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Understanding Change

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So much of how people see themselves is based on their perception of history, whether it is that of their family, tribe, nation or race. Sometimes two villages or clans have multi-generational feuds that override all other considerations – literature everywhere is full of the travails of those who fell in love with individuals from the ‘other side’. The protests against ‘racism’ that have spread across much of the post-colonial societies are presenting the lived ‘reality’ of the ‘oppressed’ against the ‘history’ of the ‘oppressors’. In the process, the rigid lines of demarcation that existed in the past are being brought into the present. It may seem that the protestors belong to all races, which include ‘reformed’ members of the former dominant class, but divisions still exist on the basis of ideology and the interpretation of history. Unfortunately, just as the oppressors are being identified purely on the basis of their skin colour, the solutions on offer are as equally divisive as the social structure of the past.

Unless each one of these societies recognises the progress that has taken place in race relations over the past centuries and decades, it would be impossible to ascertain the direction to be taken. There has to be acknowledgement of the good that has been done in many ways – social reform, legislation, activism, civil war, economic, scientific and technological development, etc. It has to be admitted that much of the inherent racism in these societies is because of the overhang of the past. Those who consciously believe in racial superiority are relatively very few and completely out of tune with present times.

There are those, however, who would like to project the ongoing conflict as between two extremes and not a ‘revaluation’ triggered by certain events involving the US police. As was done in the past, a certain class or community will be targeted as worthy of ‘punishment’, without which there would be no ‘justice’. As was the case with the Jews, the Kulaks, the bourgeoisie, ‘intellectuals’, etc., in the past, the target, now, is the ‘one percent’ for some, and the descendants of white oppressors for others. It is a sad truth that owning slaves was considered ‘normal’ at a certain period in history, just as non-vegetarianism is today. Once the human conscience awakens to the point where killing and eating animals becomes absolutely abhorrent, will the descendants of present day non-vegetarians be made to pay retributions? Can guilt be inherited if privilege may not? These are only a few of the questions that need to be addressed if solutions are to be found.