japonisme: everyone is the other

13 December 2011

everyone is the other

i do believe that fear of the 'other' is genetically encoded in each of us, presumably to build strong families and communities, as these are the modes of survival. particularly when you're nomads, wandering in the desert.

i wonder what our genes think of cyberspace. or is our growing likelihood to spend a fair percentage of our socializing while sitting alone at a desk also genetically determined as a response to overpopulation.

but in the current climate of world-wide community, is this genetic imperative as out of date as dragging women around by their hair? in a word... YES!

this train of thought began first thing in the morning when i heard a commentator on the radio announce that the TLC program, 'All-American Muslims" would be cancelled due to advertisers, under pressure from a right fringe group complaining that the evil side of muslims was being hidden & that the whole show was propaganda, pulled out of the show.

he had it wrong. in fact the network is hoping that all the uproar will help the show's ratings. but i still cringe at the mention of that much hatred, that much fear. and it started me thinking about how i usually saw this kind of hatred when it had been encouraged by someone for political reasons. and in this country it's the right that's pretty much the sole contender for the role.

so as i say, i started wondering about how that old genetic drive would come out now, if it were never aroused because someone thought they could benefit in terms of money and power by doing it. and i can barely conceive of it.

if we were never told, well, let's let the song from South Pacific say it best:


You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's
too late,
Before you are six or seven
or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!

we have learned much, in our 'modern' times, about how we no longer have a need to brainlessly act on every genetic imperative. we have been thrown together in shared experiences. is it possible for us to embrace those experiences, those people?

or is this actually something we can never accomplish? if we had the drive to create all these religions (which are all the same at base), all these empowered entities, maybe there is something integral to our very fiber about those boundaries, those fences, those tightly closed gates.

but then, when have you hated the most beautiful girl in the room, or the neighbor whose yard wasn't kept as you liked it? when have you behaved as primitively as a carefully taught being, and can you, could anyone, just not ever be taught?

i once saw in a shop that had a strong anti-ivory stance a postcard that said 'we are all elephants.'

today, we are all muslims.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Inch' Allah, si Dieu le veut, πρώτα ο θεός, etc... I'm agnostic but here's an another great post, affiches+text!d

14 December, 2011 05:10  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

you never fail to touch my heart with your comments, d. thank you so much for taking the time to stop by.

14 December, 2011 07:11  
Anonymous evan said...

Things that make you think- huh? A right-wing group wanted a program pulled because it didn't show the "evil" side of Muslims? Is there anything on the tube that shows anything else?

Fear of the other I think is a 1-2-3 punch. Maybe a genetic inclination. Certainly a bad personal experience will twist your perception. And then there's all the garbage we learned from parents, peers & the media...

...as I've aged I had most of that fall away. Maybe the Internet has something to do with that- we get to be exposed to lots of things from a safe distance. Maybe it's just time, & the majority of positive experiences have finally out-weighed the negative...

...or maybe now that I'm middle-aged & single, as long as I think she's beautiful...well...desperation erases a lot of preconceived notions. :D

14 December, 2011 11:00  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

actually, i'm glad to somewhat disagree with one thing you said --regarding portrayals of muslims on tv. it's in all the places you might expect-- shows, netowrks, aimed at the younger generations (& at old hippies like myself): Current TV; MTV; MSNBC; if some government access channel where you are carries FreeSpeech TV (which i only just discovered that mine does -- one one of those stations marked only 'government access' in the grid.) and then of course there's still Pacifica stations, old Air-America shows reborn around the dial. and then the nation, mother jones, etc.

i don't know how to measure myself, evan. hard to tell for sure if i've changed in this regard. being old enough to have much of a life to look back on has two sides; one is, as you say, watching some things (gratefully) fall away, but for me, the other is finally seeing myself clearly enough to register all the ways it never has.

14 December, 2011 11:51  
Anonymous evan said...

When I say media...I mean mainstream media (there's Muslims on MTv?- all I see are people behaving badly). Most references I see (speaking of personal experience) are on the news, where for every one positive story, there are ten negative, usually violent stories. Some recent movies I've seen that are portrayals of soldiers's experience in Iraq or Afghanistan I think portray Muslims in a sympathetic & realistic light- how does a Muslim living in a village deal with Americans (symbolically) offering carrots knowing that if you accept the carrot, as soon as the Americans leave, you're going to answer to the insurgency or Taliban?

