Ever see My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Charming story about a homely aging waitress with a large, fairly well off Greek family, who finds a nice, though dull, young man, and the two marry, living happily ever after (though I gather there are sequels, so who knows).
In one scene, the colorful Greek waitress and her beau meet the man’s parents, who are painted in flat gray, who speak in flat gray sentences. The man’s family, we are told, is sparse. And gray.
The man’s story is the standard comedic fish-out-of-water as he learns the amusing quirks and rambunctious ways of his new people. The man even converts formally to their religion. We cheer him on. At the wedding, the man’s flat gray parents come to life and learn to dance.
IMDB does a nice job summarizing the movie, though perhaps they didn’t grasp how nice: “A young Greek woman falls in love with a non-Greek and struggles to get her family to accept him while she comes to terms with her heritage and cultural identity.”
Well now. Who doesn’t want to belong to a people? The man in the movie even gives a little speech about how dull and pointless his life was until he met and joined his new people. So joining a new people is possible, at least by marriage. His family was part of no real people at all. Or not allowed to think so. For, of course, the man didn’t only marry the woman, but married the family. He joined a people. The woman realized that what she wanted was not “independence”, but to be part of her people after all.
As is natural. After all, each of us come from our parents, and they from theirs, and the whole forms some kind of people. Sure, there is fuzz around the edge, there’s lots of overlap, and things change, but everybody knows what peoples are. Wanting to be with those who are like ourselves is rooted deep within us. It feels right. The drive is powerful, biological, and cannot be eradicated.
Though it has been tried. You’ve heard it said anybody can be an American if only they hold this certain list of propositions. Which makes the country a “proposition nation.”
But not really. Because do you remember the time when those who did not hold to that list of propositions, but held their own, tried to go their own separate way? The peoples from the North, colonizers who were stronger, forced the people of the South to change their propositions.
Which some did, though not all did so wholeheartedly, and some never did.
The people holding the Northern propositions decided that everybody who wanted to come to the States could, as long as they converted and swore to new propositions, forswearing the old ones. But with a twist. Because the new people only really had to hold to one self-contradictory proposition, which is that certain peoples are “racist” for thinking they belong to a people, but that everybody else should believe they belong to a people.
Anyway, it’s too late now, because now the States are flooded with lots of different peoples, who still, to varying degrees, hold with their own people’s propositions.
So what? So this. Because so many different peoples are here, it means every time wars and other incidents occur in far off lands, the folks who live here who still see themselves as part of the people in those far off lands demand the States, demand I and my people, and all other peoples, “do something.”
Which, again, is entirely natural. There is no conspiracy here. But it is all so tiresome.
Here is one fellow (and there are many like him), who holds great power here in States, who is in tears over “family members, cousins, brothers” and others who are suffering in some far off land.
He asks us to care for his people. Which is natural.
But his people are not my people. And neither are his people’s enemies my people. Those other people are also holding demonstrations around the country hoping to get folks to care about their people.
Which is natural.
Again, none of those peoples are my people. Their fight is not my fight. It is not my business, and I want nothing to do with it. Why should I be forced to pick a side? Why am I and my people responsible for the whole world?
Yet neither do I hold it against anybody for trying to get folks to care. Because that is natural. If my cooperation is voluntary, like the man in the movie, then fine. But I should not be made to pay, or to fight, in a war that is not my concern. It affects my people not at all, except to the extent those in power say it must.
The insanity that arises out of forcing people to pretend out loud there are no peoples, because all people are the same, while all their actions confirm there certainly are peoples, and that not all peoples are equal, and that certain peoples must be allowed greater privileges (see any job announcement for which peoples I mean), accounts for much of what is wrong in the world.
Take blacks, who see themselves as a people. Which is natural. Many would like to be left on their own, as a people, which is natural. But no one is allowed to say this is a fine idea, because it violates the Central Proposition that all people are “really” the same. But they say that because no one has any idea how to affect any kind of separation. Me neither. So we all go on pretending we’re all the same in all things. Which we aren’t. (E.g.: “California’s newly enacted ‘Ebony Alert’ law is the first of its kind in the nation to prioritize the search for Black youth gone missing.”)
We say we’re all the same except when bad things happen to peoples over the seas, when those who hold or can gather power decide we all must care for one people over another. As with Ukraine and Russia, another fight that is not my fight, or my people’s fight. But we are made to care because the peoples who hold power decide we must.
Or take the long-running bloody awful civil war in the Central African Republic. Which side are you on?
None, of course, because their peoples do not live here in any great number, and have no power, so we hear nothing of it. We are not made to care because we all (or most) recognize these are not our people.
Indeed, there are many wars and conflicts all over the world. We know of the ones in which peoples here are in sufficient number or power to make us care. And, except for a small numbers of scholars, diplomats and the like, we know nothing about most of them because the peoples in these conflicts are few in number or weak in power here.
Yes, there are all kinds of considerations about empire, prestige, Expert theory, oligarchs and money that account for a great deal of meddling. But a lot of that is also tied, at base, to biology.
The real lesson here is this: diversity is our weakness.
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