Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Special: Oppression in Rudolph's story

Having grown up in New England I have a weakness for Christmas songs in the winter, even when condensation on the window stays liquid on the coldest Oakland nights. Listening to the latest pop rendition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer got me thinking: why does a bullied outcast need the blessing of an old white man authority to gain social status?

Considering the history of the evolution of life, and complexity in general, it's clear that diversity drives complexity as conditions inevitably change. The shift from a carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere to an oxygenated one wiped out most bacterial life as photosynthesis flourished. In every mass extinction that followed, it was niche creatures that survived and through luck and adaptation replenished new habitats. This is the inherent, proven value of diversity.

(I could add that as sentient beings capable of ethical analysis and behavior, it's our calling to defend life and diversity against less capable forces. That's not central to my argument in this post, though.)

A better question might be, how did Santa and the dim-nosed reindeer ever get through Christmases without some sort of fog illumination? And how did reindeer society become so conformist, anyway?

Recently a white coworker remarked to an Arab coworker and me that he couldn't make sense of racism and, if one looks for reason, shouldn't our darker skin be considered better for its protection against sunburn? I found this rough reasoning: the definition of race is perceived to be pigmented skin, which is valuable to a fair-skinned "normal" person, rather than the overwhelming inherent value of diversity among people of color or the absolute value of familial ties... I could go on. No, thanks, I don't need your authoritative evaluation of my dark skin for my racial value.

Merry Christmas! Oh, and if you think I'm getting a bit unhinged, I assure you, I've newly replaced them: