The debate about identity politics and how we get beyond it

Identity PoliticsThe debate about identity politics has dominated much of the news in recent months. Surely we must find a way to get beyond it? In that, I refer to getting beyond the problems associated with identity, rather than the debate itself.

We’re all human beings first:

Whether we think of ourselves as Black, White, Christian, Muslim, Jew or some other form of ethnic or religious identity, in reality we’re all just members of the human race, surely?

In my opinion, we’re human beings first and other forms of identity second. We’re all just people.

We all want the same things:

As people, we all want the same things if you think about it.

Ideally, we all want a peaceful, prosperous life and a better world for our children?

We want a roof over our heads and the ability to put bread and food on the table.

Equally, we all want to feel secure.

We all want a sense of purpose to our lives and a reason for us to get out of bed each day.

And, of course, we all want to enjoy some leisure time with family and friends, occasionally.

Life’s too short:

Life’s too short to worry about anything else, surely?

As human beings, we have much more in common than we’re often able or willing to recognize and those things that apparently separate us are often more imagined than real. Well, I think so anyway.

In my experience, there are good people everywhere you go in this world.

And yet, as human beings, we often fear people simply because they are not a reflection of ourselves.

We fear what we don’t understand.

If only we could just see others as human beings first. They’re people just like us, with hopes, dreams and a desire to be loved, accepted and respected by others.

Respect people and get to know them:

If only we could just treat people with respect, regardless of whatever sense of identity they present to the world. If only we could respect others just for being themselves.

I’ve been fortunate enough to live and work in many parts of the world and I’ve learned that if you make the effort to get to know people, whoever they are, you begin to see them in a different way, regardless of their origin, ethnicity or creed.

If you try to understand them and their lives, suddenly you realize that they’re actually just like you, or not so very different at least.

Wherever you go, people are just people. We laugh, we cry, we eat, we sleep and we all have to go to the bathroom occasionally.

Yes, there are a few bad ones of course but most people are honest and decent and if you treat them with respect, you will get their respect in return. In my experience, wherever you go people just want to be treated fairly.

Avoid making assumptions about people:

When you meet people from a culture which is different to your own, it’s easy to make assumptions about them. However, how can you be sure you’re right unless you get to know them?

Judging is easy but it’s hard to know what someone else’s life is really like. Unless you’ve actually walked a mile in their shoes, you couldn’t possibly know what their life is really like or what challenges they face on a daily basis.

So you can’t judge anyone unless you make the effort to get to know them.

And for me, that’s the underlying problem for all humanity.

We judge people first without making the effort get to know people. We make assumptions and judge on perceived stereotypes rather than treating people as individuals.

For instance, it would be easy to assume that all Muslims have the same extreme views as those fundamentalists making media headlines fighting for the establishment of the so-called Islamic State or ISIS.

I have lived and worked in the Middle East over many years and I know that this is not true. Some of the finest people I’ve ever met are Muslims.

I have many Muslim friends for whom I have the greatest respect. I’ve also known many Christians, Jews, Buddhists and more for whom I could make a similar comment.

Seek first to understand:

I’ve learned to treat people as I find them and not as others tell me I should find them.

I concern myself only with the content of their character. I try to treat others with respect and I find that generally, if I do, I get their respect in return.

If only we could all treat others in the way that we’d prefer them to treat us then I think the world would be a better place. And surely our aim should be to make this world a better place?

In the words of Stephen R. Covey, we must “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.”

Identity politics:

Identity politics has the potential to divide us all but it doesn’t have to be that way. We can get along with each other if we respect people for who they are and what they are and judge them only by the content of their character.

Look beyond obvious differences to the person within. It’s what’s on the inside of people that matters most. Well that’s my opinion, dear reader.

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