As you've pointed out, there are positive portrayals of Muslims out there...but you have to seek them out. On the daily mainstream news, you might hear that Muslims in a village somewhere have rebuilt a school. The next night it wouldn't be surprising to hear that the school had been blown up. Sadly, we live (I think) in a society that measures "the other" by it's lowest common denominator. In WW 2 all Germans are Nazis. In 2011 all Muslims are (potential) terrorists. Look at the horrible act moving through Congress now to protect us from them...our Government can't be wrong or lying to us, could it? (pffft)

I think measuring oneself is difficult. Lots of room to beat yourself up. I just kind of pay attention- who do I find myself attracted to, who makes me go stiff if they sit down next to me, who makes me check to see where the nearest phone is & under what circumstances does my nervousness or paranoia subside...

15 December, 2011 10:21  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Praise Allah. I remember, way back, thinking Cat Stevens was pretty cool for turning himself into Yusaf Islam.
Fortunately I rejected my 'upbringing.' Otherwise I'd probably have wound up at Klan rallies and such.
My feeling is that without hate teachings the internet (and it may yet) could have brought us together in world wide mutual embrace, all the while respecting our territorial/xenocentric programming 'cause we do it from our "safe" private space before the screen.

Am I still a dreamer...?

18 December, 2011 12:55  
Blogger namastenancy said...

Very eloquent post - unfortunately the hysteria of our right-wing has prevented a real discussion about fundamentalism, both Christian and Muslim, and the issues it poses for democracy. We have Christian fundamentalists here in the US attempting to knock women back to the middle ages and Islamic fundamentalists trying to do the same. Neither side believes in freedom of speech so I hope and pray that neither side prevails.

18 December, 2011 16:49  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

if you are, then i want to be a dreamer too! isn't it a lovely image.... on the other hand, you may be right; each generation, it seems, for the majority, some fears drop away.

of course i'm still there are still some who would put to death anyone marrying outside their race, but, and here is the amazing thing: you escaped it!

i wonder... were you handed a lot of misery for "being different"?

18 December, 2011 21:22  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

not any time soon, nancy

18 December, 2011 21:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Through the wallpaper covered cardboard wall between my bedroom and the kitchen one night(grade school years), I heard the grownups conversing and it sounded - muffled and distorted of course - like an (outer space type)alien language. For an instant a frisson of fear went through me that I was hearing, at last, the truth.
Certainly, the "overactive" youthful imagination. But it's just to say, yeah, I was made to feel different, for sure.

I used to think/believe/hope that we were improving with each subsequent generation, but lately I think it may be just a pendulum swing type of thing. IE, all the younger folks I know these days are much more close-minded than I. Maybe (hopefully) it's just my limited regional experience...

You ask the right questions, Lotus. Like a therapist almost. I've never told anyone that thing I opened with here about the "alien voices." And I still do remember your suggestion of writing and illustrating my own stories. I just don't seem to be quite that organized, these days.

Still, thanks for being here.

18 December, 2011 22:49  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

i'm just so glad to see you.

that must have been chilling, overhearing/interpreting like that. i had a dream, also grade school... and i thought it was completely unusual, but i just read about someone else who had a similar dream, and now i hear about you: i dreamed my parents had a job with the US government where they had to poisen me, little by little, more and more. when i woke up i could actually feel the poison rushing through me....

by the way... ain't nobody can get that organized so little light we got this time of year!

19 December, 2011 11:58  
Anonymous Joyce said...

Lovely images, thanks. I've always thought that we are all the other to someone else. The true measure of a person is if they can reach beyond themselves so that they can be open to the others around them. Even if the us vs. them aspect of relations is inherent in communities, it is our responsibility to reach out to meet the other. That said I know that the choices I make are often based in the desire to be different. So where did that come from?

20 December, 2011 09:52  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

i can think of two possible places: one is that some families just require one to take a stance, a way to exist outside of them, but the second is kind of like me, i think: you may be just checking within to find out what you really do want out of any situation.

in my family i was always accused of being rebellious, of just "trying to be different for the sake of being different." but the thing is, that just was never true; it was always important to me to be true to myself. 'to thine own self be true and then it must follow as the night the day that thou canst not be false to any man' -- something my mother often quoted but was never actually comfortable if anyone but her behaved that way.

i love your perspective though, joyce, and i'm so glad to see you.

20 December, 2011 12:32  
Anonymous evan said...

Do I share too much? I read a few comments that struck me... the idea of being different vs the concept of being the other. Different to me is rebellion against cookie cutter sameness- the other is alien, in dress, belief, action. Except for the lucky ones, we are constantly given contradictory messages- be an individual, but don't rock the boat, be an Army of one, but fight as a unit, you can be anything you can dream you can be, but we'd prefer a doctor, sure you can major in art, but when you graduate, get a "real" job...marry for love, but not one of "those"...

21 December, 2011 10:44  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

it was the best of times. it was the worst of times.

21 December, 2011 17:26  

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