White People at Play
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White People at Play • Posted: Sep 22, 2016 15:31:15Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

Yes, the title chosen is provocative. But it is true there are no Blacks or Hispanics or Asians within the images above. At the time, that fact bothered me. But this is an election year in the US. And our population has been physically sorting itself into various camps, tribes perhaps, for decades now. Birds of a feather ... You know how the saying goes. And in some sense, there is probably good reason for that. As with any species, we feel safer, more sure of who we are and what we are all about around people who are similar to us in appearance, mind, and behavior, where we all talk the same language, eat the same kinds of food, enjoy similar pastimes, and appreciate the same jokes.

But, try something for me. Look at the people in those pictures. See if you can read their minds, fathom who they are relative to each other and what they are doing. I bet that you can. The people pictured are not just meaningless blobs on the beach to you. You can imagine them to be real people, understand who they are to each other and what they are doing. You can do that because you have in your head a “theory of mind”, and are adept at using it to understand the people around you, even people in some static photograph, though maybe not all static photographs. It is probably true that hanging out with “our own kind” helps us to develop our personal version of a theory of mind. And similarly, those same interactions likely help us to refine our personal theories of self and of reality.

How strange, though, that when confronted with people who don’t outwardly look or act like what we’d expect humans like us to look and act like, we abandon refinement of our personal theories of mind, self, and reality and jump to the unfounded conclusion that those “others” are something less than human, something to be feared, or maybe shunned. How strange, because those other people are, in fact, humans too. Why wouldn’t we just include them in our activities, get to know them, and further develop and refine our sense of self, mind, and reality to both of our benefits? Instead, we create arbitrary antagonistic groupings?? Such thinking is the basis of civil wars in the Middle East and Africa, ethnic unrest in South Asia, lack of policy cohesion across the EU, and of paralysis in the US Congress. But, what good does such disjunction serve?

Sorry, but I don’t get that. Maybe one of you can explain it to me. Democratic principles provide a level forum for the meeting of minds and ironing out of differences to the benefit of all concerned. They do not outline a battlefield for the pursuit of selfish domination and exclusionary gains as if politics and the rule of law were a zero-sum game like football and soccer.

To my mind, it is always healthier, more interesting, more profitable, more fulfilling, and more fun to further expand and refine my personal theories of mind, self, and reality. If we ever get past the current, apparently global temptation to try severe protectionism and authoritarian fascism as palliative to our irrational fear of others based primarily on surface differences, maybe one day, most humans will feel the same, leaving those who don’t on the outside looking in at a decidedly mixed and happy party, perhaps wishing that they too embraced opportunity to expand and refine their personal theories of mind, self, and reality.

Sunday, September 4th, 2016