Monday, May 03, 2010

Kumbahyah

Comments I've been privvy to recently: "the world would be a much better place if everyone was color blind," "it breaks my heart seeing all the innocent animals that are washing up dead or covered in oil along the gulf coast" (referring to the recent oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico), and "[she] has a low tolerance for scripted puns and allegedly witty repartee from news anchors." I'd like to comment on that last one only because I sympathize, and could have quite a bit of fun with that one, but it will have to wait.

Now, I've opined extensively on racial arguments, including an anthropological stance that all humans evolved from Africa and are all one race. And it is heart breaking to see man err so gravely that innocent duckies suffer. Forget the fact that 5,000 barrels of crude oil are pouring into the gulf because of complications in sealing off a broken pipeline, forget the economic implications of not only the loss of the crude, the loss of the rig, but also the side effect to the Obama administration and their approach to future drilling. For now, let's just forget that anything has any importance beyond how we feel about the devastation to the innocent wildlife.

Would we feel any better if it were man-eating tigers and killer grisly bears covered in oil? Would we sleep better at night if the destruction eradicated any of the millions of unwanted nutria rats in Louisiana?

I don't think so. I think it's nothing more than pseudo-political dribble meant to make people look far more compassionate than they are at their hearts. Honestly, how many of us want to load up our cars, drive to the coast, forgo our jobs, our families, our mortgage payments, and go volunteer all our efforts to bathe and save every single oil-soaked animal we can find? That's right, virtually none of us want to do that. Some of us soothe our wounded hearts by donating money to organizations that help out. Others bake cookies, let the kids sell them for 50 cents a piece, and mail the money to Red Cross. Some of us simply go about our lives while saying things like "poor innocent creatures... they didn't do anything to anybody."

I feel the same way about the race card. "It would be better if the world were color blind." Really? So if we just couldn't see the changes in pigmentation of the skin, then we'd all get along? Would monochromatic greyscale actually accomplish that? No, it wouldn't. The eye is too highly sensitive to see subtle changes in skin tone and shade for it to be that simple. And really, color blindness, per se, is not the problem. The problem is that once again, people need something to unite and divide them by. How do you know that you have friends if you have no enemies?, one might philosophize. We are naturally divided by family, by neighborhood, by city, state, country. We are divided by beliefs, cultural norms, by religious practices, celebrations, festivals, by burial traditions, wedding traditions. We are divided by child-rearing approaches, by the side of the street we drive on, and by the colors in our flags. We are divided by damned near everything you can mention, and we are united only by sharing interests in some of the aforementioned divisors.

It has nothing to do with color of the skin. It has to do with culture.

If we sit around the camp fire singing Kumbahyah and other such songs, then all we did was breathe carbon dioxide into the trees and pat ourselves on the back for giving a damn about something. Well, at least there's no accountability in feeling bad for innocent animals and wanting a colorblind world. There's only accountability in doing something about it.

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