Hate & Relativism

walking in the other's shoes

About March 7, 2012

I am Poxipa, a proud Middle Eastern, but also a concerned one. After traveling in many locations (Latin America, East Africa, East Asia), meeting many lifestyles, making some research, and above all opening up to people, I obtained a better perspective on cultural identities. Important life experiences, regardless of my travels, have contributed more than anything to my current ‘design’.

Critics of Relativism often compare it to Nihilism or argue that relativists are indifferent to crimes conducted in different cultures and locations. I do not support a relativist approach that refrains completely from expression of judgment. On the contrary, I believe we can never be objective. Determining that the difficulties residents of a foreign culture experience are nothing more but their own traditional lifestyle is just as patronizing as demanding them to adopt a Western lifestyle unselectively. Judgment can be made, but the question is how and when. Furthermore, in some cases the obsession of exercising judgment and justifying one’s own position can really detach one from reality and become a precursor of hate. Putting oneself in the shoes of the other and understanding the force of circumstance is a simple yet very powerful mental action.

Whether one wishes to judge or just to initiate contact, getting a closer inside look at a culture, society and person is necessary. Speaking the language, eating the food and opening the door for complexity… hearing opinions, smelling the lifestyle and sensing the feelings that are manifested in front of the eyes… This approach would not sterilize subjectivism, neither would it delete the viewer’s own identity and standpoint, but it will induce the deeper communication and shorten the distance to the essence. A smiley tourist that thinks that everything he/she sees is wonderfully authentic is far from this.

This approach (and this blog) is introduced here in a multiethnic and a multicultural context, but actually, openness and curiosity towards the complex layers of the background and behavior of the other is meaningful in any new encounter. Personally, I believe that even hate we feel towards criminals can be dismantled, as we constantly acknowledge the pure beginning of life and the environmental influence. And yes, even examining the Nazi regime from a place that analyzes the human element and how it reached such extreme conduct, rather than static demonization can be enlightening, even if very scary.

Laws, prisons, morality and high values are not discounted when expressing openness and even compassion. But in my opinion they are not distinguishing between pure ‘good’ and ‘evil’ but rather tools to keep society functioning and a language of norms that we have learned and assimilated.

Values serve people and not the other way around. Hatred is natural, but yet can be observed. Our background and identity should give us power rather than impede us. Emotional wounds and personal experiences often prevent people from openning up to an ‘enemy’. This should also be respected and observed by those who are able to open a new a page.

Once the mechanisms of hatred are better understood, we will be able to see more dimensions of reality, let go of some fears, and get some weight off our shoulders. Those who are fortunate enough to put their head out of the water can see that although our passions are exciting (and beautiful at times),  at the end of the day their content is quite ridiculous…

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