Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Who Are You?

What matters most to people? How much money you have? The kind of house you own? What you do? How you look? Your IQ?

Right now, society has a case of weight sensitization, which is taking on proportions that would have it seem that issues such as war, poverty, and global climate change are mere bagatelles. The chatter about what is healthy, what you should eat, how much you should eat, how large you are, how fat you are, how skinny you are, ad infinitum, is such that people are being reduced from feeling beings to sacks of proteins, fats, amino acids, and other chemicals.

This goes beyond the divisive and elusive ideal of beauty, to a fundamental conception that, like intelligence, health can be boiled down to a single characteristic, trait, or even number. That soon, we may be nothing more than a set of numbers like IQ, weight, BMI, etc., is both frightening and perverse. It is the modern reflection of inherent classicism that continues to plague us. We feel a need to place people into convenient, calibrated categories and to organize them on a continuum that allows us to determine exactly where we stand in relation to "them."

It is no longer enough to judge people on the scale of "beauty," but to break down and quantify the qualities that make them "less beautiful" or "less attractive" than someone else, or even less "like us." A person must conform or be condemned.

This rush to judgment, this desire to force society into some absolutism of type, feeds on our more destructive impulses, those dark demons of our ancestry that marked different things as threats, to be avoided, shunned, or killed. Given our evolved state, where we have the mental horsepower to override our baser instincts, it is sad to see how easily we are seduced by them, turned from reasoning individuals into fanatical mob. Even as we strive for greater tolerance of race, sexual orientation, gender, et. al., we turn inward and succumb to the intolerance of our animal brain, chopping people down rather than reaching out to pull them up.

In the end, the success and survival of human society is predicated on our ability to throw off the shackles of our evolutionary past and reach beyond our instincts. We must look past the face, the body, the eyes, and see what is inside people. And not just see, but learn to tolerate the differences, no matter how radical. This will prove to be a far greater struggle than the switch from hunter-gatherer to agrarian society, but the rewards for success will be immeasurable, compared to the possibility of our species becoming nothing more than a cosmic footnote.

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