Friends of mine, who live in the Southeast ask me about my thoughts on their culture. For me, a world traveller and resident of many cultures and countries and an observer of US culture, domestically and internationally, it is not easy to talk about GROWING UP and LIVING in ONE culture.
Edward O. Wilson has written a book called CONSILIENCE. For me it is a resource when I try to think about the life I am living.
On page 148 he wrote:
“We recommended that the unit of culture – now called MEME – be the same as the NODE of SEMANTIC MEMORY and it’s CORRELATES in BRAIN ACTIVITY.
The level of the NODE, whether CONCEPT ( the simplest recognizable unit), PROPOSITION, or SCHEMA, determines the complexity of the IDEA, BEHAVIOR, or ARTIFACT that it helps to sustain in the CULTURE at large.”
So, let’s take a look at Racism. It exists all over the world. We know that there were slaves in Ancient Greece. We know the Catholic Church supported slavery as an act of God. We also know that the first christian statement against slavery came from St. Theodore of Studium (Constantinople) in 797 AD. He wrote:
“Thou shalt possess no slave, neither for domestic service nor for the labor of the fields, for man is made in the image of God.”
So, what was it like? Growing up in this world, where racism and slavery abounded? It was different for me, growing up in NY City, from what it was for friends of mine from Georgia or Alabama or Mississippi or Kentucky.
What did they see? My friend Tony Baker from Georgia wrote”
“I grew up taking for granted that these men were heroes. In 1961, we had a Confederate parade on Broad Street in Rome to commemorate and celebrate the beginning of the Civil War. On Broad Street was the Nathan Bedford Forrest Hotel. To be a rebel was not to be a traitor; in fact, that contradiction never crossed anyone’s mind. And if you were not educated in history the humanities, nothing changed in this.”
My friend Morrow Richards from Kentucky wrote me:
“What do you think of the notion that attempting to judge yesterday’s figures by today’s standards can lead to erroneous conclusions?”
What do I think? What I think, having seen what it was like to live in the American south in 1962, when I was in Meridian, Mississippi, having seen what it was like during Apartheid in Johannesburg, South Africa, having seen how the migrants live in Italy and Spain while they harvest the crops, having seen the poverty of untrained people trying to survive in a high tech world; I think it is TIME TO GET OVER IT.
The Vatican had it wrong, the Religious leaders had it wrong, whether from England or from Hungary .. most of them had it wrong. The Black and brown skinned people evolved longer in Equatorial regions and got darker skin under the sun. That’s it. There is nothing else happening.
Why should we recognize people from the past any differently than we judge people now? Is it OK to own slaves now? Was it OK if everybody in the culture is believing a myth that helps them excel by keeping other people as property?
The Indians have a caste system, so do many tribes. We had slavery.
ALL OF THAT IS THE OLD CULTURE.
THERE IS A NEW CULTURE NOW!
Take away the pain! Try to go forward TOGETHER.
That’s what I think. I am not Buddha. Ask your kids.