Reading time – 77 seconds . . .
In a most accessible essay entitled The Umwelt, David Eagleman gives perspective to a 1909 concept of Jakob von Uexkull explaining the varied perceptions different animals have to their environmental signals. Snakes, for example, are practically blind to what humans see, but they have amazing vision in the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum where we can’t see a thing. Were we without special scientific equipment, we would never know that it exists. In fact, we are only able to see about one ten-trillionth of the electromagnetic spectrum, so limited are we. And we go about our daily lives largely ignorant of even the possibility of so much more to be seen.
And that is the point.
Cliven Bundy is a cattle rancher in Nevada who has refused to pay his bill for grazing rights on public lands for over two decades. By definition, he is a cheat and a thief. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at last decided that enough was enough and sent some people to confiscate his cattle. They were met by an army of angry white supremacist radicals equipped with automatic weapons and threatening to kill the BLM people. Interestingly, those belligerents brought their women and children and placed them in front of themselves so that if there were a firefight, the BLM folks would wind up shooting innocents. Such is the courage and integrity of Bundy’s extremist pals.
(Side note: If the Black Panthers had greeted law enforcement officials that way in the 1960s, how would they have been treated? Actually, we know the answer to that question, as do the survivors of the Cook County state’s attorney’s police raid that killed Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in their beds. But, of course that doesn’t matter any more, as the Supreme Court has recently assured us that ours is a post-racial society, where, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” – Chief Justice John Roberts. Gosh, that sounds easy – let’s all just do it.)
On April 24, 2014 Bundy held a news conference and reiterated that he doesn’t believe that the U.S. government even exists. Furthermore, he told the attending reporters and his sycophants about “The Negro” on welfare and wondered aloud if blacks were better off being slaves picking cotton. Oddly, that brings us back to Eagleman’s essay – by way of your dog.
The olfactory capability of a bloodhound is a thousand times more powerful than that of a human being. We humans recognize the smell of fresh baked bread, the delight of a rose and the odor of a freshly relieved skunk and it would be common for us to assume that we know all of what is available to be smelled. But if your bloodhound had the intellectual capability for such an analysis, he would laugh at us for that.
Back to Cliven Bundy. He is certain that he knows the truth. He is not just an extremist; he is an absolutist. He knows. Yet to borrow from Eagleman’s essay, what if Bundy and his white supremacist buddies, ” . . . could be infused with the proper intellectual humility that comes from appreciating the amount unseen?” Bundy and his blind army of hate haven’t a clue what resides outside their bigoted view and your bloodhound would laugh at them for their ignorance.
There are a lot of people in positions of power and there are also many in other positions that provide them with a very loud megaphone, like Sean Hannity at FoxNews. Even with their severely limited vision, myopic as Bundy’s army, they are certain that they know the truth. What if they could be infused with that intellectual humility and they could acknowledge that there might be more in the universe than the tiny slice they know? What if all of of the absolutists could?
Yeah, I know. That’s just too crazy a dream.
Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same. Thanks. JA
Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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