These days, it seems, we are told what we are by others. Ever since we gain the ability to reason (say around the same time as we can vote, or maybe way earlier for some), people, pressured by society, throw tags at us, in an attempt to define us. And as we learn and master this technique, so we do to others. It is a way to make our lives easy and convenient, by applying previously acquired or passed on knowledge to new findings that are similar or “close enough” in nature, so that we understand them, all of them, right away. I’m talking about these words we use when we introduce ourselves or talk about who we are or what we do. American, Chinese, straight, gay, black, white, democrat, republican, writer, plumber. It is all the same, predefined categories where we fit in or we don’t. The simple fact of filling out a form, selecting the best options from a bunch of closed multiple-choice questions, would therefore define us to perfection. Sociologists would be able to predict our behavior with pinpoint accuracy. In science this is called determinism. In the streets we call this prejudice.
Thanks God (just an expression) real life is not that simple, at all. We are not pre-programmed robots. Our skin is not a 100% white or black or yellow. We do not abide by the whole democrat or republican creed. We can write and play basketball and do the plumbing for our neighbors. We can feel attracted to men, women, or transsexuals, who cares. We are individuals, complex human beings gifted with a precious free will, with a unique life story. We are what we want to be, what we do every single day. And do not ever let anybody tell you otherwise.
This reduction of reality we are talking about is extremely dangerous if unchecked. Think about it. Attached to these seemingly innocuous tags, depending on the culture and local context, there is a variety of connotations, and even ideology. I remember some American friends of mine, back when I was living in Paris (France) in 06-08, who were ashamed to say their nationality in the Bush years. Luckily Obama came to the rescue, and they got their pride back. “Hey dude, the fact that I was born in America does not mean I voted for Bush, or even support him engaging our country in war.” That’s what they were thinking but didn’t have the courage to say out loud. Not an easy thing to do. Applying for a job sometimes feels that way too, you have to state your gender and race, for “diversity empowerment” purposes supposedly. But what if I don’t consider myself a male or a female. What if I am not a “pure” hispanic, or asian, or black. And even if I were, what would this have to do with anything?
This language that we use is a self-made trap. When we say “positive discrimination of minorities”, we imply that anyone who is not a “white male” belongs to a “minority”, and s/he is inherently going to be discriminated, negatively or positively, for it. When we call an approach “bottom-up”, or a target “bottom of the pyramid”, there is a false understanding that some people are at the bottom and others at the top. We are not going to reach equality by using terms designed to perpetuate inequality in our minds. Sorry, I don’t need your positive discrimination. Sorry, I’m not at the bottom of any freaking pyramid! I’m a human being. Like you. I have the same rights, ride the same ship (“Spaceship Earth”), and share the same destiny. Let me qualify or not based on my merits. Fund my project because you believe in me and the impact I can create in the world; and not because of the wealth, or lack of it, of my family.
Easier said than done, right? True. This is utopia, reality is a lot harder. When we talk about “selection based on merits”, we need to be careful about how we define merits. Because if by such we understand degrees from top-notch colleges (what’s “top-notch” once again?), then, all of a sudden, we are the ones perpetuating this elitist discrimination. Merits are something different. An attitude of humility perhaps, manners of respect, a desire for learning, a determination to do better, a profound understanding that we are all part of a whole and sharing is the key to happiness. So, how do we measure and compare that? Easy. By giving people a fair chance. By removing systemic barriers that hinder equality. When we stand for free higher education, universal health care and social security, decent-paying jobs, making voting easy, equal pay for equal work, marriage for all, maternity leave for both parents, a progressive tax code where we all pay our fair share, or getting big money out of politics; this is precisely what we are doing: eliminating obstacles that prevent social mobility. Fighting for a society where opportunity is commonplace, for everybody. Isn’t that the essence of the American Dream? To be able to make it no matter where you come from, the color of your skin, or your last name? So that a kid called Barack, half black half white, raised by a single mother, can make it to President of the United States. So that a kid, son of a Jewish, poor immigrant from Poland, raised in a tiny and crowded apartment in Brooklyn, detained for marching for civil rights alongside black fellows, and running a campaign funded solely by citizens’ donations, can make it all the way to the White House, and spark the greatest movement of our generation.
