Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Creating Instead of Tearing Down History, Slavery, Edison, Aspergers and Ableism, Racism and The Dangers of 'White Privilege.'

Building and Creating instead of Tearing Down History:

Are we living in a generation where the choices to tear things down are trumping the beauty of creating healthy alternatives? A statue of John A Macdonald was removed from Victoria recently (click) in the name of 'reconciliation.' That about sums up our current culture. Have we not taught our citizens the importance of CONTEXT? At what cost are we erasing history and ignoring both the bad and good that built today? How does taking down a statue make amends of the past? Why are we not concentrating on creating instead?

For his time, John A. Macdonald did what he did. Some of it was terrible, but much of what was done during that time period was within it's context of time. Some of what he accomplished for Canada was also good.

What if instead of taking down statues, we build beautiful monuments next to them, from our generation, showing how history has evolved? Instead of choosing ignorance, and erasing both the good and the bad, we can choose to BUILD and CREATE instead of destruction?

An extreme example of this concept, would be if we destroyed the concentration camp monuments from history. They are an atrocious memory of what humanity is capable of doing. Yet, we keep these up. Why? Because, they are reminders of where extremism can take us. They ask us to look deeply into our humanity and ask tough questions. We are reminded of our past so that hopefully we don't repeat the past the same way twice. When most look upon the rows of baby shoes in these monuments, they are often asking themselves, "How?" "How did it come to this?" And overwhelmed with grief or questioning, most resolve in their hearts to make better decisions.  In order to evolve as cultures we need to not bury the past. We have to acknowledge it. It is important to remember who we are, what we have fought to come to the freedoms we have, and how we have messed up. Obviously a statue of a man is not going to give the same results as the Holocaust Monuments, but if next to him, there is a new monument the celebrates the very people he marginalized...well, wouldn't that say more to future generations about hope? About the evolution of equality? About thinking twice before forcibly changing any people group? And would it not also show that context and history are everything and we can not judge a past slight through our opened eyes? We can only go forward to built a better future. Creation says more about a person, a culture and community then destruction. Why are we choosing to be defined by the latter? I would rather be remembered by what I created than what I destroyed. Aren't we told more about a soul by their innovations of hearth, home, artistry, child rearing or any births of creating? And with creation there is always a certain amount of failure involved.  In essence, if we put Edison's perspective on it, we just find a multitude of ways that won't work.

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.”  Thomas A. Edison
“We often miss opportunity because it's dressed in overalls and looks like work” 
― Thomas A. Edison
“Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”  Thomas A. Edison
“Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”  Thomas A. Edison

If a statue is a reminder of what went wrong, next to it should be a creation of what went right. Or how things have changed. The beauty of the earth is often from creating, protecting and building. There are occasional times and places that call for destruction or starting fresh, but before that happens, it is important to try to restore before annihilation. Because when will it stop? Already school text books have been changed to the advantage of political systems or whoever is in power. Already we choose ignorance because it is the quickest path to entitlement. Justification is easier without research and the work that goes into perspective, context and building.
But I digress.

The Myth and Dangers of "White Privilege"

First, let's get this point out of the way. ALL societies have had slavery. Asians enslaved other Asians, Africans/Whites ect. Whites have enslaved Whites and other people groups. Africans have enslaved other Africans ect. and so forth. Native tribes in North America enslaved other Natives and so forth. Indians, Europeans, Hispanics, South Americans, Australians, Russians, Ancient Egyptians/ Mesopotamians, Greeks, Arabs, Romans...the list goes on but ALL people groups have had a history of enslavement to degrees (whether of their own groups or others.) Slavery is as ancient as mankind. Does it make it right? No. But it does bring up an important fact. Slavery did and does not just belong to Europeans.

In fact, one of the first people groups to FIGHT against slavery, were Europeans. Many 'white' people risked their lives in other countries to give freedom and many still do. Yes, there was a large part of recent history that belonged to Imperialism, but that also has to be taken in the context of population, industrialization, and economy... and there were other people groups besides whites who played parts in snuffing out life. Before Imperialism there were many other cultures who also tried to take over the world, including Ancient Egyptians and of course Rome as larger examples but history is littered with outcomes that are not optimal but still part of our collective past.

