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"Minorities do not have a pecking order"
#1
I am as guilty as anyone of ridiculing religious belief and this article in today's Independent makes interesting and thought-provoking reading.

I have always tried to be careful when committing myself to the written word to make a clear distinction between a person's right to hold whatever views they like about the so-called mysteries of life, but whether or not they are based on belief or evidence they had better be ready to account for them if we get into discussion.

I was brought up in a quasi-Christian cult and only managed to begin the work of shaking off its tentacles in my mid-twenties. I think I still bear a lot of scars and I know that my intolerance of unsubstantiated and inexplicable religious theological dogma is heavily bound up in discovering that four generations of my family have been hoodwinked by the lies that I was brought up to accept without question. As Mr Vallely has noted, I may have shaken off the dogma, but an awful lot of stuff has stuck. Now in his eighties, my father has discovered the same thing for himself and is having a "hell of a time" dealing with it. Naturally my anger is exercised on his behalf too, not to mention on behalf of those of my children and their children who are perpetuating these same beliefs. However, much as I want to, I do not preach atheism to my children, although I have always expected them to be able to have thought through their reasons for their decisions. I know how much their faith is central to their lives and, as a father , I do not see it as my role to hack away at whatever they ground themselves in. I can only be there, as I have always tried to be, to enter into discussion knowing that some subjects are difficult and, in practical terms often best avoided, love them unconditionally and be there in moments of joy and sorrow as best as I am able. My kids are all adults and are quite capable of making decisions for themselves no matter how irrational I may consider their reasons. That, by no stretch of the imagination means that I consider that I am right and they are wrong. There are too many things in life to be able to understand them all.

Thinking about Paul Vallely's article, he seems to be making a case for minorities, whether based on gender, race, sexuality or religion, being given due consideration when arriving at decisions affecting social policy. The size or constituency of the minority is irrelevant, but his view seems to be that it is possible to accommodate all sensibilities.

From where I stand this is only really possible in a completely secular state. Once in power a particular interest group will naturally coagulate into factions that tend to favour their own. The bishops in the House of Lords are a prime example of this. Also, if you read the link I posted yesterday about a governor resigning from a church school you will see an example of how this dynamic works in our communities too. I am not optimistic about the present coalition government's plans to devolve prime functions away from government and local administrations to interest groups in order to save money and coincidentally perpetuate something called a "Big Society". If we stop looking for a moment people separate themselves into groups in which they feel comfortable. Segregation in education played its part in contributing to the troubles in Northern Ireland. If those of us who lived through the worst of those years thought that was bad I suspect we haven't seen anything yet :frown:

Constructing social policy with reference to minorities is a recipe for ghettoisation and disenfranchisement. If we, for example, sincerely believe that God has told us not to have sex with another man then we should only go with women, but whatever we believe should be personal and not the basis for recruitment of like-minded soldiers who will be expected to protect and promote our outlook on life. When the bishops complain that "aggressive atheists" wish to force religion out of public life and only take place behind closed doors they are, of course, being disingenuous. As usual, they forget some of the fundamental teachings of their saviour, including his parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple.

So, my question: to what extent is ambiguity as an enemy of stability the challenge that we have to face? As gay, bi, lesbian and transgendered people I think we have had to fight hard to find stability. Sadly, some of us will never find it. However, with our views on bisexuality, feminine men and the curious passer-through, how well do we ourselves cope with ambiguity?
#2
I think the key is not letting other people or groups or institutions define you...the key to stability is knowing who you are...being comfortable with yourself and having self respect.

Gay people in general have unfortunately internalized the BS directed toward homosexuality...it is part of our socalization both in general society and our families and unless you make a great effort to understand it there is a chance you will externalize it and we often oppress each other far better than our original oppressors.

I have always questioned the gay parade to alot of the people I know who actively particpate...asking them how can you ask for acceptance when you don't have "acceptance" to give to yourself or each other? It is the reason I do not participate...the hypocricy in general does not appeal to me.
#3
The moment any minority begins to attempt self-definition they are told they push their colour, religion, sex or sexual orientation into everyone else's faces often resulting in entrenchment and counter pressure. This all gets ramped up so easily and often very quickly.
#4
I do not like labels, I am what I am. I am a person not a number, I am an individual and I want to make my own decisions on how I want to live.

This was taken from Wikipeadia, a great resource for information.

Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that stresses "the moral worth of the individual". Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and so independence and self-reliance while opposing most external interference upon one's own interests, whether by society, family or any other group or institution.

Individualism makes the individual its focus and so it starts "with the fundamental premise that the human individual is of primary importance in the struggle for liberation." Classical liberalism (including libertarianism), existentialism and anarchism (especially individualist anarchism) are examples of movements that take the human individual as a central unit of analysis.

It has also been used as a term denoting "The quality of being an individual; individuality" related to possessing "An individual characteristic; a quirk." Individualism is thus also associated with artistic and bohemian interests and lifestyles where there is a tendency towards self creation and experimentation as opposed to tradition or popular mass opinions and behaviors as so also with humanist philosophical positions and ethics.


Freedom for the individual to act as an individual.
#5
I agree with both of your points...I should have clarified my original post a bit more...

I think the key is not letting other people or groups or institutions define you as an individual...the key to stability is knowing who you are...being comfortable with yourself and having self respect.

I am not sure that anything other than the basic shared sexual identities or skin colors can actually define anyone as a group but unfortunately alot of people let other people define them based on these and other things. When someone who is gay says "We Want......." it always strikes me as odd because I don't really want anyone speaking for me even though sometimes if I agree I am OK with it...and also when you ask for/demand equality it should be across the board,...not just for yourself. You either beleive in equality under the law for everyone...or you don't IMO. I see alot of ambiguity there.
#6
eastofeden Wrote:I agree with both of your points...I should have clarified my original post a bit more...

I think the key is not letting other people or groups or institutions define you as an individual...the key to stability is knowing who you are...being comfortable with yourself and having self respect.

I am not sure that anything other than the basic shared sexual identities or skin colors can actually define anyone as a group but unfortunately alot of people let other people define them based on these and other things. When someone who is gay says "We Want......." it always strikes me as odd because I don't really want anyone speaking for me even though sometimes if I agree I am OK with it...and also when you ask for/demand equality it should be across the board,...not just for yourself. You either beleive in equality under the law for everyone...or you don't IMO. I see alot of ambiguity there.


A few years back I wrote an essay on the evolution of speech in early hominids. By request, I asked if I could write some additional information on the issues surrounding taxonomy and the way in which the scientific community labels and categorizes. I found this quote in Michelle Foucault's, "The Order of Things: [FONT=&quot]“At the heart of this well-constructed language that natural history has become, one problem remains. It is possible after all that the transformation of structure into character may never be possible and that the common noun may never be able to emerge from the proper noun.” As Foucault describes, language itself is woefully inadequate to describe the world, even when put through the most stringent of scientific auspices. For years, anthropologists attempted to categorize humans into separate races, each time adding more races to the total number. Yet, inevitably, what has been found is that humanity--its various physical features, skin tones, heights, weights, and a myriad of other measurements--is made up of a continuum of attributes that one can trace through regions, nations, and continents. The Universe itself functions in continuums of time and space which have nothing to do with our arbitrary measurements hours, minuets, and miles. The same goes for sexuality. Humans have an easier time understanding the world when it is categorized and labeled. We do not posses the sophistication to posses and maintain a wholly functional understanding of the world in continuum. That is why we categorize ourselves by similarity and difference, homo and hetero. And, unfortunately, our tools of understanding, language itself, functions to divide us from each other at an epidemic level. Though, classifying does unite those with in a category, it inevitably excludes as well. There is much truth in the story of the Tower of Babel. Language still divides us, even if we are speaking in the same tongue. [/FONT]
#7
Thanks for your contributions so far. This is veering into some interesting territory. This will probably read like a stream of consciousness if you can wade through it.

I find myself riddled with contradictions. On the one hand I find being able to label myself a way of working out where I fit in the world, but while I can cope with, or even take pride in, some externally applied labels I completely refute others. Even within those categories where other people's definitions of me match my own, digging deeper reveals points of divergence.

One of the things I am aware I fear most is being misunderstood. The very worst aspect of this is to have my motives misrepresented by someone else. I try to seek clarity in careful use of language, but I am aware that the language I use may exclude many. At the same time as I seek clarity through refining my use of language I strive everyday to communicate ideas through music. Music communicates large and imprecise ideas as well as abstract concepts such as mood. Interpretation is very much left to the listener. Music is very much at the centre of my world. As a child and a younger man I soaked it up. Now, in middle age, I listen to other people's music far less. I fear being influenced and of unwittingly becoming a plagiarist as I try to find my own voice.

In the past I have joined groups and societies, but now I tend not to be such a joiner. At the same time as I reject membership of any church and many years ago allowed a political party membership to lapse I am staring at a membership renewal notice from the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Society, not knowing whether I consider myself a "humanist", yet fearing to lose touch with a group that promotes some of my own interests.

By now it may be apparent that I am habitually unstable, contradictory and generally confused, but I don't really know any other way to be. An answer to any question always makes me want to ask more questions. It's just that often I don't know where to start.

Instability may be normal for me, yet my life is not chaotic. I create my own anchorage points through relationships with the people I love and through the sometimes habitual engagement with everyday activities. PA indulges me in those - poor man, but I don't think my habits oppress him, or anyone else.

I think what I fear more than anything, though, is certainty. Of course, I couldn't live day to day without making some assumptions, but certainty scares me. My only certainty being that I certainly don't understand it in other people. Life is rich and exciting and I don't need to accommodate someone else's certainty for my life to be fulfilling. I am fascinated by the way other people live, but if they want to share their ideas with me I prefer to listen, thank them and ask them to go away and let me think about it. I don't want someone else's certainty to be used as weapon against me or those I love and care about most.


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