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#64436 04/08/02 01:23 AM
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I'm taking an honors course at my university called Human Diversity. The general idea of the course is to discuss why people are different and what it means to be human. We're discussing it in terms of genealogy, anthropology, science and religion. We've been talking a lot about evolution so far, and we'll also be discussing gender, race and other groups that conflict and why.

Living in Cincinnati, the subject of racial conflict is in the news almost every day. Today is the one year anniversary of the shooting of Timothy Thomas, an unarmed black man who was running away from a white police officer. This was the straw that broke the camel's back and started the riots that became world news.

As diversity and conflict seem to be a pertinent subject in our world right now, perhaps we could discuss groups throughout history who have been in bitter conflict, why they were, and how the issue was resolved. So many are because of race or nationality, but there are also many conflicts that begin simply because one side doesn't understand the other and both are two stubborn to back down. Let us reflect.


#64437 04/08/02 02:30 AM
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Dear JazzO: An interesting subject I hesitate to discuss because I know very well I am insufficiently informed about it. I suspect many other board members may feel the same way. I see seven people have read you post, but refrained from replying, quite possibly for same reason I have given.


#64438 04/08/02 03:10 AM
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My reluctance, dr. bill, is simply that a post in keeping requires careful reflection. I suspect we'll have a slew of very interesting posts once folks have had the time to muse about jazzo's very interesting, provocative question.


#64439 04/08/02 04:58 AM
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Very interesting indeed, Jazzo. Thanks for starting this thread.

Since I was just a short while ago posting in reply to remarks in the "Didymus' thread, I suppose the Bible was still fresh in my mind. So here is an instance of conflict resolution which changed the course of history. This is recorded in the 10th and 11th chapters of the Acts of the Apostles (the 5th book of the New Testament for those of you who are not Biblical scholars and want to LIU).

The background: The Jews had, for centuries, followed a set of beliefs, laws and customs which were peculiar to themselves and very different from the rest of the ancient world. They kept themselves strictly apart from non-Jews, or Gentiles; so much so that the few exceptions recorded merely show how complete this separateness was. Jesus, when he began teaching and preaching, did not absolutely shun and exclude Gentiles, although he made it very clear that he considered himself to have been sent to the Jews.

When the Apostles and other followers of Jesus, who were all Jews, began preaching the new Way (as it is called in the Acts) they began organizing their followers. They did not set out to found a new religion, but a new way of practicing the Jewish religion. But the authorities of the Temple in Jerusalem closed that path to them by forbidding them to continue to teach or follow the new Way, thus forcing the separation of the Way from official Judaism. Not long after, the first signs of conflict began to appear, between the Hellenistic Jews and the Israelite Jews. This disappeared when one of the most popular of the Hellenistic party, Stephen, was stoned to death for daring to confront the Sanhedrin. But another source of conflict arose with the appearance of Gentiles who wanted to follow the Way and associate themselves with the other followers, who were all Jews, either Hellenistic or Israelite. The conservative members of the movement objected strongly to the idea of associating with uncircumcized Gentiles who practiced dietary and othe habits which were not only foreign but disgusting to Jews. One of those who thought that Gentiles should be accepted was the former Saul of Tarsus, who had formerly been a very righteous Pharisee and a persecutor of the new religion and who had undergone a sudden conversion whilst en route to Damascus to arrest some of the heretics. He changed his name to Paul and returned to Jerusalem, seeking to be accepted and put to work, but no one at that point trusted him.

All the above is described in the first 9 chapters of Acts and covers at least several years, maybe as many as 10.

Acts 10 and 11 gives this story: One Cornelius, a Roman centurion living in Caesarea, who was a good and devout man, had a vision which told him to seek a man called Peter who was then in Joppa lodging with Simon the tanner, as Peter was the answer to his prayers to God. Cornelius sent a couple slaves and a soldier whom he trusted to go find Peter. Meanwhile Peter (the same Peter who was Jesus' chief disciple and one of the leaders of the new Way) had a vision in which he saw all manner of birds and animals which were unclean to Jews. A voice commanded him to eat of them. Peter demurred on the grounds of being a good Jew, but the voice informed him that what God made clean, he should not call profane. While he was trying to figure out what this meant, the messengers from Cornelius arrived and begged Peter to come to their master. He went to him, although as a Jew he should not have entered the house of a Gentile. Cornelius told him of his vision and Peter realized that the two were connected. He then began to preach to those around him, "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him." He went on, expounding the history of Jesus and beliefs of his followers. The Holy Spirit came over all those present and even the Gentiles manifested the gifts of the Spirit, much to the surprise of the Jews. When Peter returned to Jerusalem, he recounted all this in detail to the other leaders of the infant Church and it was at that time that it became official policy that Gentiles might be admitted to membership in the new Way, although it took until Paul and his associates began converting large numbers of Gentiles that they were accepted as complete equals with Jews, with no requirements that they be circumcized or follow the Jewish laws and customs.

The followers of the Way, who were first called 'Christians' in Antioch, went on to spread the new religion through many churches planted all over the ancient world, into Rome itself, and eventually to turn the Roman Empire upside down. Could this ever have been if the early [Jewish] leaders had insisted on keeping it a purely Jewish movement, rejecting the Gentiles? I have no doubt that under those circumstances it would have survived, if at all, merely as a minor offshoot of Judaism, sort of like the way Hasidism exists within Judaism. And the Gentile world would, I imagine, have followed a totally different path from what it actually did. The willingness of Peter and the other Jewish leaders of the Way to embrace people totally foreign to them made this possible.



