26 November 2012

Thanksgiving for us, not them

I am in Nicosia (Lefkosia, to the locals) in the Republic of Cyprus for an EU meeting. I walked across the "green line" to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus last night, to enter a country that's totally different (beer brands) but totally the same (guys watching football and smoking in outdoor cafes).

This island has been occupied by humans for over 3,000 years, with different rulers taking over every so often (Byzantines, Venetians, Ottomans, and the British, among others). From this history, it's possible for any group to invoke a narrative of oppression, struggle and victory over any other group, and that's what the Greeks on the south side and the Turks on the north side of this divided island have been doing for the past 50 (500?) years.

It reminds me of the struggle taking place a few hundred kilometers from here, between Israelis and Palestinians. It reminds me of many other struggles: Blue states versus Red states, one tribe against another, Turks and Armenians, Armenians and Azerbaijanis, Indians and Pakistanis, Pushtuns and Hazaras, et al. et al. et al.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. -- A. Einstein

DD sent me this nice rant from a UC Berkeley sociologist, about the genocidal celebration of Thanksgiving (not just the Europeans killing off the natives and taking their money, but American "tolerance" of the Holocaust).*

Hopefully, you see the connection between these nationalist movements (or oppression or liberation) and genocide: they are both narrations of the superiority of one group over another, and they are both intolerant of the differences that are actually the foundation of our strength as a species. These differences do not just make it possible for us to trade profitably with each other -- they are the differences that make it possible for us to imitate, differentiate and innovate from each other. Where would the world be if the Third Reich (or the Roman Empire) had indeed taken over everything? In a miserable, monolithic shithole, I reckon.

I don't know if humans will ever stop fighting with each other, but I do hope that more of us will see how stupid chauvinism and nationalism is -- not just for the fear and misery, but for the lost opportunity.

Bottom Line: I give thanks for the kaleidoscope of human diversity and its contribution to my life.

* His only mistake is to mention a "genocide" against turkeys, when that's the opposite of the case. We keep turkeys around for the same reason we kept slaves -- because they are economically valuable. That's why there will never be a turkey extinction problems like there's a polar bear extinction problem.

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