Salad Bowl of Multiple Identities

“We don’t need a melting pot…, folks. We need a salad bowl. In a salad bowl, you put in the different things. You want the vegetables – the lettuce, the cucumbers, the onions, the green peppers – to maintain their identity. You appreciate differences.”

Jane Elliot

salad

“My first exposure to murder,” the Nobel-winning economist Amartya Sen writes in “Identity and Violence” “occurred when I was 11.” It was 1944, a few years before the end of the British Raj and a period of widespread Hindu-Muslim riots. The victim was “a profusely bleeding unknown person suddenly stumbling through the gate to our garden, asking for help and a little water.” Rushed to the hospital by Sen’s father, the man died there of his injuries. He was Kader Mia, a Muslim day laborer knifed by Hindus. He had been asked by his wife not to go into a hostile area of then-undivided Bengal. But he had to feed his starving family, and he paid with his life.

To the young Sen, this event was not just traumatic but mystifying. How was it, Sen asks …, that “… human beings … were suddenly transformed into the ruthless Hindus and fierce Muslims…”? And how was it that Kader Mia would be seen as having only one identity — that of being Muslim — by Hindus who were, like him, out in the unprotected open because they too were starving? “For a bewildered child,” Sen remembers, “the violence of identity was extraordinarily hard to grasp.” And, he confesses, “it is not particularly easy even for a still bewildered elderly adult.”

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From Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

In his book “Identity and Violence”  Amartya Sentakes aims at what he calls the ” ‘solitarist’ approach to human identity, which sees human beings as members of exactly one group.” This view, he argues, is not just morally undesirable, but descriptively wrong. Instead, Sen invokes the myriad identities within each individual. The people of the world can be classified according to many other partitions, each of which has some—often far-reaching—relevance in our lives: nationalities, locations, occupations, social status, languages, politics, and many others, including identity common to all – HUMANS. Because all of us contain multitudes, we can choose among our identities, emphasizing those we share with others rather than those we do not.

Let’s focus on our shared identities and appreciate differences for peace around the world.

Humans
From We Are Allowed to Be Human

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Was it easier for you to accept the differences between the women in the video below, once you saw their shared identity?

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Peace Tourism

“Travel has become one of the great forces for peace and understanding of our time… As people move throughout the world and learn to know each other, to understand each other’s customs, and to appreciate the qualities of the individuals of each nation, we are building a level of international understanding which can sharply improve the attitude for world peace.”

President John F. Kennedy

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From Tourism for Peace

Since 1980, the United Nations World Tourism Organization has celebrated World Tourism Day on September 27. Each year the World Tourism Day has a different theme:
2011: Tourism Linking Cultures
2012: Tourism and Energetic Sustainability
2013: Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common Future

I hope the theme of the 2014 day will be ‘Peace Tourism’ or ‘Tourism for Peace’.

Nuwan Herath provides a good overview if this relatively recent concept in his article “Peace Through Tourism”:

“Peace tourism intends to reduce root causes that create situations where violence has been perceived as inevitable. It is not a replacement for various other kinds of tourism practice, but is rather intended to be a facilitator to enhance sustainable development and positive peace through the tourism industry…”

It has been speculated that the industry will reach up to 1.56 billion tourists worldwide by 2020. With such a large number of people travelling around the globe, it is not surprising that scholars and other professionals involved in the tourism industry started looking at tourism’s potential for peace making. The major assumption behind the notion of peace tourism is that when people travel frequently all over the world, it helps them get to know new people, cultures, values etc. That experience is capable of increasing mutual understanding among people who have been living in diverse cultural backgrounds. Furthermore, such travel also benefits the host countries economically and politically.

However, there is an opposing view which claims tourism is not a generator of peace but a “beneficiary of peace.” Tourism is only possible in areas where peace is present; it is absent in war zones, and much diminished in areas of high conflict and tension. Additionally, tourism has been perceived as a way of exploiting local people and destinations through the “commoditization” of local cultures. This view identifies tourism as a new way of perpetuating western dominance in the developing world…

Each of these views holds some truth, one view being more accurate in some places, the other more accurate in others. A key question to answer is how the worldwide tourism industry could be redesigned to help sustain positive peace on all parts of the globe. A very challening question, but hopefully one day we’ll find a good solution for that.

Meanwhile let’s keep learning more about each other and our cultures while travelling the world – in real life as well as via the internet.

Global-Family
From Morocco Peace Tours

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Prayer for Oneness of Our Human Family

“To all people, religious and nonbelieving, I make this appeal. Always embrace the common humanity that lies at the heart of us all. Always affirm the oneness of our human family…. Let not your differences from the views of others come in the way of the wish for their peace, happiness, and well-being.”

Dalai Lama

creator
From Prayer for Oneness

Few facts have become more evident in our lifetime than the fact that we live in a pluralistic world and society. With the rapid increase in the transmission of information and the ability to travel on a worldwide scale has also come an increasing awareness that both our world and society contain a multitude of diverse and conflicting viewpoints on many different issues. Nowhere is this pluralism more evident than in the realm of religion. What should our attitude be toward other religions?

