Saturday, September 14, 2013

Conversations with Great Minds

I recently happened to stumble upon this interesting show, while watching Public Access TV, called Conversations with Great Minds, and I was pleased to discover that all of the videos of that show are also available to watch for free online. There's a lot of interesting material there, much like a combination of TED, C-SPAN, and Democracy Now, and if you haven't ever watched it I recommend that you do.

Note to self: I need to dedicate at least half an hour per day viewing educational, interview type videos, taking notes and writing some sort of response, summary, review, etc., to such material, on a weekly basis. It is a good habit to get into, particularly for the studious, lifelong learner, aspiring writer, and perpetual student. To me, if nothing else, it's a much better use of time than playing video games or getting drunk. Hey, what's the worst that could happen? Waste your time, or blow your mind...

Well, I happened to catch just a little bit of the episode with Thom Hartmann interviewing Cornel West, and haven't watched the whole thing yet, because I'm still using this pitiful little net book that is technically challenged while viewing streaming videos, it loads but the picture is so small and sometimes it freezes, but wanted to comment on something that Mr. West said in that video that stood out in my mind. 

He made some mention about valuing the lives of all children equally, no matter what country they live in, whether it is Iraq, France, Mongolia, the USA, or any other country in the world, he loves them all as if they were family. And it wasn't just children, but all people. Not his exact words, but that was the sentiment.

Well, it's certainly a noble point of view to take, and it sounds good in theory, but is it really true, is he really being honest? I mean people say it, but do they, in the deepest depths of their hearts, really believe it? Do they really value the life of a stranger, particularly a stranger living in a foreign land, equally to the life of their own family and friends? Or maybe that's not what he means. Maybe he doesn't mean the same kind of love a person would feel for their own family, but more of an extended sense of kinship, the respect and consideration you'd feel for members of your community. The second reason seems more understandable to me, the first one not so much.

I show all people common courtesy, respect and consideration, don't cause problems for anyone, but if I don't know a person, or don't have anything in common with them, a stranger in my own city has pretty much the same significance to me as a stranger in another country, which is to say, virtually none. Which means I neither love them or hate them, but my feelings are pretty much neutral. So yeah, I don't value the life of one nationality over another, in the sense that most of them, including people in my own country, are all strangers to me anyway, but still it only seems natural that you would feel more kinship for someone that you actually know or that you share something in common with.

But to say that you love strangers thousands of miles away, I have trouble believing it, because I myself do not feel that way at all. Though like I said, I do feel a certain element of respect for people, in the sense of treating them fairly and kindly. I am a kind person who would never willfully cheat or harm anyone without just cause. Just cause is largely a matter of personal defense, or defending the greater cause of justice. Loose terms, sometimes, but overall, I value peace and kindness and respect. Sometimes people are real shit holes, though, they harm, they steal, they bully, and disrespect, and wage war unjustly.

How do you deal with it?

It's the dilemma of being human.

I myself recognize the value of showing people respect, and giving them the benefit of the doubt, assuming that they are innocent, as opposed to being ruthless criminal killers, and respecting the value of all life, regardless of nationality, race, or gender. Sounds good in theory as an ideal, but how does it play out in reality?

Most people are not world travelers. Most of what we know about what's happening in other countries, and our exposure to the people in other countries, comes from television. But viewing other people on television, is not reality. You do not know the people on TV. It is an abstraction. Reality is face to face and in the flesh. When we deal purely in mental constructs, ideas about things we do not personally experience or images of people or places we don't personally know, it is easier to both marginalize people, as well as to idealize them, perhaps more than you would if you actually knew them or saw them face to face.

I can talk about loving everyone, as an abstraction, as an ideal value, you know, in the sense of universal brotherhood/sisterhood, but do I really feel it when I'm looking at a complete stranger face to face, while on the street or in the store, or wherever?

No. Not really. Not unless I know them and actually like them do I feel a fondness for them. Yeah, I can admire someone I don't know, to some degree, assuming I know enough about them to form that opinion, just as I've admired certain authors and celebrities I've never met, but I wouldn't call it love. I do not love people just for being people. But I can and do show them kindness and respect, if I have the chance, and if that's what Mr. West means by love, then I'm in agreement. Otherwise, I cannot relate.

Well anyway, interesting comments by Cornel West. Will have to watch the whole thing soon, and maybe read his books. 

*This is post 7 of 20, part of my 20 Posts in 30 Days challenge. 

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