Rangi Krishnan

Identities, Diversity and Cycles in Time

(The views expressed here are that of the author only. This article looks at the search for identity in the context of diversity and cycles and the cost of the pursuing separatism having regard to the Israel / Palestinian issue.)

16 July 2021
Identities, Diversity and Cycles in Time

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It is said that history does not repeat but it does rhyme. This statement not only endorses the existence of cycles but also affirms the fractal nature (referring to self-similarity) of such patterns. Cycles are cycles simply because they reflect a rhyming of past events in time. We are all familiar with cycles; from the seasons of the year, the monthly cycles responsible for your very existence on this planet, to the psychological dramas going round and round in your head and I’ve referred to this in an earlier article. We are all familiar with working with the cyclical nature of things (going with the flow so to speak), to becoming entrenched in pathological behaviour. Cycles exist at all scales; from the personal level to the grand cosmic display. There is no denying the existence of cycles given we are so heavily reliant and enmeshed with them. They are part of our life on this world. This story is about one such pattern that I see playing itself out on the world stage and I have to warn you that it is not pretty.

Now that I have set the scene concerning cycles, I need to explain my reference to identities. Most civil movements begin by forging an identity. Then the process of getting recognition happens which sometimes includes violence. The young are often eager to be heard while the elders are often too vested in the status quo so a clash is inevitable – it’s only a matter of degree. The same applies between those who have and those who are dispossessed in some way. Eventually, most are resolved through integration and, unfortunately in extreme cases, through annihilation.

History abounds with examples of various civil rights movements; women’s liberation, black rights, Maori rights under the Treaty of Waitangi, the Jihadist movements just to name a few which barely touch the tip of the iceberg but you get the picture. It is all about being able to participate in life while maintaining one’s individual uniqueness. It reflects the ultimate celebration of diversity in human culture when new thoughts become part of mainstream.

Just to be clear, when I refer to “integration”, I do not mean “multiculturalism”. I do not mean simply the acceptance of differences. I mean the right to participate fully in life, socially and politically, while being allowed to be different. Multiculturalism is meaningless if you are not allowed to play on an equal footing with everyone else.

While we are on the subject of equality, in this context, I do not mean treating everyone the same. Each and every one of us is different and our needs are also not necessarily the same. Someone with a disability may require more help to participate fully for example. Equality should not be confused with equity.

It’s also not about just fitting in with someone else’s perspective of how things should be because that just creates its own issues as is noted from an extract in an article concerning Muslim integration in Europe:

The apparent failure to integrate has been viewed in cultural terms, that is, as failure to adapt to European culture and to adopt European norms, values and styles. In other words, Muslims do not integrate because they are Muslims, and Islam is perceived as incompatible with Western culture and values. Thus, it is no surprise that Islam has been constructed as a problem. (1)

This is not unique to Muslims as I observe this at home and all over the world and there are no countries where migration or colonisation has not happened. There are no countries that come to mind where minorities or indigenous people do not exist. There are no countries with pure ethnicities that I am aware of. It is easy for a dominant culture to want to extend its values and for it to regard those who want something different as not fitting in. I should also point out that this is not limited to cultural or religious issues. This status quo mind-set inevitably can only end in stagnation if successful but more often in conflict. Similarly, it was noted in that same article:

However, there is no one Muslim community in Europe; this is a fantasy. Muslims come from different countries, live in different countries and speak different languages. They are immensely divided in their faith, in their ethnicity and also in their relation to religious practice and to the role religion plays in their lives. (1)

Interestingly enough, the same can be said about Christianity, Jews and other religions and it is not unusual for there to be variations in culture, norms and values between communities of the same race or nation. It also ignores the many success stories no matter the faith or culture. Integration is important as it ultimately conveys a sense of belonging which is a deeper connection with the land and its people. It affords the simple freedoms that those in a dominant position take for granted such as enjoying a night out or going to the beach and so on.

Integration also does not mean eliminating tension between groups. Tension is an important dynamic between people. No tension means “floppy” and floppy means dead; something not lost on males everywhere I can guarantee. There will always be arguments and disagreements and this is very natural. Proper integration at all levels of participation allows resolution to happen especially without some people either feeling excluded or discriminated against. The rule of law is important but access to justice should consider multiple roads. No one ever gets everything their way but there should be a way to move on and proper integration makes this possible.