In spite of the differences, all major religions foster a common “religious experience” aimed at the moral and ethical improvement of man. As Ian Gardner points out, ” irrespective of the colour of the cow, the milk is white” alluding to the fact that “there is but one spiritual Truth irrespective of which Master expounds it.” John Hick, a noted religious philosopher, supports that view, providing a ‘pluralistic hypothesis’ as a solution to conflict between religions. This hypothesis is based on a simple concept: religions are based on spiritual experience of the divine truth – but even in the best of us those experiences are experienced through the lens of our cultural conditionings. Hence the differences in the way that divine truth is presented in different religions.

How should we treat the followers of other religions or non-religious people? A few weeks ago I came across the following two examples on the Peacefully Beautiful blog:
“The Prophet said: ’There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab, nor for a fair-skinned person over a person with dark skin, nor for a dark-skinned person over a person with fair skin.”

“Once the Prophet was seated at some place in Madinah, along with his Companions. During this time a funeral procession passed by. On seeing this, the Prophet stood up out of respect. One of his companions remarked that the funeral was that of a Jew. The Prophet replied, “Was he not a human being?” (Sahîh Bukhârî)

We are all human beings inspite of the differences between us. Let’s always remember that.

Muslims and Christians

From Beyond Minds

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The toxic virus of the mind: US vs. THEM

Us

From The Toxic Myth of Us vs. Them

The human mind has a tendency to categorize people into social groups. Often these social groups can create an “Us vs. Them” mentality toward people who may be different than us in some way, whether it’s race, gender, age, nationality, culture, religion, or socioeconomic status.

This ‘“Us vs. Them” mentality is a very dangerous virus that pervades many minds on this planet. Often it is so woven into the fabric of our conditioning that many don’t even recognize it in themselves. We stop seeing individual difference within the group. Instead, we see only faceless ‘They’, which is always bad or wrong, while ‘We’ are always right.

This virus of the mind limits us, keeps us in perpetual cycles of fear and violence. We feel justified, even righteous in shouting down or shooting down “them”. Not surprisingly the ‘Us vs Them’ approach is commonly used in military training.

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from Us (Us us us) and Them (them them them)

Amazingly, studies of the ‘Us vs. them’ mentality have shown that people tend to favor a group bias even when they are categorized on relatively meaningless distinctions, for example: eye color, what kind of paintings they like, or even the flip of a coin. This tells us that we can potentially separate ourselves from a certain group of people on any random and arbitrary characteristic. Therefore, everyone is susceptible to be a perpetrator and/or victims of social prejudice and ostracism, even if the only difference is a star on a tummy, like in the case of Dr. Seuss’s plain and star bellied Sneetches depicted below.

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from Us vs. Them

From evolutionary perspective ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality makes sense. We’ve evolved to perceive these social categories as during tribal times, it would be beneficial to perceive unfamiliar people as a potential threat and treat them as such for protection and security.

Today many of these social categories and stereotypes are propagated by society, tradition, and culture. We see that all the time in politics (Republicans vs. Democrats), war (Palestine vs. Israel), sports (Mets vs. Yankees), and other aspects of our culture. Even though this mentality is not relevant in modern conditions and  creates unnecessary tension and antagonism between everyone, we are struggling with getting over this toxic meme.

How can we fight this powerful virus of the mind and bridge the gap between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’?

 US-Them-300x93
From Us-Them

Steven Handel believes that first of all, we need to “become more aware of our tendency to put people into groups and create an “Us vs. Them” mentality. Then, instead of seeing people in groups, we should try to see everyone as an individual worthy of respect, equality, and kindness, regardless of what groups they may be categorized in. If you choose to associate with a group identity, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Just be super mindful of it and be cautious if that identity starts to have a negative influence on how you view other people who you don’t identify with.”

Like Steven Handel, I try to identify with everyone in some way. I believe at the core we are all human beings and want the same things in life, regardless of our race, religion or culture. We all want to know our family is safe. We all want to be loved and appreciated, have food on the table, enjoy good health. In that sense, we are all very similar and are connected as one.

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From The Only Message that Matters: “We are all One”

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Resources:

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Ubuntu: I’m because WE are

ubuntu

UBUNTU-

An anthropologist suggested the following game to a group of children in a tribe in Africa: He placed a basket full of fresh fruits under a tree. He then said that whoever reached the basket first in a race would be the winner of all the fruits.

As he gave the signal to begin the race, the whole group held hands, ran bonded together and then sat and enjoyed the prize together.

When he asked why they had done such thing, when he had offered the possibility to one to be the ultimate winner.

They replied: ” UBUNTU”– how could one of us be happy (feel happiness) while the rest are in despair, unhappy?

UBUNTU in the Xhosa culture means: “I am, because we are.”

BloggoUBUNTU, dear fellow bloggers 🙂

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