“I want very badly to challenge the ease with which we succumb to the false divide of labels, that moment in which our empathy gives out and we refuse to respond openhandedly or even curiously to see people with whom we differ. As I see it, to refuse the possibility of finding another person interesting, complex and as complicated as oneself is a form of violence. At bottom, this is a refusal of nuance, and I wish to posit that nuance is sacred.”
Nuance is an idea and a behavior that has gone out of fashion. For lack of a better reference point, I lay responsibility for this in the lap of “reality” TV, which began in full swing in America in the 1990's, with shows like Survivor. With some exceptions, mostly the music shows, these are supposedly unscripted dramas, in which ordinary people, strangers, are thrown together in anything but real situations, to compete against one another, and to weekly get rid of one member of the team who is deemed not up to snuff. The contestants are encouraged to be mean-spirited, conniving and deceitful for the purpose of gaining ground, and, of course, TV ratings. In my opinion, Suzanne Collins book, The Hunger Games, in which a yearly battle to the death among young people selected at random, and staged for the entertainment of the residents of the Capital, represents the futuristic evolution of the reality show.
Human beings have always enjoyed watching violence. From the time of crucifixions and gladiators, through the years of public hanging and guillotine-chopping, witch burning, and public whipping and stocking of wrong-doers, we have an insatiable thirst for violence. Our movies and our sports are vicarious means of living out this dark spectacle. And now, it seems that even the semblance of civility is dead on arrival.
If we were to consider nuance sacred, we would commit ourselves to it. We would stop holding others to a standard that we ourselves cannot live up to. We would consider the depth of experience that any other human being brings to the table to be as complex and fundamental as our own. We would be open to compassionate consideration and empathy for other lifestyles and circumstances. We would realize that not everything exists in categories of black and white, but in a multifaceted, deeply layered reality beyond simple labels. What do you think? Will we, as a species, ever get there?
In the Spirit,