What Do You Stand For?

>> Friday, October 30, 2009



We'll see how my workout sets with my iffy stomach, but, in the meantime, I have earned the right to blog, which is good because I have something to say. And I'm going to do a sort of Thieving Thursday today because today is when I said it.

The Mother, who has a wonderful blog, well worth reading any day, does a special bit on Fridays regarding the history of motherhood, and all the scary tales therein. Today, in honor of Halloween, she talked about the transformation of the Dark Ages' most assiduous medical practitioners (midwives) to witches in the eyes of the powers that were. Now, I could talk about this as some length myself, but I think she's done a better job, certainly more research.

But, it got me to thinking. Western culture prides itself on values we presumably learned from an individual (Christ) some two millenia ago who reputedly embodied all that was kind, patient, forgiving, tolerant, educated, generous and peaceful (not unlike Buddha who came before), and yet... Governments and religious institutions have, over and over, villified kindness, education, compassion, tolerance, science and consensual copulation, and glorified torture, war, greed, ignorance, hatred, fear, and yes, even sexual predation.

That isn't to say most people were evil, just that the powers that be found ways to manipulate the populace into equating all that was evil with good and all that was good with evil - often by citing Christ who was, ironically, often much more like the people being persecuted than those who persecuted in his name. Don't believe me? Take the witch example. Imagine if Christ as he had been described had lived in Germany during the height of the anti-witch hysteria. He was kind. He was a healer. He did obvious magic. He challenged the prevailing wisdom. He was pacifist and tolerant to those who thought differently. I don't see how he wouldn't ended up burned at the stake, and those doing so in the name of all that was holy wouldn't have bothered to wash their hands first.

Ancient history you say? Really, for the past century or so, haven't we done many of the same things? I'm not singling out a religion or a nation, but, as a culture, how often have we revered greed and blind ambition, exalted violence, condoned dishonesty, sneered at tolerance and compassion? We frequently come up with rationales and explanations for calling bad things good. We call it defense, for instance, even if it hasn't been deployed except on foreign soil for literally decades. We accept clear dishonesty and blatant pandering to bribery and call it politics. We restrict people from being recognized for lifetime companions though that's what they are and call it family values. We watch people, through unmitigated greed and deceptive practices, bring a nation to the brink of financial ruin, then reward themselves with billions while taxpayers lose jobs and families lose homes and defend it as capitalism.

I think you get my drift.

My point is that we need to stop worrying about the buzzwords and the stories, what people tell us about what they want us to do and believe. Instead, we must ask ourselves what we really stand for. When we think about an issue or a stance, we need to ask ourselves are we on the side that's really good or are we telling ourselves that? Who are we really hurting? Who are we really helping?

I think, possibly because I'm a dreamer, that, if people really did that, really asked themselves what they stand for and compared it to what they want to stand for, they'd be much much harder to manipulate.

Maybe I'm wrong and people are naturally evil and self-deceiving. I don't think so. I believe that, if they were truly evil, they wouldn't have to deceive themselves.

I know what I want to stand for. Do you?

8 comments:

  • Shakespeare
     

    I am so with you. I dare say it is THE reason I write. I am able to express what I stand for--what I think the world should do to battle fear and hate--in ways I can't in a blog.

    It's the only way I know (besides teaching my kids) to change the world.

    Looks like we're on similar paths, sis.

  • Project Savior
     

    In the financial/insurance world nearly every company uses a standardized test to see how good the applicant is at self-deception.
    They actually weed out those who can't deceive themselves.
    The idea is they want employees who are easily brainwashed to believe whatever information comes from the top. (explains a lot about the financial meltdown)
    It's really hard to explain to other employers that I can no longer work in that field because honesty and integrity are considered a disability.

  • Roy
     

    What's the old line? "If you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything." Yup, that's about right!

  • Stephanie B
     

    Project Savior, I've seen similar things happen before in SAFETY! Frightening.

    Roy, I actually have that quote. I could have used it: Alexander Hamilton said, "Those who stand for nothing will fall for anything." I should have used it.

    Shakespeare: Hi, sis!

  • The Mother
     

    This is one of the points that the anti-religionists (Dawkins. Hitchens) make on a daily basis--people are not inherently evil. In fact, altruism seems to be hard wired into our brains.

    It takes something really special to turn us into witch-burners and Jew-haters and homophobes.

    And that something is usually religion.

  • The Mother
     

    BTW, here's a truly excellent lecture on how much of this ethical stuff is hardwired. Just in case anyone's interested:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/richarddawkinsdotnet#p/a/D62809AD452EDB98/1/jnXmDaI8IEo

  • Jeff King
     

    You made me realy think about this subject... and yes i know what i stand for, but it is good to search your sole know and then.

    thx for making me take a step back and realy think about it. it has been awhile since i have done that.

    thx for posting.

  • Richard
     

    People aren't inherently evil or good. We're inherently lazy. It's all about conservation of energy; he who gets the most gain for the least effort lasts the longest.

    The easiest way to deal with the overwhelming stresses and demands of life is to overgeneralize, to make assumptions and to believe in stereotypes. That means you let someone else do your thinking for you, but most people are OK with that, up to a point.

    Manipulating that aspect of human nature is an attractive and quick path to wealth, power, influence... whatever boondoggle appeals to you.

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