Thursday, April 9, 2009

Like follows like?

This question has been on my mind for a long time. Does like really follow like? And if so, are we doomed forever to homogeneity? The old systems of order, around land, family, faith, class, tradition have given way. They've been replaced, some would say, by a new order based on individual choice. While we may have created our own "individual" categories or subcultures to belong to, these like-minded homogeneous groups are very strong, and can grow more extreme in their thinking, discouraging dissent and open dialogue.

When I was in elementary school, Grade 4 I think, I remember our teacher showing us a film about a group of students in California who couldn't understand how Nazi Germany flourished in WWII. The film was horrifying and illuminating. It showed how something as simple as a secret handshake can grow into an almost impenetrable subculture. It becomes a giant feedback loop, where we hear our own thoughts bounced back to us about what is right and wrong.

Perhaps naively, I really hope these individual categories and subcultures that we are all creating can develop ways to look across the lines and through various lens at each other's perspectives. If we can do that I believe a whole world will open up for each of us.

On tonight's news there was shock and horror that President Obama would even consider bowing upon meeting the Saudi King. I failed to see what the fuss was all about. So what if they are actually peers on the world stage? His gesture, which I am saddened to see his team now backpedaling to deflect, was one of a person showing up in another country and showing respect to that country's culture. Big deal. Does that make him weak? Or less of a leader? I can't see why. But if we come from the perspective that he is the leader of the free world, and that said free world is predominant over all, then you can see why many folks are horrified.

Like follows like.

Maybe the deal is we need to drop "like" all together, and just "be"?


  1. Hi Teri;

    Your blog is always so interesting, I don't comment much, but I am always reading and thinking about it.

    I have to ask you about the Nazi movie. I don't remember it. I had to call Cheryl and see if she did. It sounds like it really had an impact for you, so I am surprised that I missed out on it. I do recall that in grade 5, Mr. Perry's class, that I had to ask my dad what a Nazi was. I guess it had come up (maybe with this film) and I had no idea what was going on. I had grown up so sheltered, I didn't even realize a few years ago that Mr. Perry must have been Jewish. I wish I had been able to understand back then, I am sure that I would have gotten so much more from his class.

    As for President Obama's bow, I can't understand how anyone would have a problem with showing respect to a fellow leader. It's diplomacy. The world is a very small place now - we can't afford to have world leaders who put attitude and ego before cooperation and common sense.

  2. Belinda: It was a film about a CA high school class that told their teacher they couldn't believe the Germans could be so stupid to let the Nazis do what they did, get the whole country following them, etc. I can't recall the title, but the teacher in the film was a guy with blond hair (my Grade 4 memory is a little weak!).

    We were studying prejudice and how harmful it can be, and Mr. Minor showed us that film to make us think. I remember when it ended we just all sat there silent.

  3. As I was thinking of your description of homegeneity, I thought immediately of polygamist communities. There's been a lot of media and community controversy lately about a fundamentalist community in the East Kootenays -- Bountiful. I've included a recent piece, from the Financial Post today.

    This is the most disturbing situation. These guys are requiring 15 and 16 year old girls to 'marry' them, and become one of many, many wives. Community members support this unbelievable abuse of women -- and defend their leaders.

    How does this happen -- and how in Canada today, is there any support anywhere for these behaviours? Many folks for the nearest community, Creston, suggest that Bountiful members don't harm anyone, and should be left alone.

    While I agree that we need to understand and accept other cultures, how do we accept these kinds of cultures and behaviours?

    The Financial posts says (april 12/09)
    Two fundamentalist Mormon leaders from Bountiful, B.C., are scheduled to appear in court Wednesday on polygamy charges.

    Winston Blackmore and James Oler have yet to enter a plea.

    Blackmore, 52, is the former bishop of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Bountiful. Oler, 44, is the current bishop, who replaced Blackmore.

    Blackmore's indictment lists 19 women with whom he is said to have "practised a form of polygamy or practised a kind of conjugal union" between May 1, 2005 and Dec. 8, 2006

  4. Great question Heather. "How do we accept these kinds of cultures and behaviors?". Beyond the obvious abuse of women, which to some may seem not an abuse at all (NOT what I am suggesting), it is a grave abuse of power over young children.

    Gender relations, treatment of women, the role and character of the family is different in many cultures. Think of the Muslim culture, or the role of women in Japan, or the Yanomamo tribal societies in S. America. All very different than our values and our notions of what's right and wrong in gender relations, from the N. American or Canadian perspective.

    I am as appalled as you by Bountiful, and for me it is because of the manipulation and abuse of young girls and women who live in Canada, but because of their tight community are not given the opportunity to look outside of it and see there are other options.

    Love to hear how others think about this one.