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April 08, 2010

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It's a nice complaint, to decry the characterization of a continent and it's people...however this borders on ridiculous. There is literally no way to discuss any of the problems that haunt the countries of the African continent without stepping on any of the thousand or so toes he enumerated. Also...that's journalism. You CAN'T write an article about something without characterizing situations or people. You can't write about some villiage and include a chronology of every life and death, birth and marriage, every woe and wonder. It just doesn't work that way. For every happy story, there is a sad story going untold and sad one, a happy one is unwritten. The very nature of writing about something means that it is going to be characterized in a certain way. Journalists, like Documentarians sometimes get confused between the reality they're reporting on and the reality of THEIR REPORT. There is no way to depict anything as a whole, real experience, or whole real people. Any article, or documentary that appears to is just well made, it's not any more complete though. The very act of taking a photograph, even of a "real" event is already going to be effected by the bias of the camera's scope and what the photographer chose to include in the photo. The mistake is believe that any sort of media can represent the totality of direct experience, and living reality. Just as it's foolish to believe seeing a beautiful painting of a mountain range is the same as standing on a precipice.

Also some one complaining about Africa being associated with wildlife, civil wars, post-colonial anarchy, or oppressive white minority ruled regiemes is like Australians complaining about being associate with the Koala Bear, or the South being associated with Banjo music...or really any other stereotype one area believes about another because of it's limited direct experience.

Realizing any culture other than your own as fully human is completely at odds with everything we've ever been taught about identity. Us vs Them has been around for as long as there were atleast two seperate villiages of people. Cultural, Ethnic, and reigonal identites by their very nature set up an "Us, and the rest of them" mentality. Nevermind the exponentially powerful effect on spreading that divide that religion then exerts, especially proselytizing, aggressively monotheistic ones. I saw a bumper sticker, next to a "Got Jesus" one the other day that said "Tolerance is for those who lack conviction." That's the kind of nonsense you're up against. A world where we could all see our intrinsic humanity over our silly label based identities would be fantastic...probaly in both senses of the word. Forces that have been at work on human societies for MILLENIA would have to be fought back, and people would need to travel almost endlessly to actually get direct exposure to other peoples and societies so as to avoid the dehumanizing characterization and stereotyping that eventually leads to identity based conflicts. Also every culture in the world is fully human, as you've asserted, however this doesn't mean that some aren't violent, oppresive, destructive, predatory or unsustainable. Slavery, genocide, ritual mutilation, and war are also all products of "fully human" cultures.

The only real way I could see large portions of the world uniting under a understanding of our shared humanity is ritualized, and guided hallucinogen use. You're probably chuckling to yourself right now, but I'm dead serious. In cultures where such things are still practiced, the most common description of the participants experience is that of experiencing their own actions through the eyes, or as someone else, or otherwise gaining an apparently subjective viewpoint on their own actions and beliefs. This is an enormously potent bit of experience, and the resulting wisdom of the shared existence of all things is something that Western culture is almost completely devoid of, and is actually ideologically almost diametrically opposed to the whole concept of the culture of "Me." Unfortunately the puritanical beliefs of our ancetors, mixed with the possible suppresion by organized religious authorities early on has robbed "western" civilization and any decendent of Judaism of a cultural context for such experiences. Think about it. Christianity hasn't approved of mysticism and direct religious experience basically since it's codification 1700 years ago. Instead it changed it's focus to describing relgious experience, rather than encouraging, or even condoning the participants to actually attempt to enter into a state of directly felt religious ecstasy. Because those who have seen over the wall know that all the labels are false, and all the vestments are just burlap sacks. I will cut myself off here, because that's bascially the subject of an entire dissertation.

Carry on.

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