Monday, 24 July 2006

Are thoughts like buses or buses like thoughts?

Because there are periods when ‘none’ appear, then suddenly several arrive at the same time.

I’ve been provoked in several areas (in no particular order):

Being influential and the emerging church

How the internet and meeting people from a wide range of cultures should help us lose our parochialism/sense of national superiority.

Concern over movement of food across huge distances

The current ‘war’ with Lebanon and Israel.

All this stuff seems to be swirling round my head in a great morass right now, with everything being a little connected to everything. There’s a sense that something is quite wrong with the world (like we didn’t know that anyway) and that it’s too complex to unpick, but that we need to unpick it anyway.

There’s a forum I frequent that is primarily populated by American citizens. The number of non-Americans that post could probably be counted on the fingers of one hand, and as a result it reflects a perspective that is unique to that country. That perspective gets ruffled sometimes by those few outsiders that think differently, which is certainly educational, but often unrewarding for the thinker that dares to speak.

My friend Fernando with the desk over there has lived in a variety of countries, and until recently in Dheli. His blog has been the target of abuse from individuals that think of the world through a solely and aggressively Indian perspective. These are clearly educated people (unlike *some* in the above forum) but failing (possibly deliberately) to think outside their culture.

There’s another forum that I contribute to that has a very large membership and is very international indeed. Although a majority of contributors are from the US, there are many English speakers with varied levels of education from across the world that contribute. Naturally this sometimes causes some heated discussions, but it also brings a much more balanced – if somewhat distinctly un-Christian – perspective.

On the first forum I mentioned someone asked the question recently “what does someone who is not tied in their thinking to a specific state believe in”? Rather than run down the attitude of Americans to God and country, this seems to beg a different question – since we have access to direct communication with people of so many nations, why are we so determined to remain nationalistic and blinkered in the way we view the world. I’ve certainly seen this thinking on UK forums. Ditto those posters on Ferns’ blog (interesting, considering how much of the call-centre business has been moved to India). I’m sure this isn’t unique to the English speaking world either.

So why, do we pigeon hole people as Rag-heads, Krauts, Spics and Ros-beefs? Sure, there is a desire for a peer group, a tribe to belong to, but there must come a realisation that under the veneer of culture, people ARE basically the same.

The net has been a great learning experience for me, and meeting the people I have has definitely changed my worldview. Some areas have been strengthened (prejudices confirmed unfortunately) but some have been challenged and required careful reconsideration. Meeting people in many different countries has also helped, but communicating through the net has meant that ideas can be shared more freely – it’s much safer to offend someone on the internet and share ideas honestly. Once or twice I have seen people so angry that I think they might have tried to shoot me had we been in the same room, or at least that’s how it felt.

Typing that last paragraph, the words ‘prejudices confirmed’ worry me.

When does understanding racial characteristics stop and expecting or even revelling in racial failing begin? See, I know what to expect from people from various countries, but I want to accept them and help them see the bigger picture. I hate (that’s not too strong a word) the way countries colour their history, hedging in their citizens understanding. Living in a world where conspiracy theories proliferate at the drop of a hat doesn’t help: most of the time people bumble through life, staggering from one crisis to another. There are very, very few that can manipulate things in the sophisticated and detailed manner that those who look for black helicopters imagine. Most of the time life for ordinary people is just trying to scratch a living, doing their jobs, loving their kids (seeing their mistresses) making sure there’s food and clothes and transport to work.

I have 2 endings for this post. The obvious one is that we need to think like ‘global citizens’ caring for the planet and losing our sense of racial superiority.

But the one that I KNOW is right isn’t like that. In Hebrews Paul talks about ‘men of faith’ who were ‘looking for a city’ that didn’t yet exist. This, I think, is the answer to the question that was asked “what do you believe in”? I believe in a kingdom that is here and now, but isn’t ruled by men. It doesn’t challenge with tanks and planes, but instead it challenges us to lay down our lives. I’m looking for the kingdom of God, and as someone that hasn’t really got an allegiance to any single state here on earth, I’d say that’s what I believe in as a patriot.

Wonder what will drop out of the brain tomorrow?

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