Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: diversity

Hey Ruth, Shakespeare is pretty cool

I’m devouring Othello for English class right now. You’d love it. It’s about an African Muslim guy who marries a Venetian Christian girl–pretty wild for the 1600s. It doesn’t end happy, but it’s a fun ride.

Near the opening there’s a few scenes of angry Europeans talking about how horrible it is that a decent white girl ended up with a dirty Moor. They say it’s immoral. Irrational. Disgusting. The girl’s father, Brabantio, says,

For if such actions may have passage free,
Bondslaves and pagans shall our statesmen be.

Funny thing is, he was right. As soon as we allow people to hook up with whoever they want–regardless of race, sexuality, religion, etc–homogeneity can’t exist anywhere. Diversity reaches all levels of society. Brabantio thought it was a horrible idea. But he never got a chance to see how fun diversity is. Look at this awesome family we are building! Our children have a rare chance of rising above the tangled chains that hold down the people in my culture and the people in yours. Freedom comes through diversity.

Brabantio and the others were concerned with vaporous things like honour and propriety. Those things are all well and good, until they start to ruin fun. I can’t imagine how boring life would be if I had married someone who was like me. I’m thankful that you are so amazingly different and strange. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I miss you and the fun we have together. Here’s a little ditty Othello used to seduce his wife (you know, before he was driven mad with jealousy by his adviser, Iago. Everything kinda turns yucky after that):

Come, my dear love,
The purchase made, the fruits are to ensue,
That profit’s yet to come ‘tween me and you.

I’ll let you decide what profit means. 

Have a diverse sixth day, Ruth. I’ll say Hey again tomorrow.

PS – Remember that awesome version of Hamlet we watched with Kenneth Branagh? He’s in a film version of Othello with Lawrence Fishburn. Looks fun. We’ll watch it when you get back.

Who taught me?

Something convinced me that everyone was watching.  I was inhibited every time I wanted to sit on the grass by the path to eat my lunch.  When I wanted to wear clothing different from my neighbour’s.  When I had an idea different from my friend’s.  Someone, something, convinced me that they were all watching me, judging me when I stepped out of line.

Of course, they weren’t.  They were too busy worrying that I was watching them.

But maybe they do watch.  Maybe when I sit under the maple to eat my lunch, alone while crowds mill by, maybe they are watching.  Maybe they are judging and disapproving of my hair, my clothing, my strange ideas.

Who taught me to be ashamed when I make a choice that my neighbour has not made?

Thankfully, I have become very skilled at forgetting the things I have learned.

Diversity

Diversity of culture and opinion is like genetic diversity in a population. Without it, people become stagnant and get all sorts of nasty, cancerous ideas.

Without diversity, a population has very few new and innovative ideas. Generally they just continually repackage old ideas, try to put newish labels on them, and pass them around to each other. This is why those fundamentalist religious groups always seem to be two or three decades behind the rest of the population their in. Because those kinds of places don’t mix well with people who think and act differently than they do. And the more closed-minded the religious group, the further back in time they seem to be. Walk into your local Gospel Hall if you don’t believe me. You’ll feel like you’re in 19th century Scotland. Cool singing, but pretty messed up ideas about gender roles, science and how to live life.

That’s one of the reasons I love where I’m living now. I used to live in Thorncliffe Park, a predominately Islamic area. A place where everyone kinda dressed and acted and thought the same. A place where there was not much in the way of new, ricky ideas. A place where most people did what they did so that everyone else would approve of them.

But when the population is diverse, people feel empowered to try new things. SInce everyone is so obviously unique and living life the way they think it should be lived, there is not much pressure to conform to a pre-established pattern. You’re free to live life according to your own conscience, instead of the conscience of some dead role model or abstract system.

And whose conscience should you be living according to anyway, if not your own?

I’ve lived in Toronto for almost four years. But only now am I beginning to see how wildly awesome this town is.

So here’s to diversity. I hope and pray we get butt-loads more of it and that it spreads to all those neat places where it hasn’t been welcomed before. It may be uncomfortable for a lot of people, but without it we become cultural inbreds. Slow to accept change and ill-equipped to deal with real life.