Even though I am not a claimed Christian, some of the credit to abolish slavery also has to go to Christianity and Missionaries of various Religions of Peace, for the path of freedom. (I am citing Christianity because that is the history I personally know but insert or feel free to leave in the comments other Religions who have done the same.) The ethics of freedom from these people gave a lot to the fight for equality in the ancient world and throughout history, even if there were also some terrible things done in the name of Christianity and other Religions as well. There is always a "BOTH." When we highlight the bad without the good, we do ourselves and all people groups, a disservice.

I am considered Caucasian. Really I am a melting pot, like many other "whites." I have my Native American/ Spanish grandfather whose family suffered prejudice and my Romanian Grandmother whose family had to flee generations ago because of their "Gypsy" ways. I have my German ancestors who chose to come to America when their rights to religion were being threatened during a time period where freedom in certain countries was sanctioned. The list goes on...but I come from a rich history that built from the bottom up. As recent as my grandparents, our history involves poverty and sometimes prejudice. My maternal grandpa did not finish grade six. He went to work at a pulp mill for bed and basic food at the age of twelve. In Canada. My "privilege" is partially built upon his 12 year old work ethic. I have much because of what he gave. My paternal grandmother lived in a tiny sod house not even half a century ago. My maternal grandmother lived off of lard for weeks before slowly starving and was saved just in time by a visiting uncle who brought some fresh fruit. Poverty does not belong to one people group. The same history and sacrifices can be said for the rest of my relatives on both sides. We live in a generation that has access to more food, resources and helps, then ever before. We are lucky to be standing on the shoulders of those who came before. That said, I also play my part in sacrifice and work ethic to give my children more than what we started out with. That truly is a "privilege" in itself.

Complexity is a large part of this "white privilege" conundrum. Do I have some privilege? Of course I do, simply because of where I was born. But my grandparents or their parents CHOSE that place or gave great sacrifices to end up where I am. Somebody paid. I still pay in varied ways. It should not really be compared out of context. For instance, my sister in law is from the Philippines. Often she sends large boxes of stuff to her home country. She pointed out that there are higher needs in many regards but healthy food is more accessible and cheaper. Many fast food joints sell organic well sourced food items in comparison to our filler meats and high cost salads. Her husband mentioned that the cost of living is lower and it can not be compared to here.  There are rich people who are dis- eased and impoverished. And people with no income who eat well, live well and are engaged in rich community. Quality of living is not solely based on money. Because if it is, then we have to discuss life insurance, cold weather costs, fuel, taxes, housing, food ect. A wage typed into a global comparison scale tells NOTHING of what life is actually like in a place. Sure, in comparison to most of the world I am in the minor percentage of being considered well off. I am grateful for that fact. But in Canada, I am considered below the poverty line. Does that mean we suffer? No, I love our life. We have learned to live well, beautifully and richly within what we have. But I am not going to compare myself out of misplaced shame and guilt to another situation that is not my own. I will give when I can give and receive when I can receive. It is not all equal but that does not negate the beauty in exchanges.

Racism IS an issue. A sad, unjust issue that will take centuries to undo in many ways because it took centuries to overcome. This is also true of disabled people being seen as fully human and any other groupings that were discriminated against due to factors beyond control ect. But we will not solve these issues with more Racism or forced rhetoric. Which is what White Privilege is. (See more in links below.)

Context is everything. What we have in riches here, another country will make up for in riches otherwise. I have been to the mountains of Nicaragua where poverty broke my heart. I gave all that I could. Yet, the people I met there gave me a richness I did not get up in Canada. Some of the food that was found was fresh and the community was welcoming and warm. It can't be compared. Does this mean we do not help when we are able, to those who have less than us? No. But it does mean we must consider carefully and contextually what we have before we disparage what others have in the name of "equality."

We all have some form of privilege, to a degree. But our privileges should not be held against us. Instead they should be used in gratitude to make a better world. For ourselves and our futures. Along with privilege comes great responsibility and also downsides. In MOST circumstances, each person has some good and some bad. I would not slap "white privilege" on to any of my personal labels nor anyone else's. It's actually racist in it's own right because it is dividing people, once again, by colour. No thank you. Honestly, most of us are not purely Caucasian nor 'White' just like most Asians (or insert any other people group here) would not want to be grouped together instead of honoured for their personal stories, the cities they are from, and the places they have worked hard to overcome or to be in.

