Feb 28, 2019

Cracking the case, but also not solving a goddamn thing.

I think I've cracked it. Sitting here in my dimly lit living room, dishwasher chugging dutifully away, reading a book but also thinking about something else entirely, when the thought pops into my head: the reason behind so many of the conflicts we are currently experiencing in first-world nations regarding cultural appropriation, identity, and the like. (Because in nations struggling under violence and oppression that threaten one's life rather than just one's sensibilities, these problems are understandably low on the list of priorities.)

The nut I think I have cracked is this: we all want to be accepted and treated equally, but we also want to remain individuals, special and unique, and we want to be recognized in both ways simultaneously. I don't know how we can have both without destroying something fundamental about society, namely the divisions within it.

(I should probably mention that I am all for the destruction of society, so long as a brighter, more powerful phoenix rises from the flames.)

There is an aggressively possessive tendency in modern society that undermines our progression towards a society that is inclusive and egalitarian. This is mine, we say, and you can't have it. This symbol, this object, this article of clothing, this hairstyle, this genre of music, this job, this piece of land. This word.

Most of these problems stem from the unfortunate history of European countries colonizing the rest of the world and imposing their imperialistic worldview on societies that existed perfectly well without this outside influence. (I blame spices.) In their excitement and ignorance and unwavering moral certitude, the conquering nations of yore caused a fuck-ton of harm to indigenous peoples around the globe, murdering, enslaving, possessing.

But we can't change that. In 2019, we can't bring back the roaming herds of buffalo, we can't undo the slave trade. Those imperial conquerors are dead and gone, although certainly some of their more unappealing characteristics live on in capitalism and racism and sexism and a general shittiness towards identifiable others. Would the world have been better had those explorers stayed home and cultures been kept isolated from each other? It's interesting to consider, but ultimately moot. This is the world we live in today, and we need to figure out a way to deal with it.

When you've been in control for thousands of years, it makes sense that you would want to maintain that control. And when you've had almost everything taken from you, it makes sense that you would want to hold on to whatever you can.  But if we give up the idea of ownership, we begin to destroy the boundaries between us. If we share something (whether that be DNA or a recipe for guacamole), the original owner does not have less. We both have more. And when we have more in common, the superficial differences between us become less important.

This is why I think it is important for the people in power (largely, still, white men) to share that power. Sharing the power doesn't mean you no longer have any. And what is power for (or what should it be for) other than bringing the people of the world together and supporting those who need support.

Just as important as the people in power sharing their power is for the historically marginalized groups to not remain mired in the past. You can only blame so much of your misfortune on the unavoidable things that have happened to you. At some point, whether it be as an individual or as a cultural group, you need to make the conscious decision to move forward.

We need to share those things that separate us so that we are no longer separate. If we all share everything, our power, our land, our traditions, our ideas, our experiences, and our stories, maybe we can bring an end to the seemingly endless bickering about what belongs to whom.   

What this means, though, is that that thing that makes you special, that identifies you as part of something else, a tradition or a culture or a group (whether that identification has harmed you or helped you), won't be as identifiable.

And we all want to be special. We don't want to be like everybody else. We want our uniqueness to be acknowledged and respected and rewarded. Maybe it's just an inherent aspect of humans as social beings, this desire to be simultaneously a part of and apart from.

I don't know how to solve it. I don't know if we can. But I really hope so, because, like it or not, in this crazy future world of the year 2019, we're all in this together.