Friday, July 17, 2009

If I hate you, will you hate me back?

Since I started blogging some time ago, I have met some nice people who have become my friends, people who have patiently pried my closed mind open a few inches, people who have explained to me that my way of thinking is not the only way. My dear loyal friend A.; the always irreverent but oh-so-compassionate Ettarose; an old friend named Caroline who used to come around. People like that. These people have given me so much more than I have given them. Mostly, they have made me think. You can thank THEM for the following post.

Are you an original version Star Trek fan? Often you can explain deeper things by recalling the early episodes of Star Trek:

In this episode, there was an alien “cop” chasing an alien “fugitive” across time and space and had been doing so for eons. As luck would have it, the fugitive beamed himself aboard the Enterprise and claimed sanctuary. I know, I know. But when the cop alien came aboard and demanded Kirk give up the fugitive to him, Kirk asked him why he was trying to bring him back to segregation on the home planet.

Here, you must remember the terrible make-up jobs in the early episodes. The two aliens had half black skin and half white skin. There was a line right down the middle of their faces starting at the top of their foreheads, running down between their eyes, down the middle of their noses, down across the middle of their lips and chins, down the middle of their necks. They were black black on one side and white white on the other side. Terrible makeup: like a mime or clown white on one side of their face and greasy black blackface on the other side of their face. Ridiculous. But it was to prove a point.When Kirk asked the “cop” alien why they were fighting, that they looked exactly the same to him, the “cop” alien was shocked at what Kirk had said: “Are you BLIND??? He’s white on the LEFT side!!!”

The Middle East is kinda like that, Ettarose. Only, substitute “Jewish and Islamic” for “black and white.” Gimme that old-time religion.

What is “prejudice?”

Prejudice is many things, but, in the end, prejudice is hate. Prejudice is a special kind of hate that happens when someone is perceived to be somehow different than another.

Often that difference is very small, almost laughably small - like the aliens who looked exactly the same to Captain Kirk. One thing you can count on, though, and that is that the stronger of the two entities will somehow try to bully the weaker.

Maybe someone speaks English with a thick Spanish accent.

Maybe someone wears foreign-looking clothing to school.

Maybe someone wants to love someone of the same sex.

Maybe - and this is almost unbelievable - maybe someone has a different color of skin.

But, for sure, religion is right up there at the top of the list.

In Darfur, in the Sudan, as I write this, thousands of people are being persecuted: starved, raped, enslaved, murdered. Why? Because they are not Muslim, not part of the chosen ruling elite. Allah and His Prophet taught that this must be so, that the infidel may not live amongst the Chosen People. Or so they say. It is the thing Good Muslims should do. And if that is NOT what Allah and His Prophet taught, no matter.

In Kosovo, thousands of Muslims were “cleansed” by the Christian Serbs: raped, tortured, murdered, buried in shallow graves. It was the Christian thing to do. And if that is NOT what Christianity really teaches, no matter.

Prejudice and hatred for things that are different than you is as old as Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel; and as young as five minutes ago. How many wars have been fought over these small differences? How many wars have been fought in the name of religion? In the name of God or Allah?

Even more importantly, how many MORE children will be killed because someone blows himself up in a marketplace to avenge some unremembered original act? How many MORE people will have metaphorical fire hoses and dogs loosed on them because they don’t want to sit in the back of the bus or because they happened to be born with a different skin pigmentation?

I don’t have the answers. I only have questions. I only have my own set of prejudices I am carrying around.

I almost just said, “God help us.”


  1. Max, I watched a show once where some school aged children who were friends in the sense that they were classmates and played together every day in the school yard, were taken into a room and divided by their eye color. Blue eyes were the good people and brown eyes were the bad people. I was so surprised at the enmity these two groups of children showed each other and the fact that they almost came to blows because of the color of their eyes. It has been a long time since I have seen the show and I may have some particulars wrong but it really made me think about the word hate and what it was to me. It is definitely something in us as humans that make us hate someone we feel is different than us. Sad

  2. Not for one minute do I believe I had anything to do with changing your thinking. As far as I can tell, your mind has always been open. We all have our prejudices - I don't believe it's possible not to have any at all - but being aware that they're there, well that's another matter. I am flattered beyond measure to be called your friend.

  3. I wasn't listed among the people who made you think...but, then, I happen to agree with you on this post.

    A similar example was made by Jonathon Swift (whose sense of humor was VERY dark) and the Lilliputians divided by whether they broke their boiled egg on the little side or the big side.

    We all have more in common than we have in difference. Too bad we can't focus on that.

    I'm on the road, so I don't have access to my quote file, but I remember a good one by Helen Keller that said, If people devoted the time and energy they spent fighting the Devil to being kind to one another, the Devil would die of ennui.

  4. My favorite racist lesson was from dear old Dr Seuss, about the same vintage for me as Star Trek's half white/have black story. There was the story of the Star Belly Sneetches and the non star bellied Sneetches.

    The story was silly and it didn't teach me near as much about racism as a school mate who beat me up one day for calling him a name I should not have called him, but which my parents used at every opportunity.

    There are times when I don't miss the 1960s at all.

  5. "You have to be taught to hate and fear . . .it has to be drummed in your little ear, you have to be carefully taught."
    from South Pacific

    And I was. Much much harder to unlearn prejudice than to learn it.

  6. "Fear" is the underlying factor of most prejudice!

