BLITHE SPIRIT 4/3/96, Color-blind, religion-blind, politics-blind . . .
Two Cents and worth it
It's said we can't be a color-blind society, because there are too many skeletons in our closet. We're religion-blind, glossing over religious differences for the sake of religious peace. Where would we be if we drove home religious differences with the same zeal with which we drive home racial differences? Call it your revolutionary thought for the day.
For example . . .
Senatorial candidate Al Salvi's law partner, a state rep from Wheaton, has a bill up to outlaw censorship of American history curriculum "based on religious preference." It has the ACLU and American Jewish Committee up in arms, who say it opens the doors to special religious pleading in the classroom by creationists and other true believers.
But what about the authority higher than George III mentioned in the Declaration of Independence? What about the thinking behind the Mayflower Compact? the Sun-Times asks. But the bashful Pilgrim John Alden is not around to speak for himself regarding the latter, and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, so what does he know?
This can of worms the Wheaton man is opening was bound to be opened. Push long enough and hard enough for cultural and other awareness, and some are bound to say sauce for the secular goose is sauce for the religious gander. I hope I have that right. If I don't, sue me.
A rally against ageism is set for May 1 at Spertus Institute on Michigan Avenue. Couldn't believe my eyes. I'm all for it, at 60-something I have only 30 or 40 years to live. A panel of distinguished speakers will raise awareness. Limited seating. Several Oak Park and River Forest agencies sponsoring it. Sigh.
It solves a problem for many white males my age: how to gain identification as part of an oppressed group.
Right? Who among us has not yearned for the notoriety, the distinctiveness, the sense of being somebody that comes from belonging to such a group? We're talking hype here, not the reality, which is no fun but has gained cachet. Thus hyped -- or mau-maued, as Tom Wolfe put it -- we wonder: Everyone else is, why not us?
A rally no less. No march?
Seneca again, on anger again . . .
The old Roman Seneca, Emperor Nero's disappointed tutor, urges talking yourself out of the anger habit. Wants us "repeatedly (to) set before ourselves its many faults," and thus head it off at the pass. "We must search out its evils and drag them into the open," the better to see anger as "damnanda" -- "to be condemned."
Good Stoic that he is, he believes in mind over matter, that as human beings we can talk ourselves into things. We just (just?) have to concentrate, work our way through things, think a lot about it, review reasons. It’s called meditation by some.
Garbage in, garbage out again, in this case good things in, good things out. What you concentrate on, you can become. Like Jesse Jackson's leading kids in saying, "I am somebody," though that's more autosuggestion or mantra-recital than reasoning. The Senecan practice is easily mocked and can be too glibly endorsed. Never mind that. Such objections don't get to the heart of the matter.
More Seneca on anger: controlling it . . .
The best cure is to wait it out. "Dilatio" is the Latin word, related to our "dilatory." Use delaying tactics. Do nothing until you hear from sweet reason. Plato caught himself in the act of bashing a slave and held the pose, looking silly. "I'm punishing an angry man," he explained when someone asked him what the hell he was doing holding a stick in mid-air. The slave got off.
This is Seneca's account, making the point that you are responsible for yourself. All your grand ideas about reforming the world? Great. But know yourself and reform yourself.