13 March 2012

Human: everything else is detail

Having lived in other countries and cultures for many years now, I do not take the advantages of my birthplace for granted. I had a safe society, ample food, excellent medical and educational facilities, family and friends nearby. We went camping, had pets, and could move about freely.

Having worked with refugees these past years, I have met people for whom that was not true, none of it. They were not perpetrators of violence, had not started unrest or rebelled against legitimate government. They were just of the wrong clan, tribe, sect or colour. The strike against them was not of their choosing, but a fact of their birth.

None of choose where we are born.

None of us choose our first language or the stories we're told and learn to live within. Those things are given to us. Yet those are often the things by which people judge us.

I have many times been derided because I live in Auckland. Those outside of NZ will not understand that prejudice. I have been relegated to lesser positions because I am a woman. I have been judged because I am American. I have been maligned because I am a Christian.

Some of these categories are of my choosing: some are not. None of them are reasons for assigning greater or lesser dignity or respect to my personhood.

The prejudice against Mexicans, Asians, islanders or villages is just ignorant arrogance at its ugliest.

It labels humans as 'other' and is based on a factor outside of the individual's control: the place of their birth.

We're all in this together. Ethnicity, gender, etc, are subcategories of humanity.

When you watch a small child die because they were born too far from the medicine they needed, and you realise that child is the same age as your nephew, it all becomes simple and clear. We're humans, on an uneven playing field, and we've got to work together or it's all just too hard.

Jowa stood with a sour expression and ... "We're not going to die for someone else's fight. I fight for Tibet. I fight for Tibetans."

Gendun's eyes settled on Jowa. "It is only the chance of birth that made you Tibetan in this life," he said in a tentative tone, as if puzzled by the purba's words. "You may be Chinese in your next. You may have been Kazakh in your previous." Eliot Pattison, in Water Touching Stone

- Posted on the go

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