The assumptions we make have consequences
Experiences, positive and negative, result in assumptions that drive policies, action and reactions, all of which have consequences for identity, for demonstrating—not just talking about—who we are as a people. A case in point is the current global immigration crisis.
The purpose of this blog is to reflect and appreciate through the contemplation of images, so my intention here is neither to judge nor offer solutions to this complex issue. Instead, I reflect on the assumptions underlying the creation of laws that drive decisions, which in turn have consequences. Atticus Finch’s closing argument in To Kill A Mockingbird, illustrates the power of assumptions.
“The witnesses for the State…have presented themselves to you, in this court, in the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted, confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption—the evil assumption—that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women, an assumption one associates with minds of their caliber. Which gentlemen, we know is in itself a lie as black as Tom Robinson’s skin, a lie I do not have to point out to you. You know the truth, and the truth is this: Some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women—black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. There is not one person in this courtroom who has not told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing, and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman without desire.”
The science of whole systems and biological evolution support the long term viability of “inclusion.” Life evolves by creating novelty, variety. Despite the accommodations it requires, the dynamics of diversity propels evolution forward. Within all living systems there are cells that, for a variety of reasons, are or become toxic. To assume that all or most of them are toxic would be ignorant and dangerous—the body would turn on itself. In the human body, the immune system is the first line of defense, protecting it against toxic behaviors. The social equivalent of the immune system are law enforcement agencies.
When a society fences itself off from diversity, as the previous administration did, it severely limits its most precious resource—people with potential, and seriously weakens its resilience in overcoming adversity. The more diverse the members in a system, the greater the experience and intelligence available to find workable solutions to crises.
Persons, humanely treated, have constructive potentials that can be cultivated. Aside from the few bent on destruction, the vast majority of immigrants are highly motivated to make things better. Their intention is to build. Among them may be the next generation’s grand contributors. Closing out also fences in. In time, the “insiders” will experience limited resources and labor.
A compassionate people view themselves as a whole, interdependent system composed of individuals capable of manifesting both light and shadow, angel and devil, good and evil. They devise laws and put into place systems that attempt to minimize the darkness, but not at the expense of the light.
Of course, the world has changed dramatically since the days of Ellis Island where 450,000 people entered the United States in the first year. And of the 12 million admitted between 1892 and 1954, only 2 percent were deemed unfit to become citizens. Certainly, the American “melting pot” was more of a “cauldron,” but out of it came the scientific geniuses, captains of industry, artists, engineers, philosophers, educators, politicians, day-laborers and you and me—who built and continue to build the most powerful free nation on earth.
Destructive forces have always played, and continue to play a central role in biological, human and social evolution. It’s one of the ways that nature continuously renews herself. Now that humanity is largely directing its own and the planet’s evolution, it’s how we learn what works, what doesn’t and how to manage the shadow aspect within us and around us. Over the past four years we learned that a reactive and biased posture, operating from fear and exclusion only concedes more power to the forces of destruction. Negative thought and energy begets more negative energy.
The measure of a people’s strength is not their potential to blame, belittle or fend off diversity. It’s the ability to create a context wherein diverse people can live and work together safely, optimize their health, pursue an education if they want to and help each other to realize their potentials and dreams.
Breakdowns occur in nature and in life as pressures to pay attention, make a fresh examination of the situation and choose more wisely by considering the consequences of any action before it’s taken.
With regard to making judgments about any group of people, I repeat Atticus’ response to the evil, shadow aspects of human nature, made by the prosecution and bystanders.
We know the truth, and the truth is this: some people lie, some people are immoral, some people, irrespective of race, religion, national origin or worldview cannot be trusted. But this is a truth that applies to the entire human race. There is not one person in this courtroom who has not told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing, and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman without desire.”
Holding a mirror up to one’s self encourages tolerance, fairness and compassion, qualities associated with light.
Begin challenging your assumptions. Your assumptions are the windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile or the light won’t come in.
Photography Monographs (Click on the pages to turn them)