It seems that racism has subsided (or at least has become increasingly politically incorrect) in America, or perhaps people’s prejudices have not so much subsided as been transformed. Am I mistaken, or have the divides between right versus left, conservative versus liberal, the wealthy versus the poor, etc. taken on new highs in intensity? It almost seems that there is a certain degree of pride and prejudice within people that simply must be directed at something. Could that really be?
Let’s take a step back and look at the nature of our species. Certainly we are social/cultural creatures. We tend to flock together to create a society. As you traverse the globe, it becomes apparent that there is a great degree of difference between cultures. Individuals in a culture (or subculture) become adapted to, comfortable with, and cultured around the specific aspects of their culture. This, to a great degree, includes mentality, morality, ethics, and worldview, even including the inclination to rebel against the convention of that culture! There is a natural tendency to gravitate toward individuals that share your cultural and subcultural views. That seems to be quite commonsensical and natural. Laws are created and enforced in concert with those views, those convictions. Often other viewpoints are considered unhealthy, or even illegal. Of course, as times change people change, and viewpoints then, gradually change over time. In the USA at least, those transitions seem to occur through 10 to 15 year cycles. Just look at the 1920s compared to the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, etc. Yet through it all, we tend to adhere to our societal group of like-minded friends with whom we are most comfortable and identified. You may wonder if this is a good or bad thing. Should you strive to break free of your heritage? Or should you strive to conform to it? When does your affinity for your heritage cross that line from cultural integrity and mutual support and comfort to becoming prejudicial or worse? Is there a healthy pride and natural preference or should we strive to overcome it and create a homogenous world? It seems clear that the right and wrong of it is all a matter of degree. Birds of a feather do naturally flock together. That is sometimes called cultural integrity. But as I have said in the past, racism is cultural integrity gone insane. It appears that such insanity has a physiological or organic component to it. It is not proactively overcome as easily as you may think. It is like subterranean ether in the blood that permeates heart and mind. It is like an overheating of the otherwise healthy blood chemistry of natural affinity. Once overheated, it must show its head in one prejudicial form or another. Attempting to suppress it one way only causes it to emerge in another. As racism is suppressed, political polarization and hatred go on the rise.
I remember the man I sat next to on a flight to San Francisco. He is a lifelong resident of Marin County. From his proud perspective, he was clearly open-minded, liberal, and beyond any trace of racism. Yet he was viscously intolerant of any opposing viewpoint. From his perspective, he had things all figured out and he was righteously indignant of any other viewpoint. Of course, in his opinion, he loved all humanity, all cultures, all races. But did he? Did he really? How little things have changed. As the saying goes, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” — “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” We ride upon these tides, currents, and waves of world karma within the ocean of life… far more so than most are able to see or willing to admit. Up creates down. Right creates left.
Is there a real solution to this? Yes, of course there is: human evolution… the balancing of fire (Agni) and water (Soma). The world is on fire. The people are righteously indignant. The shade trees have been cleared by the millions. Heat is on the rise. Global warming in this expanded sense is a certainty. Warming of the oceans would merely be one symptom of the greater dynamic. Attempts to rearrange the surface to hide what is going on in the depths will fail. Sweeping the dirt under the rug does not clean the house.
Where do you draw the line between cultural integrity and cultural arrogance? The answer to that is found in the depth of your being, not on the surface. But to do so, first the fire must be cooled. Proper meditation with the cultivation of discernment is the path.