Celebrate diversity

A while back I wrote a post about conformity.  I'd like to continue along the lines of that post and add some more thoughts I've had recently.

It seems as though humans have a propensity to fear that which is unknown and that which is different.  This fear manifests in many different ways.  It could be discrimination, acts of violence, bondage, avoidance, or destruction (including wars).  The most recent difference that we have overcome (at least in most parts of the world) is that of racial difference.  Just a couple generations ago, a white person would never dream of (openly) dating a black person, and now no one bats an eye at an interracial couple.  A few generations before that, black people were not even treated as people--they were considered property and were treated as such.  They were bought and sold in the marketplace.  They were whipped and beaten if they did not perform their assigned tasks given by their owners.  Many tragic things happened.

What is astounding about this situation is that the reasons given to justify these horrific acts were often religious in nature.  To explain the difference in skin color, a story about God cursing someone (or a group of someones) by making their skin black was invented.  This story was widely published and widely accepted.  It was a good reason for white people to oppress black people--after all, it wasn't they themselves that had cursed the black people, it was God and who can argue with God?

In fact, it seems to be the case that religion is used as justification for many acts of aggression, oppression, and hatred.  The Crusades and the Inquisition were based on religion.  The reason the Japanese fought so fiercely against the Allied forces in WWII was because their emperor had commanded them to and they worshipped their emperor as a god.

At any rate, I don't want to turn this into a religion-bashing post.  I merely mean to expose discrimination for what it is.  Even if you believe that God has commanded you to discriminate against someone, you can't get away with calling it anything other than discrimination.

So, I ask myself, why is there such a propensity to react so harshly to those who are different?  Why do we feel this need to attack or oppress those who are different?  Why did we keep slaves?  Why are gay people called insulting names and bullied?  Why do so many Christians feel the need to tell everyone else that they're going to hell or that their religion is wrong?

Just think for a moment what this world would be like if there were no differences.  Suppose that everyone was the same--the same height, same weight, same shape, same anatomical makeup, and the same personality.  There wouldn't be blondes and brunettes, only one hair color would exist.  Everyone would wake up at the same time and go to bed at the same time.  Everyone would have the same likes and dislikes.  This would be an extremely dull world.  Why do we spend so much time trying to make our world more boring?  Why exert so much energy in trying to make other people be like us?  Maybe you're a guy who likes girls, but that doesn't mean that every guy has to like girls.  Maybe you're into sports--that doesn't mean that everyone has to like sports.  Maybe you believe in God, maybe you don't.  Do you have to force other people to believe in the same god as you?

It seems to me that it would be much more reasonable to celebrate our differences rather than discourage them from existing.  Not everyone has the same skin color, but that isn't a bad thing--it only makes the world a more beautiful place.  There is more variety and therefore more excitement and wonder in the world.  Not everyone has the same eye color.  Not everyone is skinny and not everyone is fat.  Do the skinny people have to insult the fat people?  Do the fat people have to insult the skinny people?  Do fat people need to be called ugly all the time?  Do gay people need to be called "faggots"?  Do tall people need to make fun of short people?  If there were no short people then we wouldn't have a word for "tall", so tall people should be grateful that short people exist.  Likewise, short people should be grateful for tall people.

Why can't I see someone who is different from me and just be happy that they are different?  Why can't I just say "Wow.  I like math, but you hate it and instead you like art.  That's so wonderful."?  We should be grateful that there are people who are different because it makes the world more exciting.  I often hear, when someone explains why they are no longer friends or lovers with so-and-so, the saying "Oh, we just had nothing in common."  Yes, I suppose it is important to have some common ground on which to build a relationship.  But, at the same time, I just wonder, "Why can't you build a relationship on your differences?".  I mean, if Conrad knew all of the math that I knew then yes, I could talk about my dissertation with him, but as things stand now, I have many more things that I can teach him because I've had years of math that he's never had.  Likewise, he has many things to teach me because of his own unique experiences and education throughout life.  That's what will make our conversations interesting.  We each have something unique to bring to the table.  I can teach him about math and he can teach me about Pokemon.

So, that's the challenge of the week.  The next time you notice someone who is different, don't insult them or be afraid of them for that difference--compliment them.  Tell them how wonderful you think they are for being different than you.  Show them how cool variety can be.  Look for differences in other people and ways that you can celebrate that difference.  Be part of society, yes, but also be yourself.  Show off what it is about you that makes you unique.  And let other people do the same.  Don't invent excuses to be uncomfortable or awkward around people who are different.  Don't come up with reasons that you should hate them, discriminate against them, or insult them.  Love them, be kind to them, make them feel special for being different.