Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Recognizing the Common Threads

One aspect of human social interaction which has always troubled me is our penchant for noticing the differentation between individuals and groups and not the commonality we share. We too often forget that ALL homo sapiens share needs, desires and aspirations in common. Not a one of us can survive for long without air, water, food, shelter or meaningful social interaction.

It doesn't matter where we hail from. It doesn't matter where we live now. It doesn't matter what religion, creed or belief system we live by. It doesn't matter if we're male or female, rich or poor, young or old, straight or gay, black or white or red or yellow. Remove any of our basic HUMAN needs and we all will perish.

So, if we all share these things in common, why do we see barriers between us? The answer is not that the needs differ but the expression of these needs are not the same. And people tend to fear things they don't know or understand.

In a manner of speaking, it amounts to a willfull ignorance. Rather than meeting someone new who looks, sounds or acts different than our established norms and desiring to learn the commonality behind their different modes of expression, we tend to demonize theses EXPRESSIVE differences.

We do this by stating that something must be wrong with this other person or group. If things were right with them, then they would see things as WE see them. Because they don't view the world as we do, too many people are all to eager to label the others as outcasts or, worse, enemies.

However, if we instead focused on the common threads of all people, we would soon discover that we have no enemies -- other than ourselves. We would soon discover there was no need for war, in all its many forms.

This is a pertinent concept to think about as our world find itself held hostage by a war between two competing world views: Fundamentalist Christianity versus Fundamentalist Islam.

Both of these competing sides REFUSE to consider the common thread that binds us all. And it's this steadfast refusal that has lead to much death and suffering.


  1. Dear Trey,

    I have to say it's something that's been bothering me about the liberal blogs I frequent, too. I understand that at some point you have to speak up against intolerance, but in the process, I see a lot of leftist intolerance as well, even in my own heart. It's very disturbing.

    And I understand, too, that there's a difference between righteous outrage and rigid intolerance, but one can easily lead to the other.

    I hope and pray for a little more fluidity and a little less ice in everyone's heart.

  2. Andi,
    It's rather informative that conservatives rail against liberals as being divisive and negative and that liberals say the same thing about conservatives. It's not a conservative/liberal issue; it's a human issue. We each tend to be highly critical of opinions and perspectives we don't share.

    You're certainly correct that there IS a difference between rightful outrage and rigid intolerance. It's an issue I struggle with daily. How can we each invoke the former, when appropriate, without sliding toward the latter?

    There is no easy answer. It takes concerted vigilance to walk this tightrope.

  3. Trey,

    I've been contemplating your essay all morning and very strongly agree with your views. However, I remember a story my mother told me about the town where she grew up.

    It was a small farm community in Minnesota that was settled by German and Welsh farmers who had emigrated from Indiana before the Civil War,looking for greener pastures. They intermarried, and for the most part got along quite well. The one big rub was choice of church. Some clung to their strict Lutheran background while others embraced the more easy=going Methodist church. Of course, this created a certain amount of polarity in the community but when a band of Irish homesteaders moved in, they had to band together to keep the Papists out of their little town. The Irish Catholics just built their own little town about five miles away and a kind of armed peace once again prevailed. The Lutherans and the Methodists hated each other and they both hated the Catholics and life went on.

    All this peace stuff became kind of boring until the farmers became prosperous and the horse and buggy went out of style. There was quite a rush to buy one of those new motor cars like they have in the cities, so two dealerships opened in the town. One was Ford and the other Chevrolet.

    Suddenly there was something new to feel superior about. Whichever kind of car one bought had to be the best and anyone who would buy the other kind just wasn't very smart. So, battle lines were drawn and many a fist fight started at the local tavern over the merits of one car or the other. Friendships were destroyed and enemies declared in the name of that difference.

    Look at some of the more rabid sports fans who start riots against the fans of the opposing team either in celebration of a win or revenge for a loss.

    I think the moral here, if there is one, is humanity seeks difference in others to give themselves a perceived position of superiority. Only until these perceptions can be individually held up to public ridicule, will people stop, think, and act in a logical way.

  4. Dino,
    Loved your mom's story!! In penning my response to Andi, I purposely chose NOT to highlight the word tolerance/intolerance because I have a real problem with the general use of the word. It goes to the heart of what you wrote. In order to be tolerant of something/someone, a person must feel superior to it/them. I discuss this concept more fully in a previous post, "Tolerating the Tolerant".


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