Every astronaut looking at our world from afar will tell you that their connection with the world becomes profound once they see our beautiful blue planet from the vantage of the stars. We are born of this world and the land grounds us as does our connection to the people of the land. These two things are essentials. They are minimum requirements that provide a foundation from which people can express life from their unique perspective.

Then you have optional add-ons such as culture, values, norms and faith for comfort but far too many people wear these security blankets tightly about them and become resistant to change, which I would remind everyone is a constant. Any social worker will tell you the consequences of being permanently transient or cut off – it’s not rocket science in my view. The ability to fully participate socially and politically, irrespective of ethnicity, culture or faith connects us to the land and its people. After all, we all know that when you have nothing, you also have nothing to lose.

Human Rights
Image by Gerd Altmann - Pixabay

There comes a time when the weight of younger generations forces a revision of the status quo as they struggle to forge an identity that matches their place in time. They don’t always easily relate to old ways but it’s not that easy simply to walk away from it either. Bridging the gap between old and new often requires “reinterpretation” of the old in order to fit in with the new. The best of both worlds is hoped for but sometimes the worst can also eventuate.

On the small scale, every parent and teenager experiences this – after all, it is a rite of passage for every teenager to rebel and this is when many of us start losing our precious locks of hair. On the larger human scale, every religious organisation has undergone revisions as old and new is forged into something that fits better for the times. What amuses me is when people try to tell me what’s in the Bible or Gita or some other text based on their particular revised ideology as being the true word of blah, blah, blah or some other such opinion. We see these themes playing out time and again all over the world especially when the pursuit of identity of one group is forced upon another.

The reality, based on my observations at least, is that this is the process by which a larger group gets to recognise diversity and integrate that into its larger consciousness. It is like watching a whirlpool in the middle of a lake. It goes round and round until it finally resolves itself and the waters re-join the lake, which is after all, a greater part of itself.

Every blade of grass, every star, every grain of sand and every face screams diversity and yet it all co-exists. The whole of creation, and if you believe in God, then the whole of God’s creation screams diversity. It is a communique that is “in your face”. It will never be contained on a page, a book, or a library and you couldn’t build an internet big enough to house it all – but it is nonetheless a communique and most importantly, accessible to all. Also, unlike the words on a page, it requires no interpretation – only observation. The whirlpool in the middle of the lake is simply the creation of something new that must eventually be embraced by the whole sooner or later. Whatever is caught in the whirlpool or cycle must eventually integrate with the larger body of life. This is normal. Cycles and identities are inexorably intertwined in the human experience which is only enhanced by embracing diversity.

This brings us to the struggles within Israel and Palestine today although, by no means, is this the only such struggle taking place on our planet. It is not my intention to spell out the specific day to day details of the struggle here as there are many sources that do this very well – example If Americans Knew is one such excellent resource among many. This article offers a perspective in the context of cycles and the search for identity. I will however need to restate a little background just to set the scene.

The Zionist movement is an off-shoot of the Jewish faith that can be traced back to the late 1800s but really came to the fore at the end of World War II which culminated with the atrocities committed by the Nazi’s upon the Jewish population. In fact, the anti-Jewish sentiments were well entrenched in the European countries long before WWII began. However, the world having witnessed the Nazi desire for ethnic cleansing, the sympathies of the world were placed in the hands of the Jewish people, but the loudest voice, being that of the Zionists, took centre stage.

I should point out here that many Jewish people, in Israel and outside, do not subscribe to the radical version of Zionism and do not consider Zionism to be Jewish. Nonetheless, they are inexorably joined in this in my view.

Led by the Zionist movement and backed by their sympathisers, in particular the United States, they did unto others what had been done unto them. So began a new cycle concerning the Jewish people although I note there were many objectors among them. I should point out that this is not a new theme as history has many examples such as when slaves became slave owners in Liberia.

In 1948, with endorsement from the United Nations (and just for the record I note that New Zealand was included), a military force invaded Palestine and three quarters of a million people, mainly Arab Muslims and Christians, were driven from their homes. The new settlers, although only representing 5-7% of the population took almost 60% of the land which included 90% of arable land. From a purely humanitarian perspective, this should never have been allowed to happen – but it did. This disaster was further compounded in 1967 when the Zionists, supported with a dominant military force, annexed the West Bank and Gaza. Since then, annexation continues and today it is well recognised, at least by those who look beyond mainstream media, that Palestinians live in the largest open air prison in the world under an oppressive apartheid.

