Sunday, July 31, 2011

Which way is up?

It's almost like there's a ceiling above
which we might rise and be human.
A group of monkeys will attack an intruder that is identical in every way but the wrong color.

Are humans and animals different?

Discrimination is natural ... as in animal natural, not sapiens wisdom.  Our humanity suggests we rise up a bit, think about things, and perhaps live to a higher standard than just animalistic ways.

So far:

We've decided that justice is right and necessary.  We can't live together without it unless we're willing to have a lot of death and oppression, and we're generally agreed that should stop.  Not everyone agrees on the rules yet.

We've decided that equality is right, humanly right.  This one has taken millennia, but we understand scientifically that we're all one species and that racial differentiations are without significance. We're all the same, and we're still learning how to live that way.  Not everyone agrees yet, it seems.

It's almost like there's this ceiling above which we might rise and be human, more than animal, above just instinct and selfishness.

Curious how much of our culture and norms are below that threshold?

Class discrimination -- animal, not human.  Chickens do that.
Cultural discrimination -- animal, not human.  Rats and mice do that.
Racial discrimination and segregation -- animal, not human.  Monkeys do that.
The high-school in-crowd -- animal, not human.  Teenagers do that.
         Okay, okay, but they're really disgusting when they behave like that.

It gets difficult ...  how is someone noble?

Notice the 'alpha dominant' who takes the lead in every group and compare with the non-dominant who elicits interaction by all the participants. Is one noble and the other cowardly? One strong and one weak, a poor pathetic peon?

Or ...  is one striving for power and influence while the other reaches for inclusion for all the participants.

What if the alpha tries to dominate because he (or she) is damaged goods, driven by insecurity and fear of loss while the non-dominant is secure in self and purpose and lives without the need to climb up over anyone?   In such a case, which is the weak one?  (That particular dominant is common, by the way.)

There are few folks that are purely this or that, of course, which suggests we need to be self-aware and seriously in pursuit of learning, perhaps for a lifetime.

And there's more to 'natural' behavior.  Consider the larger scale ...

A typical hierarchy has the boss at the top and the peons at the bottom. Is the pharaoh really a god?

This arrangement rides on the productivity of those below.  The farther up the ladder, the less meaningful productivity per individual.  In the end, the most benefit usually goes to the ones who produce the least. That's the way power and inequality work.  In its worst implementation, those at the bottom are expendable resources to be used up and replaced.  Is the 'noble' one at the top?

For a contrarian view -- let's consider how the greatest might be the least and vice versa. Perhaps the one who is actually the greatest is the one who equips and assists others, who lifts them up, binds their wounds, and helps them live productive lives.  That's what we're told, anyway. We're given apostles and prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers for equipping regular folks; equipping them, not ruling them. The intent is not to contain folks but to empower them for life and service in a tumultuous world that desperately needs their contribution.

Perhaps the greatest example is the one who laid down his life for us all.  If his example is the one to follow, then we might consider if the power pyramid could perhaps be the wrong approach to pretty much everything that matters.

There are questions that follow about government, community leadership, church governance, family relationships, the marketplace, and international relations.  
Next?  Review each relationship, perhaps, for hints of power vs. service, for superiority vs. equality.  Just a thought.  

Did I ever tell you about the two young men who were disagreeing and asked my opinion about wife beating?  One thought he should beat her regularly to keep her in line while the other thought it was only appropriate if she disrespected him.  They are fine fine Christian gentlemen whom I love, but that was their culture.  What are the chances our culture has a quirk or two?

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