Thursday, October 21, 2021

superficialities and stereotypes

In a CBC opinion piece a Muslim thought leader, Narjis Karani, decries the reductionism of the words race, gender, religion and ethnicity as defining minorities. The superficiality obviously obviates cultural traditions, and patterns of behaviour that accompany the full identity of what are effectively still "colonized" groups.

Constricting those people by phrases like "s/he is religious but does not wear his/her religion on his/her sleeve", while it also has application among majorities, minority citizens feel more compelled to "fit" into their new society.

The tokenism that results, in her view, leads inevitably and tragically to assimilation as the erosion of the details of a minority's authentic choices continues.
It is not only the "devil that is in the details," that devil and those details are actually intrinsic to one's identity especially if we are ever to "do nuance" in human relations.

The collision of "nuance" in public affairs and public debates with perceived power agents and agencies is one of the most intransigent Gordon knots we have still not learn how to untie.
Glossing over a place and way for Jews to celebrate Shabbat and for Muslims to conduct Friday prayers, for example, by arguing there is no money or space or time in the organization's world view, amounts to a perpetuation if the colonial "top-down" mentality and conventional "hierarchy" that will no longer be tolerated.
Values and ethics and relationships are not reducible to their superficial acknowledgement, as.if that were adequate.

"Arm's distance" is a common vernacular for "professional detachment and is a cornerstone of the Praxis of many, including Christian, faiths. Detachment, and disengagement, ("s/he is becoming too familiar") sold under the rubric of "objectivity" and "order" and professionalism will not pass the basic test of human nature.

As one who has been accused by professional peers of "being too close" to the students in one arena and then decades later of being "enmeshed" in a congregation, not incidentally by men in both cases, I embodied the argument of the thesis in this piece.

The historic perception that social order depends on impenetrable boundaries between a public life and a private life lies at the root of Ms Karani's critique. And the linking of personal freedom as rationalization for such boundaries is not only specious but unsustainable.

The current phrase "power differential" that lies at the core of thousand of complaints of injustice, most by women against men, attempts to explain the injustice and the inequity that govern relationships between individuals who hold a rank higher than another in a personal relationship. The assumption, and it has deep historical roots, is that first men are more "powerful" than women and that any abuse of that power is the exclusive responsibility of the men. Often based on "legal" definitions and compilations of specific incident evidence, accusations and convictions are determined, without the benefit of "contextual" or what is deemed perjoratively as "circumstantial" evidence.
And the meme of male dominance and female victimhood not only continues but is substantially reinforced.

If we are going to move toward true equity and equality of minorities with majorities and of one gender with another, (setting aside for a.moment, the multiple issues of gender identity), it seems that a critical examination of who people are in some rigorous detail, how they behave both consciously and unconsciously and how we can and must move beyond religiously-based and sacralized determinants.

Getting to "know" students beyond their test scores and their public masks is essential for all teachers to be effective. Only in this way can appropriate mentorship take place.
Similarly, getting to "know" individuals in a congregation entails hearing their deepest fears and highest aspirations and dreams in a supportive and obviously confidential way.
This dynamic of "getting to know" is the one side of a human coin whose alternative side reads "please see, hear and respect me"!

Ms Karani as a Muslim wants to be able to shed the social and politically correct imposition of superficiality to her life and identity.

My students, without every uttering the words, wanted to be "seen" and "known" as evolving human beings with their talents and their warts. So too, again without ever emitting the words, parishioners want to be "seen" and "heard" and "valued" and respected far beyond their vote at a parish council meeting.

And if and when that sharing the process of "getting and beng known" veers into the intimate, we should not as a culture immediately rush to shame that intimacy as unethical, immoral or worse criminal.

Of course, the wannabe and the authentic "clinicians" among us will cry "Out with this specious argument!!"
Their very professional existence is founded on the objectivity and detachment and disengagement of which I write.

And it is certainly not rocket science to note that all scientific research carries with it the intimate human nuanced traits of the experimenter and that "human element" can never be fully excised from the research or from the results.

Is it not time for educators and religious leaders and practitioners to begin to remove the professional armour/mask their professions impose. Could they not be in  the vanguard of the thaw that melts the "ice" of professional and political faux protection from authority figures (potential colonists) and elevates the thoughts and feelings if us ordinary mortals to respectability.
And that would have to include shedding some dangerous myths about "power differentials" and "ethnic  minorities".

As individuals, we are each amazingly complex and needy and talented and unique. If that is true, why do we persist in subverting and repressing our uniqueness in such highly sophisticated and seductive ways?

Surely, it cannot be legitimately argued "for the public good"!



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