Monday, 1 July 2013
Teach Kids to love their Neighbors
Lee Yoke Har writes:
Growing up as a kid in Malaysia, you don't learn about racism until an adult decides to poison your innocence and point you to the superiority of your own race.
Much like the diverse eco-system, humanity is bound in a weird way by likeness and unlikeness. If we tear away the veil of religion and race, we are after all a humanity of nearly seven billion people. Somehow, we have got to learn to show compassion and love for one another.There is so much that is magnificent about its diversity. When I look at the intricate mudras (hand signals) of the bharatanatyam dancers, I often think of beauty, precision and perfection. When the muezzin makes his prayer calls at dawn or dusk, one gets infused with a sense of wonder, of being at home, feeling the vibration of the most sacred. This sense can only come from being raised in an all-embracing multiracial society.
Teach your kids to love their neighbors, for there is no other way.
On the surface, the general thrust of her essay is reasonable. No one, in his right mind, would encourage hurtful racism or social prejudice. I agree with her on many points. However, some of her conclusions seem to me less obvious.
First, a kid may learn about racism from another kid, perhaps a kid from his neighborhood. Adults are not always to be blamed. Nor are we to assume that children are naive and pure innocence.
Secondly, the eco-system doesn't protect natural differences for the sake of variety. Nature has a prejudice for the survival of the fittest in the Darwinian sense. The species that have the strongest will-to-live and the most cunning ability to adapt to a hostile environment survive and flourish. The weak ones get flushed out of existence. Thus it seems better to teach our kids tough-mindedness and the ability to adapt to a constantly evolving world. It is not enough just to accept differences, we must rise above the mediocrity and become superior. Quality and not quantity of differences.
My third point is this. It is human to be prejudicial in the sense that our thoughts are bound by our presuppositions. When we think we inevitably make some assumptions. No matter how hard we try, we are limited by our mind's horizon.
Let's take the statement: "We are all human beings, therefore we should respect each person." Behind this statement is the assumption that if a being has humanness, he ought to be respected.
But why? How is it possible to logically leap from being a human to being respected. Having a human body with its emotions does not tell me how it should be treated. Respect is not logical deduction from humanness. There must be other unspoken, hidden reasons. Perhaps religious ones, since science cannot possibly be a source. Then atheists will not hold the deduction valid.
Furthermore. racial prejudice is a perceptual matter. Our perceptions are limited by our finite experiences. If 'science' has only seen white swans, we conclude all swans are white. This is both natural and scientific.
For example. If we encounter a tribal society that we perceive to be backward in some way, we most likely will think our own society as superior. We cannot pretend that the inferior society is somehow equal to ours. We may help them to improve their life. Our humanitarian actions are applauded, but in fact we do not respect their natural state as being good. It may not be as blatantly cruel as school kids taunts, nonetheless they are similar.
Of course, a racially prejudiced person makes a logical error of assuming he/she has met all instances of an 'inferior' race. But we can't blame him if he has met a majority that exhibit some backwardness. Every time when he meets a person of the other race, he reflects on his own better society/culture. He may see as an exception to his 'prejudice' when he does meet an 'inferior' who is his equal.
Perhaps, the more important thing to learn from prejudice is to determine the causes of prejudice. Why does a person think his culture is superior to the others? If he has no valid reasons, then we are entitled to treat him as misguided. If he has good reasons, we must accept his judgment as fair and reasonable. And seek to improve ourselves. So what are the good reasons? How does one judge a society/culture? I'll suggest a few criteria of a superior culture (listed not in order of importance).
a) high regard for personal freedom and privacy (matured citizens)
b) high standard of health and homes
c) true knowledge is prized (quality education for all who are willing to learn)
d) life, assets and wealth protection
e) balanced life and work
f) culturally stimulating (leisure and creative arts are freely available)
g) technologically advanced
h) freedom to choose one's religious beliefs/ non-belief
i) 'sexuality' equality (non-repressive in Freudian terms)
j) peaceful (non-violent)
k) high achievement oriented (citizens strive to become better than before)
These criteria form different dimensions of a superior society. Most cultures today fall somewhere along the scales of these criteria. We do not have any perfect superior society yet.
Teach your kids to build such a culture, there is no other way!