper, more humane, and promising outlook and response.

Though over simplified, we can look at almost any issue of injustice and see the progression from old, disrespectful ways to more modern, humane ways. What was once accepted as just and right, or at a minimum, acceptable, is now seen as a crime to humanity--we see this with slavery, sexual abuse, harassment, and gender inequality.

In my life, I endured significant verbal harassment as a female--I know that's more common than not. I also experienced a culture that quickly judged people by religion, culture, body size, lifestyle choices, whom they love, what they do, how much money they have, and more. As we move towards greater acceptance of, and respect for, diversity of living, we have to recognize the change at play.

Rather than creating a sideshow of society "freaks," I believe we need to look deeper with empathy and a focus on positive change rather than finger pointing and scapegoating. Of course those who committed crimes need to take responsibility for their past acts of oppression, injustice, and disrespect, but we also have to recognize that their efforts were part of a culture that accepted and even possibly elevated that kind of behavior. Can we expect individuals to have the moral fortitude to stand up against injustice on their own in times that accept that kind of behavior? Unfortunately, most humans don't have that kind of courage.

As I think more about this, I continue to wonder what we are doing today as a culture that will be shamed and blamed as a crime of humanity in the future. I suspect our treatment of the poor and children will be seen as inhumane in the future. Too many poor and too many children are treated with injustice today with regard to basic needs, safety, and the rights for fair and equitable education and health care. Those children and poor today will rise up to let us know that their past treatment was unjust--they will tell us that a very wealthy country like the United States was criminal not to provide basic education, health care, and other supports to all people. I suspect there will also be outrage with regard to the way we treat the environment--will our children rise up and condemn our past acts, acts that polluted their world and lessened the quality of their living conditions? The mentally ill will scorn their treatment as will those who sit in jails for crimes mostly caused by societal ills.

As the world evolves, we learn individually and collectively. Hopefully we will continue to get better and notice the short sightedness, greed, crimes, and oppression of the past. We need to help each other evolve towards greater good. We have to stand up too.

While so many women are now standing up against Weinstein's acts. I wonder why they didn't stand up earlier--yet I know the difficulty in doing that. I think about Harriet Tubman who was scorned and punished time and again for her bravery and courage to stand up to slavery because she knew it was wrong and wanted to put an end to it--she didn't go along and wait for others. I think about the bravery of Malala who has forged ahead for human rights too. There are many brave people amongst us who have the light and vision to know what is right--individuals who are unafraid to fight for that.

And as those who are swept along with the acts of oppression, injustice, greed, and hate--the slave owners, the harassers, the cheaters, the abusers, the discriminators--we have to wake them up and confront their acts sooner than later. We also have to look deeply at ourselves and ask when do we silence others; when do we oppress; when do we act with greed; when do we discriminate knowingly or unknowingly. I have empathy too for those who are swept along--perhaps I'm too forgiving, but I've seen in time how strong the current of bad acts are. When I worked in a place where harassment was encouraged and congratulated, I recognized how difficult it would be to be a man and stand up to that, particularly a man who had a lower position than the harassers. I had a low position too and had always experienced that kind of demeaning language about women everywhere in my world, so I didn't even realize that it wasn't right--it didn't feel good, but I thought that's the way it is. I know better now. Education plays a big role in this evolution--those in the know have a responsibility to find ways to educate others about what is right and good with regard to humane, respectful, and forward-moving acts.

I always hesitate to write a post like this from my place of imperfection. I am well aware that I have a lot to learn with regard to learning more and building greater and greater respect and care for those all around me and this world we live in. But we can't let our imperfections stand in the way of our drive to be better and to advocate for good.

This is a rambling post as thoughts about this issue continue to mix in my mind. Greater clarity will come later, but in the meantime, I wanted to share these initial thoughts. I welcome your feedback and stories too. We can never move ahead solely by ourselves--it takes the collective experiences, thoughts, and knowledge of many to move a culture ahead. This is the journey of humanity, a journey that each of us partakes in for a very, very short amount of time. How can we make our time matter?