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The "Objectivity" Objective

Credit forioscribe with sparking this. He received some manuscript pages he wrote some time ago and in one piece he quoted author William Burroughs:

‘You must learn to exist and to live without religion, without country, and without allies. You must learn to see what is in front of you without prejudice.’

Not to do much cherry-picking here, but I think that line is at the heart of what his post was about and it caused a reaction within me immediately. In my comment back, I said,

//Let's be honest. Objectivity is impossible for human beings. We can present the facts of something that balances them for the viewer, but that is an active choice. The "Blank Slate" does not exist.

Our opinions are given to us through parents, peers, our society, our teachers... the things we read, the things we see and hear. We can choose to ignore them, we can suppress or stifle their appearances in what we say or do, but they're still there.//

And as I was writing that, a kind of sad truth came back to me regarding everything in how humans interact with each other, and have done, probably since our appearance on this planet.

The self-interested nature of humanity has really never been more apparent than it is right now. But "humanity" is something that is, at times, so vastly different that it appears to be disconnected from oneself. We can look at the circumstances of someone, ridicule or pity them, think to ourselves, "that's not me," and walk away. We can celebrate our own triumphs, give our friends and allies pats on the back and note how fantastic we are. The point is the difference between "us" and "them" is the issue, and that brings us back to the Burroughs quote.

One of the reasons I'm not a fan of science fiction is that there is, more often than not, a huge disconnect between the societies of those far-off worlds (some of them being Earth) and what we think of when it comes to our collective history. How did we go from what we know to be true, to some sort of "Totalitarian" or even "Utopian" society? Those questions are all too often never asked and even fewer times answered, but if I'm asked to buy into the tale, that's the first thing I want to know.

The reason that fascinates me, that question of how we got from point A, our current history, to point B, some reorganized planet that is still known as Earth, yet only mildly resembles the Earth we know, is knowing what is true about human nature.

"There's definitely, definitely, definitely no logic to human behaviour" sings Björk, but there is a logic to it. It's just that it's a very, very, very self-interested logic. And that gets back to the Us v. Them concept.

The overriding issue with humans is pretty simple. Humans don't want to change. We have been handed our opinions from our parents and their parents all the way back through the history of humanity... it's possible that it's engraved on our DNA as well. This is who we are.

Might it be genetic? We are starting to interact more closely with each other now, in a way that isn't always about conflict. Typically, the point of going somewhere foreign was to poach materials and resources or to defeat an enemy. And yes, that's still going on in many places. But the other element is that some people are connecting with others that have like minds. And that is starting to create some new ways of thinking, and possibly a new kind of human.

In one of those sci-fi style writings, in a perfect society, there is no prejudice. Of course, one of those rarely asked questions is what is this "perfect" society? What's perfect about it and to whom is it most perfect? There's always a pecking order, a pyramid design and someone invariably is at the top, while everyone else is trudging along at the base.

Let's amend that previous statement. Humans don't want to change, unless the change is beneficial. It's like being a child. You certainly can't wait to be a grownup! Then you can do all the things you had never been permitted to do, like stay up all night or smoke cigars and drink whiskey, just like Dad! But that's not the case when you're an adult and all that's looking at you is old age, infirmity and the losing the ability to do all of the stuff you loved earlier in life.

But change is at the core of these stories. Why would humans agree to a situation that let "Big Brother" rule? Change is something we try to avoid, especially if it's something we don't like! And it's that ego, that Terrible Two Temper Tantrum that is always right there, an integral part of what being human is about, and that's the element that unplugs most of those concepts.

So, what is humanity, anyhow? We have these various people from different parts of the planet. We all look somewhat the same. We all look incredibly different. We speak different languages, and we even speak different dialects of the same language.

Ted Turner, the media magnate and philanthropist stated something I consider crucially important on an appearance on "Late Show with David Letterman," dated November 10, 2008. The topic was Turner's visit with Fidel Castro in Cuba. Letterman displayed this photo...

...and when Letterman asked about it, Turner stated the following:

"We got to be good friends. I went out in the world, I realized that the Cold War was a very dangerous situation with all the nuclear weapons, and I decided, when I started learning about the news and what was going on in the world, that I wanted to be a positive force and see if we could bring the Cold War to a peaceful conclusion. And, so, I just went over to all of the Communist countries and try to get to know everybody and be friends with them... Because if you've got just one good friend in another country, you don't want to go to war with that country because you don't want to hurt your friend."

Therein lies the issue of humanity. Friends and Enemies. Us v. Them. If I'm different from you, then we aren't the same. That's okay if you don't mind the differences, but if you don't like what I am, then there is trouble. You'll harass me, you'll punish me, you might go to war with me. And why? Because I'm different. I don't adhere to your perception of how things should be.

The perception of "How Things Should Be" is at the root of this vile weed that describes all of the problems we are dealing with as a global community, or even at the microcosm of a family. People with money and power get to enact their vision of what that is. The vast majority are lucky enough to just survive in that world.

The other issue is that if we did have that "Utopia" and everyone behaved in a "perfect" way, would it all just be for show? Would people be kind and gentle towards all others because that was what was required by society, while suppressing the hatred of the people they dealt with during those interactions? Of course, there's a whole group of people doing that right now: Customer Service.