This compelling comic-like figure I saw on Twitter (@people4bernie) the other day, says it all:
I’m particularly interested in one aspect of the whole story, and it has to do with ideas, ideologies, politics and yes, movements for change. At last, here starts the good stuff, you might be saying, hum? Yep, you are right. To introduce my point, just read the news on a given day in an election year, in a mainstream journal. In the US, for instance, you are going to get a stark distinction between democrats and republicans, as if that was all that there is in a country with more than 300 million inhabitants. “I’m afraid you people -independents- are mere castaways and don’t deserve a single article,” is what they are telling us. Or “please, squeeze in the system, chose your camp.” Being a “republican” or a “democrat” automatically means we agree with and accept the whole “ideology” of the party. This complete set of responses and arguments, that can spare you in any given discussion, are defined by the elites, who know better than us what we think and want. After all, if they went to all these cool schools, have all this money, privileges and contacts, they might be entitled to do so, right? Well, I don’t know about you, my friend, but I prefer ideas. My own ideas. The ideas that I share with my fellow citizens, and that we craft and improve together. Ideas that unite and empower, as opposed to ideologies that separate and weaken. Because while ideologies are there to defend you (say from the media or in court); ideas you have to fight for them, and shape them, and spread the word on them. And not just on election day, but every single day. They are the fabric of movements. Sharing an idea with somebody is an intimate act. Like a kiss, or a look in the eyes. You pass this wave of energy to the next person, and it comes back at you, magnified, multiplied. It becomes the common good, the glue that sticks us together, the rising sun on the horizon that sets our direction.
Ideas, are the backbone of legitimate leaders. Real leaders, like Senator, President-to-be Bernie Sanders (I feel the Bern too, hell yeah!!!) lead by example, embody the ideas they fight for. And Bernie has been standing for these ideas, and for us, the people, his entire life. “For every major mistake America (and the World) has made in the last 30 years, there is a video of Bernie Sanders trying to stop it,” reads a well-documented comment, and video collage, on Facebook. “Finally, perhaps the biggest reason Sanders is surging is because he is a genuine person with real beliefs,” quoting an article in the Huffingtonpost. Come on, dudes, this is not a “perhaps”, this is THE reason why we love Bernie. Consistency with one’s guiding principles is what earns you respect, recognition and legitimacy. And that, my friend, attracts millions of people to the cause. Because it’s powerful and you want to feel it. Because it’s beautiful and you want to share it. Because it’s true and you just want to be a part of.
Bernie Sanders, the Bernie Sanders in all of us, he is bringing to life our hearts, dormants for a time. He was awakened in us our collective conscience for one another, and made us realize that people power is boundless. That love always, always, always trumps hatred. And that there is nothing we cannot accomplish when united. I recently discovered two “weird” groups on Facebook: “Republicans for Bernie”, and even “Rednecks for Bernie” (that’s a good one haha!) But those were no anecdotes. Quite like the many foreigners overseas phone banking for the movement (you heard it right, making expensive international calls to contribute!) Or the magnificent street art inspired by Bernie in the streets of New York or L.A. These are all unmistakable signs that this movement, that our movement, is winning.
The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to share it. After 35 years of existence on this miraculous Earth, I now know what my gift is. Let me share with you this sense of togetherness. Let me Vote for You. Let me Love You 😉
New Jersey, New Mexico, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, California, we vote tomorrrow. Let’s grow this Movement. Let’s do this!!
#CAPrimary #NJPrimary #MTPrimary #NMPrimary #NDPrimary #SDPrimary