#64440 04/08/02 11:24 AM
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> Human Diversity

It might be a good time to study this now, as globalisation stands to assimilate us all into one big gunge, hey!
This topic can very quickly slip into a discussion purely about racism, when it should be about the opposite. In all truth, it’s about far more general concepts.
As I understand the evolution of humans, we have really only had a relatively short time to go about diversifying, and therefore the genetic discrepancies between 'completely different' races are in actual* fact merely a handful of varying codifications in our good ol' DNA. This fact, coupled with the universal knowledge that humans just love to stick to what they know, maintain the status quo, work in THEIR groups, and join and identify with a team/country, means ‘human diversity’ becomes an endangered species.
People clearly fear the change that difference can bring, and so suppress physical and cultural differences – i.e. racism. So we sit here, and not just the culture, but the genetic diversity of American Indians, former Incas, and Aboriginal Australians is being lost. But that’s easy to stomach if you ultimately believe in the pragmatic and simplistic view of ‘survival of the fittest’ and such banter, because that would mean that the European genes are simply superior.
Anyway, much can be said, but in all the discussion surrounding ‘human diversity’, we very rarely hear about what is so central. Jazz, you mention the reflection on ‘what it is to be human’ – many can neither celebrate the differences between us, nor embrace their likeness in other peoples and cultures. Someone once pointed out that the most bitter battles are those fought between brothers, for brothers are most alike – this is a universal truth of human conflict. Regardless of how similar or dissimilar we are though, we always find a way of segregating, separating and categorising even the most abstract differences in entities as if people and life were a packet of assorted pralines. If empathy dies and hate takes over, then precious little will stop the erosion of human diversity.
The opposite of physical diversity is tantamount to inbreeding – and now that scientists have ‘proven’ that having children with a cousin is ‘quite safe’, we can all do it legally. Reflect though just for a tick on where that has brought the Jewish community of New York (see Unnatural Selection by Lois Wingerson or info on the honourable Rabbi Ekstein).
The opposite of celebrating cultural diversity is close-mindedness, and it’s a pretty dangerous world when there are individuals pig-headed enough to travel the world with the opinion that they are missionaries, rather than ambassadors to their culture.
If I was not so overcome with a need to sponge up all the diversity that Europe has to offer me then I would probably have settled back in Australia. For all the 'multi-culteral' hoo-hah, I could not live there and maintain friendships with (speaking nationally in a post-nationalist world :-):
Austrians, Belgians, Swiss, French, Britians, Irish, Germans, Dutch, Sweds, Finns, Turks, Greeks, Croatians, Italians, Bosians, Spaniards, Syrians, Iranians, Tunisians, Moroccans, Afganis, Indians, Hungarians, Czechs, Polish, Luxembourgians(?), Romanians, Egyptians, Chilians, Chinese, Japanese, the list goes on.
I feel so lucky :-)

Happy studies, Jazz!


#64441 04/08/02 11:32 AM
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Hatfields v. McCoys?
Montagues v. Capulets?
Family feuds?

Don't have anything specific to say here. Just wanted to throw family v. family into the discussion.

WW


#64442 04/08/02 12:08 PM
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I don't profess to be a student of this subject, but I truly don't believe that there ever will be harmony. Looking at it from a scientific perspective (as is my wont), harmony and balance are the starting points, increasing chaos is the result.

stales


#64443 04/09/02 03:03 AM
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I hope, Jazzo, that your studies on diversity will include some of the great thinkers who not only were able to break out of the established way of doing and thinking and believing, but did so at considerable cost. We tend to forget in our culture, what the risks were of taking on the establishment not so very many years ago. Render homage to them and keep saying to yourself under your breath, "Eppur si muove."


#64444 04/09/02 05:57 AM
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The phrase what it means to be human can be elaborated in two rather divergent senses, depending on whether the opposite of "human" is taken as "inhuman" or "non-human". The first path, of course, is what humanism is all about. It starts from the premise that people can be taught to respect all their fellows and act in consequence.
If, on the other hand, you consider how the human species has distinguished itself, in the past, from the rest of the animal kingdom, you are obliged to admit that they used the ressources of their superior brain mainly to plot and scheme against each other (forming selective and temporary alliances)...


#64445 04/09/02 11:20 AM
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It always amazes me how people will almost go out of their way to find reasons to find and define "the other" with whom they can indulge in conflict. (Races, religions, families, tribes... even football clubs for pete's sake). And they cherish and nurse those differences so assiduously that they can be carried forward over hundreds of years.

It seems to me that an inherent part of being human is a very strong desire to belong. But belonging automatically requires the opposite: exclusion. Therein lie the seeds of conflict. If I am right then we are doomed as a species to live in conflict. Perhaps the conflict even has a purpose, possibly providing a sort of natural selection of ideas and ideologies?

On a more upbeat note: very occasionally we overcome the conflict-inducing stereotypes we have been weaned on. South Africa is far from being immune to conflict induced by diversity, but we have made almost miraculous progress from where we were a decade ago.




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