Same and different

All human beings are 99.9% identical in terms of our genetic make up. Despite being virtually the same, we’ve found ways to let that differing 0.1% get in the way of belonging and cooperation.

We’ve been successful in finding arbitrary differences – some biological, most made up – as justification to be cruel to one another. In some cases in our history, this cruelty was due to a competition for scarce resources. In most cases, especially those in our recent past, even the scarcity was manufactured.

While we are undoubtedly progressing as a species in our ability to put that 0.1% in perspective, there is a lot more work to be done.

Martin Luther King Jr said “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” In saying so, he acknowledged the challenges involved with changing minds. But, he also reminded us that – “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

No challenge is an excuse for us to take action for causes that matter.

The global caste system

India has had the caste system woven into the social fabric for more than a thousand years now. I grew up exposed to it and I sometimes wondered what the world might look like without it. Maybe other nations had the answer?

I’ve been fortunate to have opportunities to live in multiple places since I left home for university ten odd years ago. And, guess what – every place has a caste system of its own. Sure, they don’t call it the caste system. But, the caste system is not about castes. It is a vehicle for discrimination. As I’ve been reading in Yuval Harari’s incredible book – Sapiens, discrimination is a necessary part of social order. Human beings have used concepts like pollution and purity for thousands of years to preserve this order. Some people just receive much better treatment at any given time than most of the rest.

We don’t think much of this. If you have a passport from a developed nation, you are treated wonderfully well at any airport around the world. However, everyone else isn’t really all that welcome. Add a non-white skin color and you have a recipe for shitty treatment everywhere you go. Global travel, thus, is a classic example of a global caste system. And, folks from developing countries are the untouchables.

We grow up with these social structures and they’re woven into the fabric of our daily lives. So, it is easy as hell not to question it since it seems like the natural order. Ask some men why there are fewer women in executive positions and you might find them give you pseudo scientific answers about why it is natural, pre-ordained even. Substitute men with other “higher castes” in various contexts. And, the results are similar. Every white supremacist will tell you there’s something impure about the darker person’s gene that doesn’t make them worthy of leadership.

I’d like to believe that these things will get solved over time. We’ve certainly made a ton of progress on various issues over the decades. But, in the current climate, it certainly does seem like things are getting worse.

Then again, maybe it gets worse before it gets better?

TV2 in Denmark has a lovely 3 minute video speaking to just this. It is easy to put people in boxes. We all do, all the time. It is part of being human. But, every once a while, it is perhaps skipping what divides us and looking instead at what we all share.