Sunday, September 1, 2013

THE THIN RED LINE


I have always considered myself fairly accepting and open-minded. My life motto is, after all, LIVE AND LET LIVE! I have friends from all cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds you can think of (including, and I can’t believe that I’m confessing to this in public, the conservative Christian right). Being “tolerant” used to be one of the most important goals in my life – until I started to question whether it was always such a good thing!

Our counseling program teaches the importance of both multicultural awareness and social justice. But that's the problem: While multicultural awareness requires acceptance of all kinds of beliefs and values, social justice requires standing up for the underdog. And that can sometimes be at odds with each other.

The dark side of learning and growing and becoming more sensitive to signs of oppression is that one suddenly notices how many people in her life are judgmental assholes.

And finding the balance between accepting different values and beliefs, and still standing up for what is right is HARD!

How on earth am I supposed to respond when a male friend publicly shares on Facebook that getting pregnant from rape shouldn't be a reason to seek abortion, because it’s a part of God’s plan and the pregnant woman should be grateful for receiving a “special gift”?! He has the right to have his opinion! But as a woman, I’m TERRIFIED of living in a society that wouldn't allow me to make a choice in case I got pregnant from rape (or got pregnant, period). Women from my friend's conservative Catholic community are welcome to not have an abortion if they believe it’s a murder, but I’m not a Catholic and can’t see any reason why I should live according to their principles. So if my friend actively supports anti-abortion laws that are oppressive to me and to millions other women, what do I say?

Mind you, not all cases are such gray areas! There were many instances in my past when I had little doubt that being tolerant to other person’s opinion was NOT the right way to respond. I will never forget my cousin’s friend back in Czech Republic, who informed me that “the Holocaust didn't really happen, that’s just Jewish propaganda – there were barely 2 millions that died in the concentration camps and honestly, those Jews had it coming anyway”! When upon investigation became known that this individual was a member of the Czech Neo-Nazi Party, I was DONE – and I didn’t give a crap whether I was being intolerant to other person's beliefs.

Because that’s the problem with tolerance: If you, in your quest to remain tolerant and open-minded, just stand by when people advocate for racism, sexism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, and whatever forms of oppression the creative human mind can come up with, than you are not much better than them, really! The changes in the world’s history didn’t start with people afraid to take a stance! I, for one, am coming to the terms with the fact that there is a thin red line between what I can tolerate as a different worldview and what I feel obligated to fight against. I’m bound to make some enemies in the process – it’s been already pointed out to me in some circles that I’m becoming WAY too passionate about societal issues – but you know what? In a fight for a better world, that’s a price I’m willing to pay.

Are you?


8 comments:

Adam Russell said...

You demonstrate admirable writing and I have to say that your points are easily supportable. I feel that you have a clear eye for ethical awareness - something a lot of folks are lacking.

That being said, you are a philosopher - a modern day one at that - and I mean that in a complementary way. As a caveat, while you are exploring human reasoning and the complexities of social norms and behaviors, let me state that this line of thinking is in many ways a luxury.

Now, imagine yourself married, 1-2 children, working day by day, exhausted, coming home to prepare dinner while your husband manages the children, or vice versa, point is: your viewpoints on life might remain the same (or they might change in some ways through this experience, i.e., looking at abortion a bit differently - or legitimately being able to argue with more affirmation) but your overall ability to ponder and analyze will be affected by the energy you use in order to care for your family. Eight-nine p.m. can roll around fairly quickly, and the dishes are now done, the place possibly cleaned up, the children bathed, their clothes and lunches ready. We haven't even begun to consider your personal time, your "free" time.

Gone (for responsible mothers) will be the long nights at a pub spent over drinks debating ethics and moral responsibility. Instead, you will be living that life yourself, because your children will be up at the crack of dawn needing your love and care.

You will shift from a theoretical ethicist, to one who manages a hands on approach. Books that discuss love and moral quality, will be shelved while you display love and moral equality to your children.

You will at many points, while holding your children as they sleep in various awkward angles on the couch, while you yourself fade in and out of sleep, while you ponder when to start the next great American novel, or where to pull the energy from to post on your blog, let alone brush your teeth, realize that you could not have imagined yourself complete without them. Your mind will ponder social reasoning according to their identities and needs almost exclusively.

You will apply all that you once discussed and pondered, to actual living human beings.

There will be nights when friends without children will still beckon you to them for such discussions. But you will smile to yourself on that couch, while your hand strokes a few bangs out of the face of your daughter and you pull your son more closely to you.

Your friends might discuss Immanuel Kant's categorical imperatives with intellectual grace, or debate the viability of Jean Piaget's theories on the evolution of adaptation - but you alone will debate the value of sleep.