Annexation of Palestine

The Zionist movement began like any other movement with young intelligent people recognising that they didn’t fit into the then current structure of society. The old ways conflicted with the world they were growing up and engaging in. In the case of Muslim Jihadists growing up in Europe, they didn’t fit at home and they definitely didn’t fit in the Middle East with all their European ways and ideas. But eventually, the European countries recognised Muslim integration was essential and some made efforts to change laws albeit that this has been erratic and inconsistent – at least there was some recognition. But a completely different path was forged with the Zionists.

Instead, the separation was endorsed and allowed to fester like an open sore. Today, this separation has grown to enormous proportions with continued endorsement particularly from the United States which funds Israel to the tune of approximately $20 million per day with no apparent benefits, I might add, accruing to the Americans. Media favours Israel, particularly in America, so many Americans and those who only refer to mainstream media don’t really get the full picture; nothing unusual here as the mighty dollar is often used to skew popular opinion.

However, sentiment is changing as is evidenced by the many protests to end the funding of Israel and more than a thousand Israeli soldiers are speaking out about what they were required to do and what is actually happening. The definition of “anti-Semitism” which originally referred to anti-Jewish sentiments has been extended to include dissent against the state of Israel itself and, I kid you not, there are laws and indoctrinations concerning this. This in itself says volumes about the mind-set of these people.

Many believe that there is a war in progress but a war implies that both sides have some chance of succeeding. But there is no war – only the systematic ethnic cleansing by a superior military force; a machine gun versus bow and arrows is a more accurate comparison. Media proclaims that thousands of rockets are fired from Gaza but what they don’t tell you (or bury in the fine print in some cases) is that these are mainly homemade pipe bombs with little effect other than a show of resistance which under international law is allowed. More recently, the Arab nations which previously supported Palestinians, have sided with Israel and this leaves the Palestinians even more isolated and exposed than before. Actual statistics are available from a number of sources which clearly show the one-sided nature of this conflict.

Tanks vs people

The pursuit of separatism is not unique to the Zionists as there are many groups vying to have their identities endorsed and incorporated into mainstream. The conflicts in the main reflect the dominant culture’s desire to either reject minorities or to assimilate them by making them all conform to existing mainstream. Although there may be some distance between such peoples, the possibility of integration in some form or other still possibly exists. I say this perhaps a little naively knowing full well that history does not necessarily support me.

What is unique with the Israel/Palestine situation is that there is no desire for integration and that the Zionist separatism is pursed at all cost. This is evidenced by the annexations from day one. This in itself draws the attention of the whole world. This is anything but normal. It is one thing to want to be left alone by excusing yourself from society and another by wiping out everyone else just so that you can be alone. What happens here, in my view, will make a difference one way or another to our collective human psyche.

I see the events in this part of the world as part of a cycle that rhymes with a previous cycle and I admit that this is an extremely grim perspective. Hitler pursued a separatist agenda to cleanse the world of Jews. That cycle concluded with the holocaust we are all familiar with. The Jewish people were central figures of the previous cycle and are once again central to the current cycle. It is their story, at least from my perspective, that has become focused in Israel as the rest of the world watches.

Things that go round and round tend to repeat outcomes similarly because they can’t avoid going over the same bumps and potholes in the road. One could say that the holocaust event released so much energy that it still resonates loudly today. Just the mention of the word “holocaust” anywhere in the world draws ones attention to the events of WWII irrespective of the fact that there have been many such events throughout history. If the current cycle plays out similarly to the last, then its end may resonate with similar or greater energy that will haunt generations to come.

Today, America is a declining world power. Currently, foreign affairs trump domestic affairs but the tide is turning. Eventually, the powerful Israel lobby in America will lose its influence as America refocuses on its own growing internal issues and, as a consequence, withdraws its funding of Israel as a matter of course. When that happens, the veil of ignorance among many American people and also many around the world, will also lift as the rhetoric to support change will also inevitably change.

For many this cannot happen soon enough although they also may consider my view to be naïve and expect the status quo to be maintained for the foreseeable future. However, bankruptcy has a way of refocusing one’s priorities and America is tracking accordingly in my opinion. Many in the Jewish community in America already protest against supporting Israel and they are getting noticed. Unfortunately, there is a dark side to this as well. Even if things don’t track as I have stated, Israel itself may hand America a solid reason to withdraw support on a platter.