Ultimately, you can't legislate what people think. But you can punish them for stating it publicly, as that UCLA student discovered when she made her comments about her Asian classmates after the Japanese Earthquake/Tsunami. For as many youtube videos as you see, how many people are thinking something similar?

The basic elements of humanity do not change. The playing board may be different and the items we use have been upgraded over time, but the stuff that makes us human has not, and that's where the battle needs to begin. I don't want to sound like this is impossible. Okay, the objectivity part is, and I firmly believe that. Part of being a human is based on the subjective empirical elements of personal experience, and there's really no way around that. I'm not even sure we should try to achieve anything that attempts to circumnavigate those elements.

It's through the appearance of difference that we can continue to live our lives the way we do. The fact that you practice a religion I don't follow, or perhaps don't believe in religion at all, or you speak a language that I don't understand can be used as a means of separation. If we are looking for the elements that separate us, we can always find something, and if we want to pick a fight about it, that's just as easily done.

But the fact that we are, at the very soul of our beings, the same, that we have a stake in each other's lives, homes, countries, planet is something we have to address now. And that's the real objective.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 26th, 2011 07:08 pm (UTC)
Bravo! I agree with this 100%.

As long as we think Us vs THEM, we are stuck.
Mar. 27th, 2011 05:52 am (UTC)
I fear some of us will continue to think that way.

The concept of a UFO attack is where humanity is supposed to come together as one to fight off a common foe.

In that case... we're doomed!
Mar. 27th, 2011 06:40 am (UTC)
"Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in this history of mankind.

Mankind. That word should have new meaning for all of us today.

We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests."
Mar. 28th, 2011 02:35 am (UTC)
Mar. 27th, 2011 04:58 am (UTC)
The other issue is that if we did have that "Utopia" and everyone behaved in a "perfect" way, would it all just be for show? Would people be kind and gentle towards all others because that was what was required by society, while suppressing the hatred of the people they dealt with during those interactions? Of course, there's a whole group of people doing that right now: Customer Service.

I read a book one summer titled The Geography of Bliss (by Eric Weiner). It was about the study of happiness and if your geography (of course) played a role in it. By geography he meant the society/culture that you lived in. Two things he mentioned, about The Netherlands and Switzerland, your words reminded me of. (of which your words reminded me?)

He said that in The Netherlands, people didn't really jaywalk... because the people there frowned upon it. You got disapproving looks from the locals/your peers. Like, as a people, they've decided that little things lead to big things and so everyone's just going to stay in line.

And in Switzerland, if your car was dirty, someone didn't write "wash me" on the back window. Instead, a curt note will probably be left on your windshield advising you to wash your car.

Be nice and follow the rules and keep you and yours presentable.

As for the rest of your post, doesn't it all just boil down to "treat others like you want to be treated"? Surely that mantra would solve a lot of problems.

But we can't forget what @Lord_Voldemort7 said...

Edited at 2011-03-27 04:59 am (UTC)
Mar. 27th, 2011 06:02 am (UTC)
Of course I put in that Customer Service line specifically for you (and everyone else on my list that does something similar)! But mostly for you.

Of course the problem really goes beyond the golden rule in this case... If you have been told that a kind of people are "bad" and this has been reinforced throughout your life, you come to see those people as "not deserving" of that sort of "golden rule" treatment. And often you would never encounter one of those people in your daily life, so you just carry the dread around with you, never even having the opportunity to react.

Ronald Reagan did a lot to "demonize" the Soviet Union during his two terms as President, for example, and several Russian leaders did some sabre-rattling themselves! It's that kind of stuff, where "respected" and "intelligent" leaders characterize people that are different in that way for their own population, that really perpetrates more of the same.
Mar. 27th, 2011 06:25 am (UTC)
Oh! I know I complain about a few bad apples, but for the most part I don't hate our customers. At all. Just the other day I told a guy who had to give his ex-wife a ton of miles that I hoped he found the right girl one day and I genuinely meant it - he seemed like a nice guy, and he genuinely appreciated me saying that and thanked me for saying it.

But for every person I have to say no to because they're being ridiculous, I get to say yes to nine others.

Not gonna lie, I'm a little honored you threw that in there just for me.

I remember in college listening to NPR one day. This local guy who normally did sports for another station was talking about his travels throughout his life with his wife. I could listen to people talk about traveling for hours.

He talked about going to "hostile" countries and walking through street markets and talking to the people and their families and how those people and their families are just like our friends and families back home. They go to work, they go home, they enjoy their family and friends and they just want a better life for their children. And their government tells them that Americans are evil and our government tells us that they're evil.

I was so on board with this man's message that one of the best gifts you can give yourself is the gift of travel. It truly makes the world both a bigger and smaller place. I actually drove downtown to where the show was being broadcast at the library just so I could meet this man and tell him how great it was.

I wish I could travel more internationally... but I'm too poor.
Mar. 28th, 2011 03:11 am (UTC)
Well, obviously the majority of customers are ok to deal with, but the ones that are bad sometimes seem off the charts bad!

And I agree that people really need to travel, because it not only lets you see how the rest of the world does things, it gives you a whole new appreciation for the place where you're from, and both of those things can refocus your life in ways that benefit yourself.

Travel is truly the best education, and it's a shame more people can't do it more often. I guess the internet is the next best thing tho!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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