Exploring the Social Imagination

Monday, February 27, 2017

Diversity in the Social Imagination!

What is diversity in the social imagination of a group? Diversity within a group exists but only as differences in personal style as in slightly different ways to express the same thing. Which can be  seen and appreciated as different styles and different uses for the same shared information.

There is another kind of diversity, a real and or true diversity and that is the diversity we experience outside of our group as we encounter other groups outside the social imagination of our group which is not the same social imagination we have.

You might even ask, how is the other group recognizable if they don't have the same social imagination? That's a fair question. You see, other groups outside our own are recognized by us simply for being human and we 'imagine' that they are both like us and not like us. We effectively use our group definition in an attempt to understand theirs. The process is called discrimination. We look at social differences, and that begins with obvious physical differences.

We see that our group is different as we compare basic distinctive qualities and behaviors which are  'discriminating'.  In this way, we understand not only who we are and are not and how they are and are not ... like us.  We look at other groups of people and begin discriminating by seeing observing obvious physical differences. We firstly take into consideration that other people are like us and we need to do this in order to even approach other people. Simply, we see that they are human and have likes 'preferences' and dislikes (we suppose) and are right to suppose like we do. They marry, have children, like music, go to work ... they live and die like humans do.

We consider too that their location as in geography could be similar offering us a kind of comfort zone; we know other people (we assume) see the sun during the day and the moon and stars at night. And yet, we also notice that other locations can be very different and even sometimes vastly different from our own and we could never imagine living there even if the sun rises and sets there too.

Being in a place has a lot to do with who we are and are not. We sometimes think we are the same as other people (other groups) because we are human beings and that alone somehow makes us the same. However, by doing that, we neglect the deeper meaning acquired by a group experiencing  being (coming from) in a place over time... its impacts on identity. Young people and I suppose older people too can look around a room or watch television news or see a movie depicting a 'variety' of styles and they think that's diversity.

Wrong, to call that diversity is 'window dressing' as in only seeing different styles of a self within a familiar group trying to represent themselves in an 'individual' way. We all represent ourselves to others within our own group. And, includes how we dress - clothing and hair styles within one group and we can be thus a little different and like it because we are comfortable with each other knowing that we are part of the same group, the same 'wider' context of social cohesiveness that comes from being in a place over time - the same social imagination.

True diversity exits only because we recognize and respect that other groups are really different in that they have different: world view, language, politics/culture, traditions, belief systems all acquired in a place over time. If we start to say that we are the same or wrong/bad, we actually destroy that unique 'true/real' diversity. And, in that recognition we find that we could never be like them.

Yes, of course, we can read history and learn that some people migrated and some people adopted other people's ways of doing things. But, in that adoption of information, only some of its meaning internalized as in made to 'fit'; there is no other way because then the information taken in was not different at all. When information is really different, we look for the tiniest bit that is similar and adopt that as in take it in and use some of its meaning as it applies to the place we are in.

Was there forced adoption of information/culture? Yes, and it usually never went well or ended well. The Roman Empire is a good example and so is British Imperialism in the not so far past. I am sure one can find animosity for American Manifest Destiny among native Americans and dislike for American corporations that spread their products from coast to coast and even around the world ... there was/is a book, "The McDonaldization of Society" by sociologist George Ritzer.

Reading that book, we see how one 'institution', though a fast food restaurant, could give a false sense of cohesiveness to people here and around the globe.  Even the idea that Americans have of 'our democracy is falsely thought to engage people in the same way everywhere.

Remember, if you like seeing other cultures perform doesn't mean you can't learn their 'dance'... but it won't have the same meaning for you as it does for them. And, don't be arrogant to think you can be them just because you can move your feet/hips like they do. You just mock them if you do. And if you try to impose upon them your kind of diversity... it will likely not end well. Why? Because, your kind of diversity is good only because in your group you share in the same social imagination... being different only in style. If you change another group's social imagination to be like yours, you lose true diversity and you end up destroying true diversity in the world.

Again, just because you can get a group of people together to all dance to the same music doesn't mean they hear it the same way you do as if you were hearing it within your own group. 

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