Gentle readers, today I have been slapped upside the head with a truth so obvious that you will probably laugh at me when I tell you.  Today I realized that I am human.  Now I know you are probably considering changing blogs right now because this one is pretty obvious, but I think this is something that people, especially perfectionists like me often try their hardest to overlook.

In the past year, I have learned that I am an anthropologist by nature.  I like to observe people and understand what makes societies work and why different cultures are unique.  Anthropologists sometimes begin to believe that they can avoid standard human biases, but the truth is that they are human.  The biggest human bias that anthropologists struggle with is the idea that everyone is just like you at the core.  I will confess that I believe there is a certain connection between all human beings, something that makes us different from my cat or any other member of the animal kingdom, but it is so much deeper than that.  Every human, me included, seems to believe that they are absolutely unique and that everyone should want to be just like us.

Today in archaeology class we were discussing the roles filled by women in the Bronze Age and like most of my classmates, I assumed this was a pretty cut and dry issue. Turns out it is not.  Sexism is not inherent in all cultures and in many cultures, women are not expected to stay at home and rear children.  In many cultures there are entire sub communities of children who essentially raise themselves. It’s just that we live in a culture that centers on Judeo-Christian doctrine that tells us specific things about the roles of men and women.  I have no probable with Christianity, most everyone I know is Christian, I just struggle so deeply with some of the assertions made by both the Church and Christians themselves that I do not feel comfortable calling myself a Christian.  Being human means choosing how to define yourself, and this is something that I struggle with mightily.  I hate being labeled.

The point is that as Westerners we seem to think that every culture is at a stage of development that ultimately leads to what we have.  In America, we believe this so strongly that we try to force other nations to conform to our economics, our values, and our system of government, even during times when it seems to be failing the average person.  The truth is that government is not really there to help the individual citizen; in most cases the government is there to help the people in power stay in power.  Perhaps this is another example of what it means to be human.

Until recently, anthropologists argued that the slave trade is what ended power for women in Africa.  After all, in such a manly profession as trade, what room was there for women?  It turns out this was a fallacious argument that was based on trends that occurred because of cultural interactions and assumptions of the European traders.  The African tribes would introduce the traders to their queen, but the traders could not fathom trading with a woman and as a result the Africans developed an entire class of male traders.  You see, it wasn’t that women could not be slave traders, it was that the European traders could control the terms and therefore exclude women.

Every once in a while I learn something new about what it means to be human.  Accepting that I’m human should not have been all that enlightening.  What was enlightening is that despite my human weakness, I have the ability to grow and change, and isn’t that really what makes human beings unique?

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