Friday, April 15, 2011

Humans: Out of Tune with the Earth

Learning about Minnesota’s disparities in multiple areas is very depressing but very important. For years I have been asking why stereotypes exist. It seems stereotypes often come from these disparities. As we have learned in class, stereotyping is a biological tendency and a survival instinct. We see members of our own “in-group” as individuals and generalize members of the “out-groups” (Marsiglia and Kulis, 2009, pp. 36). Today, stereotyping has evolved into a whole new entity. Humans have globalized the entire world and different groups have colonized areas they don’t belong naturally.

Here’s what I’m getting at: as we all know, for thousands of years, humans who lived closer to the equator acquired darker skin to protect themselves from harmful effects of the sun. Humans who lived farther away from the equator have developed fairer skin because the sun was less strong. Then, white colonists migrated across seas and into these warmer areas and disrupted other groups’ natural way of existing. We might say that this is where it all went wrong and why our “tossed-salad” country struggles to coexist, but I challenge you to go back further.

Ishmael is a novel written by Daniel Quinn. When I first read this book, it changed the way I view the Earth and the life it nurtures. It changed my politics, which was switched between Social Democracy and Socialism. Now I often reject politics as a whole. Ishmael is a gorilla, but not just any gorilla. He’s a teacher. A human finds an ad in a newspaper for a teacher looking for a student and he goes to a business building to meet the teacher who is sitting, waiting for him in a cage. Ishmael has endless lessons to teach the student, but the main one readers are supposed to take with them is the Law of Nature. This law is that no being shall control nature.

It is easy to see how humans control nature everyday, but when did it first begin? According to Ishmael, out first wrong move was the invention of agriculture. This was when we first started altering our environment to suit us, rather than existing as our natural forms: hunters and gatherers. Why is this wrong? As hunters and gatherers, we were still apart of the food chain. We spent our days finding food for the moment and killing what we needed to survive, just as other animals continue to do. The development of agriculture was our first step in making our lives more efficient, separating other animals from ourselves. We could control our food supply and have time for new things. We were no long starving!

Here’s the problem: when we are no longer starving and always have enough food, population growth occurs. When the population grows, there is further demand for agriculture because we are starving again. This further alters the land and causes further population growth. Many don’t see it, but this cycle of agriculture, population growth, starvation, agriculture… is continuing on today, and because of it, humans have had an enormous amount of time to focus on colonizing the world and developing the land. We have become the only species that deliberately kills off entire populations for the sake of ridding them from this world, even if they live on the opposite side of the world.

What does this have to do with stereotyping? To me, it is one more outcome from breaking the Law of Nature. I say this because by controlling nature, we grow into a monster that disrupted the natural flow of life on Earth. Humans’ way of justifying their control is that the Earth was made especially for us, a belief that is derived from many religions. Our colonization has led us to live in giant populations instead of small communities such as tribes. People are out of control because they naturally generalize others everyday, viewing them as members of an “out-group”, which they perceive as separate from their own.

Some understand that they base their stereotyping off of the disparities we see in systems like criminal justice, housing access, health, child protection, education, employment, etc. These particular disparities are a result of Structural Discrimination (the discrimination and disparity seen in national institutions) and Institutional Discrimination (institutions allow some privileged people to maintain an advantage over others based on group membership (Marsiglia and Kulis, 2009, pp. 39)). Obviously the preservation of stratification in the U.S. is a huge problem for underprivileged groups and humanity as a whole, so by reviewing this purge of ideas I like to call “blog”, what’s my understanding of it?

Yes, the huge problem of disparity in the U.S. (and world) can be derived from mistreatment of others in history, which is derived from colonization, which is finally derived from break the Law of Nature. I know this blog may be difficult to grasp because it would take at least a novel (like Ishmael) to present it more thoroughly and understandably, but I am asking readers to simply consider the notion that things went wrong when the Law of Nature was broken. The stratification we experience in our large populations is only one result of the law being broken. Other results include warfare on a macro level, extinction of plants and animals, exhaustion of resources, etc. I believe if everyone gave this perspective a chance and hopefully even read Ishmael, we would prioritize our lives differently and see where things first went wrong.


Reference List:

Marsiglia, F. F., & Kulis, S. S. (2009). Diversity, oppression, and change: culturally grounded social work. Chicago: Lyceum Books.

Quinn, D. (19951992). Ishmael (Bantam trade pbk. ed.). New York: Bantam/Turner Book.

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