Although the rest of the world can, and often does object to the excesses of Israel, such objections are ignored. Those who are self-absorbed do not pay heed to anyone else but themselves particularly when their self-absorption is funded to the tune of millions. It is also laughable that America plays the role of peace-broker in this conflict while funding Israeli military efforts. That is a conflict of interest beyond belief.

The truth of the matter is, at least from my perspective, that this cycle/whirlpool was created by the Jewish people and only the Jewish people can resolve it. Only America is capable of intervening but that is unlikely to happen in my view. They did not intervene in all the years to date and so are unlikely to intervene when their focus turns inward. The rest of us just wait, watch, hope and if you are religiously minded, pray. People like me write a page or two just to add to the volume hoping that the voice of reason will become loud enough to intervene.

I have hope that the Israelis will rally to curb the excesses of their radicals. Nonetheless, I fear the worst. As I said, the last cycle ended with a holocaust involving these people and, from my perspective, when Israel’s funding is finally cut (or possibly beforehand), the radicals may find themselves against a wall. Being separatists and radicals to boot with access to superior military resources, they may engage in a final effort to rid themselves of their so-called “problem” and it’s not lost on me, or any other observer, that we have seen this play performed at an earlier time. The world may wake up one morning to find that it is a quieter place with millions of voices, men women and children, silenced forever. If my fear is realised (and I truly hope it does not come to pass and that reason prevails), that silence will carry a weight that will echo through time. It is possible that the east may rally and come to the rescue but that would require the west to step aside. But that too would require something dramatic to happen.

Pipe bombs vs Fighter Jets

Today, I am sitting in a quiet café far from these events as I write many of these words and yet the noise in my ears is deafening. A song was being sung well before WWII vilifying the Jewish people. Today, I hear that same song being sung with Muslims in place of Jews. It is like a siren’s song – both a lure and warning. Its crescendo rises on the tide of fear and always focuses away from what is familiar and comfortable to mainstream. However, I fear that the people who need to hear it the most are deaf to it because they are so caught up in the tidal forces that are in play.

I feel for the Jewish people, particularly in Israel, who have lost their voice of reason to the radicals and I feel for those blinded by a lopsided propaganda machine. I feel for the Palestinian people who have lost their land, their homes and their lives to the zeal of short-sighted people in pursuit of separatism at all cost. It is only through inclusion that we truly embrace and celebrate uniqueness.

Unfortunately, there are many who would rather celebrate the familiar and comfortable and creating distances that reflect an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude is not uncommon. We have all heard of adults treating kids with this attitude but we should not forget that adults suffer similarly. As such, we should not be surprised when they throw a tantrum or two - only expect their tantrums to be more disruptive. The pursuit of separatism, particularly at all cost without any resolution, only ever ends with great sadness and we have witnessed this countless times throughout history.

Separatism is essential in declaring something new or something different from what was there before. It is not meant to be forever nor exclusive. It is a necessary step of recognition. Integrating that which is different is a celebration of life. It adds to the whole and that is how we become greater than we were before. Pursuing separatism at all cost ignores this simple truth in my view.

I mentioned the rising of fear. Fear and optimism are also cyclical. It causes us to view the same thing under a different lens. Even though the thing itself never changes, it causes us to alter our perception of it, which in turn, makes us behave accordingly and we are very good at finding excuses to fit our actions. We go on spending sprees when we are optimistic and hide ourselves away when we become afraid and best friends can easily become worst enemies with the flick of this switch. It is contagious and at extremes of optimism or fear, we behave in the worst possible ways. Seeing things as they actually are takes effort as does not being swept away by the crowd. However, I think that it will take a much greater level of maturity on the part of humanity before we get on top of these cycles. Nonetheless I mention it here to make you aware and it is a starting point, particularly as the siren song being sung today rides on a wave of fear reminiscent of an earlier time.

We are subject to cycles but they don’t have to control us – at least not entirely. We need our identities as this speaks to our uniqueness and integration is important as it connects us to the land and its people. ALL people need a sense of belonging. Cycles and identities connect us to this world and to each and every one in it. It’s impossible to not recognise the diversity in this. We have a built-in switch for fear of the unknown but overcoming these cycles also requires us to take control of this switch.

The holocaust redefined what it meant to be Jewish. If this cycle concludes similarly to the last, I expect that it will once again redefine what it means to be Jewish, particularly Zionist. I expect that it may also redefine what it means to be American. My hope is for reason to prevail but this requires that those buried in the cycle of violence, which is always driven by fear, to become aware. So we will keep shouting and hope they hear and awaken.

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