(There are other people who cover this topic better than I do. There are the left liberal articles, the conservative articles and the in betweeners. But before anyone makes a decision on where they stand on this, they should not solely be educated in the left or the right. They should listen to BOTH sides of the equation with an open mind and heart. Because the left is so easily accessible currently, I will leave the opposing links on the bottom of this post. I shouldn't have to state it, but in our current explosive culture where people are losing their jobs and reputations based on what they say politically, I will state that the links I leave are not fully my opinions, but just important food for thought.)

Basically, I am asking ALL people groups, myself included- to consider- with logic, historical accuracy, and generous kindness- BOTH sides of the matter. We all lose if we are trying to "win" some imaginary battle of staked out lines. Human lives can not be reduced simply to an "either/or." We owe it to those suffering and those who have suffered for better paths of peace and justice, to look adequately, fairly and without bias, to the full spectrum of human belonging. This includes contextual history, the yin and yang (the opposing dark and light of every situation), and the fact that fairness is not equality.  There ARE differences in people groups, demographics, economics and environment. Those differences should be celebrated first. Next, it is important to acknowledge what is strong about a culture and what are the weaknesses. We all have weaknesses and strengths. More injustice happens when we do not give consideration to both. Often, each answer, in each circumstance to issues, equality, freedom and abundance will be different. Because one size fits all should NOT be the standard.

We can not sum up the abundance of one people group with a derisive "that's white privilege." It's astounding to me that the statement is considered socially appropriate. I hear Caucasian people say it sadly about themselves. At one point, I did, at the beginning, because I had this misplaced idea that the only way to become myself was to give that sanction. I thought I could only be good with this guilt induced statement. But truly it does only harm. It marginalizes again. Reduces people to race. We are more than that. We are complex and most people I know have worked hard and with great sacrifices to get what they have.

Similarly I had to step out of some aspects of the Autistic community because some of the blogs I was following had a huge focus on Ableism and proper rhetoric. To the point that no one could be themselves and Aspies were marginalizing 'normal' people and doing what had been done to them! Ableism was an important concept for me to learn. It helped me realize some of the injustices that happened in my life...to a point. For instance, I get watched with suspicion often because I present differently and do not give natural eye contact. My gestures often make me stand out in a bad way. But then I had to step back and look at the context and culture I was in...and realize that I can affect change, occasionally talk about Ableism, but more importantly, I can just tell my stories in my own spaces and the people who listen will be the people who are on my team. Truly, that is the best way to affect change. Not by enforcing advocacy language. But by showing I am a worthwhile human being with Aspergers Syndrome. Yes, I have written on my spaces, about eye contact and my story, but I do not expect all people who do not have Aspergers to give full understanding or to feel privileged because they are 'normal.'  I have had some bad experiences based on the biases that come with who I am and also some good ones. Some people won't like me which is good because it shows I am being authentic in the world. Be suspicious of people who everyone likes because truly, it is a human impossibility. However, respect can be taught and become universal. Words are important, but the intent, context and story of a person is everything.

It is important that we build instead of destroy. We need to give grace in our words instead of poison. We should create beautiful alternatives instead of flinging useless actions against what we perceive as cause. Yes, we need to stand up to injustice but often this means personally, in small ways, on our own forums, writing letters, speaking rationally and kindly to those who oppose us or trying to build a life around them instead of with them, and loving the people in our lives. When we start small we become large. For the single people this can mean being Mother Teresa in some form or another...and for those with families in their care it means taking Mother Teresa's words, "If you want to change the world, go home and love your family."

Links:  There ARE definitely downsides and upsides to each way of Being. Some more than others. There are ALWAYS two sides. I have been constantly hearing the opposing side of this issue, which lead me in search of these few articles...I do not adhere to all that is said from other points but I do give consideration. Perspective, consideration and context are crucial to understanding and respect. Injustice does not solve injustice. We can not fix racism with more racism.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5lnZeAGd3g (Jewish Perspective)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDsoyyJn1jU ( Asian Perspective)

Song Choice: "Life is waiting for you, It's all messed up but we're alive..."- Our Lady Peace/ Life.

To be Free- Passenger