This is a hard one, because there are SO many things I would change about the world if I could. From governments that play games with each other across the globe, allowing atrocities to happen to other humans and the environment because their hands are ‘politically tied’; to our messed-up conceptions of what it means to be beautiful; to the way that education has slipped into being a form of standardized tests, void of much actual learning or expanding of the mind (which is what actual education SHOULD be). No, the first thing that I would change, that perhaps would help with some of the above, which make me insane when I read about how another state has cut funding to the social sciences, or how Monsanto is spreading it’s GMO seeds everywhere, is the lack of TOLERANCE and ACCEPTANCE that we as humans have for each other.
This is not a new thing. Ever since we were half-naked tribes and bands of hunter/gatherers roaming the plains of the Middle East, there was an ‘Us vs Them’ mentality. Some researchers think that this is a survival mechanism, ingrained into our animal instincts for survival. You attack and take out the ‘Them’ that threaten you. Now, when we were happy Hunter/Gatherers, this might have been applied both to other bands of H/Gs trying to encroach on our food supply, or to a band of lionesses trying to eat us. The animal response kicks in and you attack what is different because different is not safe.
This mentality has remained as we settled and developed civilizations, languages, religions, complex cultures, taboos and hierarchies. And it has been used as an excuse to kill, subjugate, steal from, attempt to force conversion, and in some cases completely annihilate whole cultural and religious groups for centuries. This is NOT ok. We are all from the same place. Whether you believe that place is the Garden of Eden or Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, we, as Homo sapiens sapiens, every human on this planet are the SAME. There is no such thing as race. Every culture, every belief system, every form of thinking or being or acting or loving developed on THIS planet. We are different because we have different geographical and cultural influences. Our past is what shapes us, and defines us. Our culture is what creates our identity, our likes, dislikes, tastes, conceptions of what is right and wrong, and ways of viewing the rest of the world.
People use the excuse all the time that as humans with higher functioning brains, we must be better than other animals. We must be the leaders of this planet, we have the right to do with it as we see fit. But when those ‘highly functioning’ brains go to war, whether on a different belief system, a different lifestyle choice, or on a different way of viewing the world because it is DIFFERENT and therefore DANGEROUS, then we need to stop and think about how exactly we are using these brains of ours. Instead of teaching younger generations to accept difference and learn from it, choosing their own conception of what is good; we teach them to fear, abhor, and attack what is different.* ‘If they don’t believe what I believe, then they are wrong and I am right because xyz said so’. We are highly functioning, smart animals. We should be able to easily stop conflict through words, and accept differences by trying to understand them, and then finding a common ground, even if that common ground is just one grain of sand to share. We should be able to easily change our worldview to see things that are new as an opportunity to learn, instead of a thing to destroy or re-mold into something comfortable for ourselves. But we are a product of our cultures. And cultures take time to change.
The world would be a very boring place indeed if we all thought, believed and acted in exactly the same way. The beautiful variety of foods, languages, arts, and minds that populate Earth is what makes it so special, for those people who can appreciate it for what it is: diverse. Every major religion on this planet was founded on the basis of love. Learn to love and accept the difference, tolerate those who have different points of view, and teach them about yours. Don’t expect or demand people to think, believe and act exactly like you. No one wants a parrot following them around repeating everything they say, do they? So why would you want to live somewhere where personal expression is just a parroted version of a dominant idea? Now, I’m not saying that I am all hippy-dippy, sitting in a field holding hands with those who I don’t agree with, totally accepting their point of view because I am so developed and I can see past all my cultural influences to find the higher sameness we all share. I’m not perfect, and I admit that it drives me crazy when people are utterly close minded and refuse to think that there might be a different way to think or do or act. Or when they are completely opposed to my way of thinking. Yes, that grates on me, but I accept it, and if we can’t discuss our different points of view, we probably just can’t be friends. That’s ok. You don’t have to be friends with everyone, but you can’t demand they change who they are to make you more comfortable. Let them on their way, and you go your own way.
Embrace difference, tolerate what you don’t agree with, and live for love. That’s how I think we can change our culture, and the world.
*obviously, this is not a universal. Some people are amazingly open and tolerant, and I wish they would have more children and spread their tolerance across the world. The ‘We’ here refers to the family unit, the schools, the churches, and the governments of the world. Many of them are guilty of this.