multiculturalism and the idea that all life is interaction

back near the end of show about race, tanner kept raising a question about whether or not wanting a multicultural society is elitist. his main argument, which he got from a book he read, was basically that travel far from home is an activity that mostly elites have the opportunity to do. therefore, tribal instincts remain stronger among non-elites because they literally don’t get to see or interact with people different from them often. i couldn’t tell if he was being genuinely curious or disengenuous, but i’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. that question does hold water: what if multiculturalism really is a drive that comes from elites? would that change how social change makers see their work?

back then, i couldn’t really think through any answers to that question. however, now i have two thoughts.

first, slavery and forced or chosen migration disprove one of the premises of the question. moving around the world is not an activity that only the elite participate in. most africans who became slaves didn’t want to come to america… and yet here they were. those people, regardless of what they wanted before, have writings, songs, and all sorts of other cultural relics of the desire for a harmonious society.

second, this idea about from carlo rovelli’s on being interview makes me believe that we do need a multicultural society. i will butcher it if i try to boil it down too much so i’ll just drop the excerpt below. the gist of the point, though, is that psycists know (or are learning) that all of life is interactions. therefore, if we expand that thinking to society, all we are is the product of interactions. this is true even down to the biological way in which humans are made. so, if you were take that another step, as krista does, the flipside of idea would be that not interaction is anti-thetical to life.



MS. TIPPETT: …I mean, if I take this idea of yours, this overriding idea that comes out of a life in physics that reality is only interaction, ultimately, then it seems also like the failure to interact, or the failure of interaction is actually a move against vitality, against life. Is that interpreting too much? [laughs] Applying…

DR. ROVELLI: It is an analogy. I agree with that. I think that analogies are very good, and help us. It’s the two things that separated, of course. One thing is to understand that, in physics, we can better understand the world through interaction. And one thing is to export that to our politics, our society, our human life. I mean, I think analogies are good. And general — using ideas that come from one field in another one is good. It doesn’t prove anything. But, look, I don’t think that I, as a person, exist without the rest. I am my friends, my love, my enemies, my — everything that I interact with.

All my ideas come from things I’ve read, I’ve talked, which are all interactions. And all what I do is interacting with the rest. And the same is true for communities. Communities are what they are because they’ve been strongly influenced by different communities. [laughs] And they’re going to influence other communities, and so on and so forth. This, I think, is not proof of anything, but this, I think — it’s going to help us if we digest that, instead of going in the direction of defending us from the others.

ps - all of this feels strikingly similiar to my friend cyndi’s recent but multi-year fascination with studying games, play, theatre, and interactions. i’m not sure when her book is coming out, but it’s got some literally brilliant shit about how understanding and analyzing tiny little interactions can reveal the underpinings of entire societies. and, conversely, there is an unbelievable amount of revolutionary power in changing the way interactions happen. can’t wait till that’s out!

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