You will come to realize then that the closest to immortality we can ever reach is through our children and the DNA chain that they take from you and your spouse. You will realize that the number one thing you can truly leave behind as a legacy, are loving good human beings.

Once the world holds a majority of such individuals, only then can we move forward as a species.

I have worked full-time while in grad school...so I know that you have your hands filled. But as any of your friends with children can tell you, no level of exhaustion from a busy intellectually stimulating lifestyle can compare with the 100% giving of yourself to your own family. It is, however, a labor of love.

So, while I love and admire your points, I merely am stating that like Rene' Descartes, who had the luxury to ponder the tangibility and malleability of a ball of wax in his hand whilst his servants had been up since the crack of dawn fielding his flowerbeds...realize that the life of a philosopher might belong to two types of people: The young, who are still in the wraps of being challenged and formed by their educators, or those who have cast off the incomparable love of children of their own.

I hope you can continue this path...but realize it is a luxury of its own :)

Global Chick said...

Yes, Mr. R, I get it. You folks who decided to have children are way morally superior to us, who are just doing things for fun.

I guess it doesn't count for anything that some of us childfree folks are trying to think about issues and seek answers because we chose a profession that will require us spending our lives making other peoples' lives better - and the society more just - in exchange for little money and no social prestige.

When I'm pondering things in my blog, I'm not trying to do it from a position of a philosopher who theorizes all day long because she doesn't have anything to do. I'm trying to find practical solutions that would benefit to all people in the society, many of whom are still, even in our free, democratic society, feel marginalized and ostracized.

But obviously, sometimes I keep forgetting that no matter what I decide to do in life, it will never be good enough because I made a decision to not become a parent. I sincerely apologize for having the audacity to speak my mind.

Anonymous said...

Hey Global Chick - loved "The Thin Red Line." Just read the comments. Guess it is 'morally wrong' to not have children and not be barefoot and pregnant. Remember, so long as your beliefs are different than someone else's they will constantly try to control you to fit into their model of what they think you should be.

As someone who actually knows you - and what you do - I have to say I applaud your writing and support your decisions.

Keep up the great work!

Ashley Eberle said...

I would like to respond to Adam Russell's comments. You make some good points that having children often shifts one's perspective. But you also seem to assume that all women will have children, and that their perspectives will automatically be changed by the experience. I would encourage you to consider that women make different choices -- including being child-free -- and they are all valid. Hopefully this wasn't your intention, but your comments seem to imply that those who haven't had children are naiive and have the "luxury" of thinking deeply and determining their own lives. It's not a luxury. It's a choice -- just like having children is a choice.

M@ said...

I think if Adam has the time to contemplate and write such a long post, he obviously has the conscious freedom to contemplate the ways of the world. He too can be a philosopher.

RoyO said...

Philosophy has gotten a bad name as theoretical pie in the sky. Philosophy is about the beliefs and values of individuals and society, which ultimately affects in a very tangible and practical way our everyday actions and quality of life.

Anonymous said...

@Adam: So, let me see if I get this correct. You are stating that in order for a person to be able to benefit the human race (and I believe you wrote it as this being the only way), you must have children and good children at that, in order to combat the deplorable conditions of the world.

But let me give you a quick list of some fairly famous individuals that you might recognize, who have given quite a lot to the human race, yet, did not have children:

1. Jesus Christ
2. Isaac Newton
3. Alexander the Great
4. Leonardo da Vinci
5. George Washington
6. Jane Austen
7. Florence Nightingale
8. Vincent van Gogh
9. Virginia Woolf
10. John Locke

So as you can see in the quick-list (as there are many more to display), I pointed out the names of individuals from a variety of fields who have in turn given the world a variety of impressive offerings.

Now that we've established that one does not need children to promote the human race and or to ride a wave into moral superiority...

I would rather you had stated that Margaret has joined in the effort of society to battle ignorance. She has chosen a specific path - importantly, her own path. While she may never have children, she will in fact continue to contribute to everything you stated as being important.

Finally, you made a glaring error in stated that Margaret is merely a "theoretical ethicist" when in fact, by guiding her own life along the path of moral and spiritual efficacy, she has indeed managed a "hands on approach". She is the physician who has healed herself.

Having children is a god-given choice (god in the common noun sense so as to include everyone's deity).

We also need our childless philosophers, those wonderful souls who have sacrificed the benefits of what you described (and be more considerate, not everyone is even able to bear children...you might have caused some anguish here).

Words for thought :)

Sarah M. said...

Can I simply ask why a someone who has children must shelve books of love and moral quality be shelved, etc etc etc? Lord knows people can have children and still remain independent thinkers, lovers of many things unrelated to their children. I am purposefully waiting to have children and settle down after I have educated myself and grown as a strong woman who will be ablet to love herself, but also love and raise her children to think like Margaret if they ever so please.