  7. Not just fear, in my opinion, but insecurity, that clawing fear that you're not as good as you think you are that can only be beaten back by proving your worth or, much more easily, by convincing yourself that others are worse.

    Prejudice/hatred/fear are, in my opinion, most readily fed by a need to find some rationale to feel relatively better about oneself by generally putting someone else down. Unfortunately, it doesn't actually make one better, so it becomes a neverending loop as those that still don't feel good about themselves after becoming meaner and more hateful (go figure) keep getting meaner and more hateful to "feel better."

    At least, that's my opinion.

  8. @Ettarose - So sad. I don't have the answer either.

    But, of course, everyone knows brown eyes are inferior to blue. (Hazel eyes are cool though.)

    A. - :)


    @Stephanie B - Thank you for quoting Helen Keller. I thought enough of her to feature her in my blog header. She was pretty cool.

    Jonathan swift? That's a good example.

    Trivia question: where did Gulliver travel to after he left Lilliput?

    Little known Helen Keller quote: "If I could see, I'd be reading Relax Max's blog. What a cool guy."

    @Descartes - I remember that Dr. Seuss one. And, like that song Janet reminds us of, "You've got to be taught..."

    @Janet - Was that South Pacific? Sounds familiar. The chorus to "Nothing Like a Dame" I think. But so true. I was lucky to not learn about racial prejudice at home. You came out ok. :)

    Trivia: Who played Stewpot in the 1958 movie version of South Pacific starring Mitzi Gaynor?

    (Hint: he had a connection to Sean Penn. Six degrees of separation as it were.)

    Nobody is going to get this. Sheila will Google it and pretend she knew.

    I remember it now. It was about prejudice against the natives. Bali Hai. I think. But I don't have an English major, so don't hold me to that.

    @Frostygirl - I respect your opinion very much. I believe fear is a very large part of many prejudices. I can't really imagine some of the tings you've experienced and witnessed as a white person in South Africa. You turned out pretty good, too. :)

    @Stephnie B - For sure, insecurity too. Some people - many people - can only feel superior by chopping others down. It is a hard cycle to break. I hope we are making dent in it as generations pass.

  9. The natives in South Pacific were Tonkinese (The song wasn't "There Ain't Nothin' Like a Dame" but actually "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught" - Michener INSISTED the song stay in even though it was critical of prejudice) and I could never get over her rejection of the French man because he had half-Tonkinese children. I know it wasn't that long ago when this was "normal" but it still challenges my sense of reason.

    After Lilliput, Gulliver was stranded in the world of giants which I can't remember the name of because I never could spell it, then Laputa which was all about the liberal arts, but nothing practical and then a world where humans (yahoos) are "base" and horses rule and are the intelligent leaders.

    I do not, however, know the answer to the Stewpot question. But I can sing pretty much the whole score.

  10. You'll be unsurprised to find out I have brown eyes, though I was the only one in my family with brown eyes.

  11. Brobdignag. Did I spell that right, never mind how I pronounced it? Most likely not right anyway, but it's the only other land I know from Gulliver.

  12. @Stephanie B - Thank you about the name of the natives. I hadn't remembered that. (I did know the song wasn't "Nothing Like a Dame" - I was just being stupid as usual.) The Frenchman. Wonderful Baritone. "Some Enchanted Evening." Wow. I can't think of the actor's name and refuse to Google. Wait. Rossano Brazzi, right? Spelled wrong, I'm sure. Stewpot (one of the sailors - the one who DID sing Nothing Like a Dame"), in the movie, was played by the marvelous Ray Walston (who was one of those people who never looked young, even when they were young.) He was, or course, also the Martian in "My Favorite Martian" TV fame, but in MUCH later years was Sean Penn's (who played Spicoli in "Ridgemont High") school teacher who got the last laugh. Such highbrow movies I watch. Descartes wouldn't review that one. But "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" wasn't nearly as bad as it sounds. Plus it had Phoebe Cates. Sigh.

    Speaking of six degrees of separation...

    The TV series "My Favorite Martian" also starred Bill Bixby. Bill later had another TV show called "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" (he also had another one where he kept turning into "The Incredible Hulk.")

    Anyway, in "Courtship," Bill had an oriental housekeeper, a quiet and wise woman who was Eddie's nanny as well. Her name was Miyoshi Umeki.

    Trivia question: in what 1961 film did she appear in as the Chinese mail order bride for Sammy (Jack Soo) who already loved Linda (Nancy Kwan)? This is a Rogers and Hammerstein broadway musical movie adaptation.

    Hints: "A Hundred Million Miracles"; "I Enjoy Being a Girl."

    Brown eyes are infinitely better than having none at all. :)

    Kidding. Brown eyes are swell.

    @Sheila - Brobdingnag. I had to look it up. It was the opposite of Lilliput where Gulliver had been huge. Here he was the small one. And I was going to ask what animal Gulliver could speak with when he finally got home, but Stephanie beat me too it by mentioning the horses. So cool, that book. Too bad most people only remember the cartoon movie of it which showed only his first travel, and didn't make an effort to bring out any of the morals, which was the whole point of Swift's book.

  13. I've never seen "Flower Drum Song" but I'd heard of it.

    I have a serious thing for a good baritone. Rossano Brazzi worked for me. Hmm.

    I never watched "My Favorite Martian" but I have seen a couple of episodes of "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" and I frequently watched "Incredible Hulk". I haven't found any more recent incarnation of IH as appealing as that early show.



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