Save The Polar Bears

 

  • imageAfter a weekend spent with my grandsons on a trip to the St. Louis zoo my heart is breaking for all animals that will soon be extinct, and especially the polar bear. I have been to the zoo on many occasions in and of course I have enjoyed the levity and laughter while watching the antics of the apes, the entertaining sea lions, I and have been amazed and awed by the beauty of big cats. However, yesterday, sharing our greatest creatures ever to walk this exquisite earth with the three little boys dearest to my heart while knowing that there is a distinct probability that every animal cherished in their favorite books will be extinct in 50 years has saddened my spirit. I was obsessed with animals when I was a child. All animals, large and small, hoofed or padded, ferocious or domestic, I loved them all. I can remember decorating my bedroom with posters of polar bear babies, frolicking sea lions, puppies and kittens as a preteen. My goal my freshman year of high school was to become a veterinarian and I was a member of the veterinarian club. We had field trips to the zoo, where I wanted to work. I would have done any job there, even cleaning the manure, just so that I could be close to the animals. But my sophomore year I started running with a different group of friends and my personality changed. I guess you could say I lost myself somewhat, I stopped listening to my own voice, and instead attempted to become more instep with others. I have had many passions and ideas that I have not followed through on in my life, regretfully. However that is another story in itself.

Looking at a beautiful polar bear laying in the dirt, panting heavily while trying to stay cool, was heart wrenching. He was asleep up against the glass while we all stared at him. I could hear all the usual comments around me, all the usual exclamations about how big his paws were. Or how cute. Children would ask questions like why doesn’t he play. All I could angrily think about was how uncomfortable he seemed. Where was his glacier!? How can he survive in the St. Louis climate in the summertime? And what about the other polar bears in the Arctic who are suffering because of global warming. The only thing separating me from that incredible bear was a 2 inch thick pane of glass and decades of my ignorance. I have let the years of my life swallow up my desire to help animals. In the noisy daily trappings of my daily duties I have forgotten the silent ones. I have guiltily cast aside the Endangered Species list and replaced it with a To Do list. Ironically, that To Do list makes me feel like a caged animal. You know, that proverbial hamster on a wheel in a cage constantly running, doing, going…. nowhere.

Later that night when I tried to fall asleep all I could think of were my grandchildren and how the world is changing so fast, and I wondered how my grandchildren’s children would see their world. Will they grow up to have an appreciation for nature and for all things great and small? Would they have trees to climb in and fresh water to drink? Will there still be animals left on the earth roaming freely in their natural environment?

The next morning, my oldest grandson Dylan, 11, who has always been an insightful boy and is now becoming a deep thinker, shared some of his thoughts about planet earth and its relationship to the universe and solar system, and somehow that led to the conversation of Isis and terrorism. He even told me about ‘Anonymous’ that group of activists/hacktivists. While I have heard about that group, he knew more about it than I did! We shared our sadness about the near extinction of some of the animals that we saw at the zoo. His soulful brown eyes told me how upsetting it is for him. Dylan is my nature boy, my creative grandson who looks at the world and constantly reminds me about the importance of kindness, peace and understanding others He wanted me to watch some of his favorite YouTube videos with him. He immediately pulled up Prince Ea’s powerful political and important philosophies Regarding saving the earth and animals. I was in near tears while watching this incredible man espouse his opinions regarding these issues on which I used to have so much more passion about.  I need to rectify that.

 

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Ethnocultural Empathy

Our society is comprised of people from an array of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. However, unfortunately, we are far away from being a successful pluralistic society. Although some integration happens spontaneously, a pluralistic society is one that acknowledges, allows and accepts the cultural diversity of its citizens. Multiculturalism is an ideology. The term refers to salad bowl or melting pot. Critics of multiculturalism often debate whether the multicultural ideal of nonthreatening, co-existing cultures that interrelate and influence one another, while remaining separate, is possible, logical or even desirable. It is argued that cultures who would previously have had a distinctive cultural identity of their own, lose out to enforced multiculturalism and that this will ultimately erode the host nations’ distinct culture.

In a political context, the term multiculturalism is used for a wide variety of meanings, ranging from the advocacy of equal respect to the various cultures in a society, to a policy of promoting the maintenance of cultural diversity. The politics of today limit an honest discussion of multiculturalism. Leaders will only express what they think their audience of the hour will want to hear. The heated debate about immigration reform has been ongoing for decades, and yet it continues with no real solution. I disagree with the idea that people do not need to integrate with the society in which they immigrate to. I do not think that you can set up your own little country inside of another, with differing laws and extreme values. Immigration should be examined and laws implemented in order to aid both the immigrants, as well as the host country. I think outreach action from communities to accept immigrants into their neighborhoods is crucial as well, in order to help them become and feel more integrated.

