Reorienting: Any Port in a Storm of Ideology
Unless you’ve been on an extended spelunking expedition, you’ve probably heard that President Obama has openly stated his support for gay marriage. This is already causing all sorts of interesting ripples, not least amongst some of the President’s most ardent supporters.
And it really IS a problem caused by ideology, by the basic human impulse to grab onto an idea, and claim its universal validity. We want our ideas (and beliefs, which are just another kind of idea) to be true because, on a deep biological level, it makes us feel safer. Now, that’s not inherently bad; in fact it’s been quite useful ensuring the survival of the species. The tricky part is that most of our existence on this planet has been spent living in small, intensely socially homogenous groups. This is a problem because, especially in the context of the workplace, how many of us can still make that claim?
In order to deal effectively with the fact of diversity, the fact that we are in fact all different from one another, we have to increase our capacity to SEE the differences of others on their own merit, as opposed to claiming we’re “blind” to difference, which is a simple fallacy. It’s impossible for us to be blind to difference (whether of skin color, or accent, or religious belief, or sexual identity); your brain is built to make judgments, and so judge you will.
However, the more aware we are of the judgments we make and, more importantly, WHY we make them, the more effectively we can understand why we believe what we believe, which is the first step to really understanding that, while beliefs and values are necessary for each of us, none are universal. If we’re all individuals, they simply can’t be.
So, back to the President. You’ll notice that though he’s stated his support for gay marriage, he’s not asking anyone else to do the same. At least in this instance, he’s avoiding the storm of ideology. And if that leads to reflection, to a richer dialogue around this and other issues, politics aside, it’s a human victory.