By Bart Vogelzang

‘Pack, herd, flock, school, covey, gaggle, congress’ are all terms used to describe groups of animals which stay in near proximity to each other. People do the same thing, banding together, and often the same terms are used, although we’ve got some of our own; gang, band, club, mob, tribe, association, movement, religion, but there is a difference when used to describe human relationships; membership is not necessarily limited to one grouping, with people voluntarily able join a number of different collectives.

Of course there are often significant differences between people, even though others have marked similarities, and some of those differences are pretty nearly unchangeable. If you are black, you are black, and no amount of effort will make that change. You might get operations to change your features, and alter the skin with chemicals, but that will most likely cause major trauma and stress, without changing who you really are on the inside where it counts the most, your brain and psychic identity. The same goes for whites being white, orientals being oriental, tall people being tall, short people short, gays being gay, lefties being lefties (left-handed), immigrants being immigrants, males being male and females female. There are basics about you that cannot be changed, no matter how much effort, money, and pain is put into trying; supposing you would even want to change. The outside can be altered, but the inside essential ‘you’ cannot. That brings us to an important note: we all know that variations abound in nature, some being completely non-viable, so the offspring dies, but others being perfectly able to survive, thrive and even prove to be superior. Savants are such; you know - the type of person who can remember everything they’ve ever seen, or are able to play a piano without ever taking a lesson. Trans-gendered folk fall into this category, where the brain/psyche is one gender and the body another. Changing their gender isn’t really what many of them are seeking, but rather a correction of the outward body to match the gender of the inner psyche.

“Why would anyone want to change?” is the next obvious question. Probably the biggest single reason for wanting to change is because other people don’t treat you fairly and decently, and since they don’t accept you for who you are, you may well seek to change the inner you. Often the people who want to force you to change yourself to suit their expectations will voluntarily join one of those groups mentioned earlier, banding together to force their expectations en masse.

They join together for mutual support, to work towards their goals, and they often have an agenda, a long term plan of action, although admittedly some don’t think too far ahead, if at all. Sadly, once people have joined a group voluntarily, they will almost always seek for any and all reasons to support their chosen group whilst denigrating others. If a mob decides they are going to ‘beat the crap out of’ another group, they will pick some frivolous reason to do so and give it massive prominence within their gang. A white racist pack may decide to try to get rid of immigrants, and no amount of logic will convince them that they are not losing jobs to the newcomers. By the same token, many religions despise women, and continually put them into less important, if not actually menial, positions. They simply refuse to see the similarities between male and female, and insist on seeing the differences, and interpreting them negatively. Associations have formed to counsel attacks on gays and lesbians, and as mentioned before, no amount of logic will sway their determination to believe the beauty of two people loving each other is ‘bad’.

I suppose that at some point in our human history and pre-history there was some benefit to flocking together, repelling the dangerous outsiders to protect our own localized tribal interests, but when we become too closed minded and refuse to allow others into our midst we not only stifle our own creativity, but decrease our gene pool, with the result of eventual inbreeding and demise of our whole clan. Closed societies don’t work over the long term, even though from within things might seem just fine. Dictatorships are pretty much exclusively closed societies, each person expected to not only act, but also think, along the lines of the ruler. Theologically based governments are nearly as bad, with everyone expected to ‘toe the line’ on a myriad of issues, many of which make no real sense and fly directly in the face of reality. Not only do those who cannot bend to the will of the governing body suffer, but ultimately so do all the people, since they are all oppressed, some just at a slightly less onerous level. Eventually, people band together to throw off the yoke of tyranny, usually with great loss of life and much suffering, only to teeter on the brink of forming a tyrannical mob of their own.

We need to accept and love people for who they are. We aren’t really all that different from one another. Any group, gang, association, and yes, religion, to which we belong by choice, should conduct itself with the goal of boosting the acceptance, the diversity, and the richness that is embodied in every one of us. We all need to see that we all belong to a much larger group than all those variations described before; we are all human beings.