Odd One Out

I’m vacillating between two topics, Michelle Obama’s recent concise advice to “focus on what you can control”, and a rather more controversial reflection on color discrimination across species. I sense there’s a linkage underlying the two subjects which may emerge as I write. We’ll see.

We have two mother goats of the Boer breed (white with brown and black markings around the head and neck) who were each impregnated by a handsome white billy and each produced twins. One set of a male and a female are shades of brown, the other of two males are opposites, one all white like his daddy, the other all black like none of the rest.

Knowing nothing more, if you were required to bet on which kid is the odd one out, how would you place your money?

Years ago when there was only one main prison facility in the state and I was teaching psychology in the New Mexico Penitentiary, an albino Black man in my classes wrote a paper about the unique discrimination of being an “oddity” within his culture. I’ve read that in some African cultures, albinos are considered to be evil, and are persecuted and driven out, if not killed shortly after birth. Albino individuals in Caucasian society are also at risk of suffering from humanity’s’ general intolerance for differences.

Have you now concluded that, as is the case, the pure white kid is the one who is pushed away from food, isolated and scorned, and the only one whom our dog actively harasses? Was the white one also your first bet?

I can discipline my dog to refrain from attacking and harming the white goat. I can do little about its isolation by the rest of the herd, beyond assuring that it gets enough food which, given the large pasture they all inhabit, is fairly well guaranteed.

By extension, does that mean I am right to focus my energies these days within my own world where I can have some influence, perhaps make small changes for the better without wasting energy on much of the larger political scene? I sign the petitions to those I think will listen, or who may be influenced by sheer numbers; I don’t bother with the ones I am certain will fall on deaf ears.

And I continue to wonder about the evident cross-species tendency to exclude, ostracize, put down and otherwise do harm to those perceived as “different”. Have we any hope, as thoughtful human beings, of altering on a large scale what appears to be a fundamental biological motivation? Is the current atmosphere of intolerance and defensive anger perceived in many countries around the world, simply a resurgence of basic human nature rather than a “swing to the right” or some other philosophical trend?

I have no answers. I do take comfort from following Mrs. Obama’s advice to “focus on what you can control”. Anything else is just a waste of energy.

The challenge, of course, is discerning what one can – and one one can never – succeed in controlling!20170727_092225

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2 Responses to “Odd One Out”

  1. Ronald Maltais Says:

    A thought provoking piece which makes me wonder how and why people and animals ostracize and how a group simply “knows” which individual to ignore or mistreat. Charles Shultz (cartoonist) made this issue the centerpiece of his “Peanuts” series.

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