The Census Bureau predicts a shift in the composition of the U.S. population. With an estimated yearly influx of 1 million legal immigrants, there is an equal number of illegal immigrants entering the United States each year. The overwhelming majority of immigrants, both legal and illegal, come from the Third World. Another factor which will radically change the ethnic composition of the population — a factor given less attention by the Census Bureau — is the differential birth rates of the various groups involved. It is quite likely that, given current trends, the European American will find himself in a minority long before 2050. This would suggest that the United States of 2050 will be America Balkanized, an America without Americans, an America in which citizens will identify with their minority status and forget about the nation as a whole. This is due to three of the four major population blocs will constitute visible minorities: European Americans or Whites, African Americans or Blacks, Asian Americans or Yellows, and Hispanic Americans. These four blocs will be relentlessly political, locked in a struggle to determine how the increasingly scarce economic goods and natural resources are to be distributed to each group. Can a nation so wracked by internal struggle long endure? History suggests not.

The September 26, 2011 issue of Newsweek, on page 48, titled “Marry or else!” by Michelle Goldberg, there is a quote by former Associate General Counsel of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, James Walsh, who gives the opinion that the Balkanization of America is underway. I wonder, is this just fear-mongering? Walsh states, “Immigrants devoted to their own cultures and religions are not influenced by the secular politically correct facade that dominates academia, news-media, entertainment, education, religious and political thinking today,” He further states, “They claim the right not to assimilate, and the day is coming when the question will be how can the United States regulate the defiantly unassimilated cultures, religions and mores of foreign lands? Such immigrants say their traditions trump the U.S. legal system. Balkanization of the United States has begun.”
In an interesting decade-long study by Harvard professor of political science Robert D. Putnam, showed how multiculturalism affects social trust. He surveyed 26,200 people in 40 American communities, finding that when the data were adjusted for class, income and other factors, the more racially diverse a community is, the greater the loss of trust. People in diverse communities “don’t trust the local mayor, they don’t trust the local paper, they don’t trust other people and they don’t trust institutions,” writes Putnam. In the presence of such ethnic diversity, Putnam maintains that we act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not similar to us, we distrust those who do not look like us.

I think the humane and moral solution to ease the fears, and thereby aiding in a greater understanding of all peoples on this great earth, has to begin with teaching individuals cognitive and behavioral ethnocultural empathy. This should be done at an early age. Once children understand the physical differences with other groups, they then are able to become aware of the perspectives, experiences and attitudes shared by other ethnic groups, and finally develop the ability to take the perspective of other ethnic groups. Using cultural empathy as a “learned ability” may prove to aid in conveying an accurate understanding and more peaceful interaction between the mosaic peoples of the world. Using cognitive, affective and communicative processes together, perhaps we can probe for deeper insights, find similarities, and help to accept our differences.

Traditionally, empathy is roughly defined as the intellectual ability to take the role or perspective of another person and/or an emotional response to another person with the same emotional display. Increasing research found that people usually hold different levels of empathy toward different individuals based on perceived psychological similarities, such as ethnics and culture. Particularly, people usually feel more empathetic towards individuals who are in the same ethnic/cultural groups as they are than those who are not.

Ethnocultural cultural empathy has been used in many other research areas such as racism, feminism, multiculturalism and ethnic identity, and is sometimes applied in cross-culture and/or cross-ethnics analysis. Degrees of ethnocultural empathy were reported to vary by demographics and societal factors. Previous research indicates that women are more likely to report higher level of ethnocultural empathy than men. Non-White individuals are found to have significantly higher levels of general and specific ethnocultural empathy than their White counterparts.

The doctrine of multiculturalism encourages passivity and limits intellectual discussion, and poisons perception. The mere idea that we believe that cultures should coexist without problem, does not eliminate the problems of coexistence. Blind rhetoric is not a substitute for solution to problems, so a more practical approach that is focused less on kind words and more on the best practical results, is the best. Pragmatism wins when it is at conflict with ideology, and different situations require different practical solutions. In my opinion Social integration and Social Blending is a superior alternative. But, can we create one culture that can embrace new customs?

Donna J. Heatherly