Tag Archive | beliefs

Humour me

Language is interesting. Humour is something we all might recognise in the modern world as describing something amusing, that might make us laugh. But understanding where the word humour comes from gives insight to how language is connected to the ways knowledge is constructed.

Humour comes from Latin and means ‘moisture’ which then passed into English to mean bodily fluids – humours, of which there were 4 and were connected to moods and functions of different organ systems.

For a long time, there was no distinction between the sexes, there was one human template. There were variations on humours and degrees of temperature that defined the spectrum of difference. Male was at the hot end and female at the colder end of the spectrum.

The science and medical profession of the time found ‘evidence’ of the inferiority of women and other cultures and used it to maintain social order. What I find interesting, I suppose, is while modern anatomy and physiology have moved on since the 17th and 18th century, some of the assumptions and ideas live on. I mean, just look at how hard women had to fight just to be able to compete at the Olympics –they weren’t able to run in the marathon until 1984, nearly 100 years after the start of the modern games. You can’t tell me that it was a misprint in the programme.

Scientific knowledge has a level of power to it, to define the truth about something and this is what is interesting to think about and notice. That is, how various branches of science over time have categorised people and other species, given them particular qualities, limits and justified practices of exclusion, exploitation and mistreatment.

I wonder what science will look like in 300 years. What truths and facts will be as laughable to that generation as the idea of blood being turned into semen by body heat. Now that is humorous.


What does true diversity look like?

The following tweet turned up in my feed from Susie Sirman, from Alberta, Canada, a self-confessed “high school science and art teacher, learning coach, edtech enthusiast, busy mom and a terrible choice to follow on Twitter.” So I followed her. But anyway, her tweet:

I like the model (further tweets between us revealed it isn’t hers) and I agree with it to an extent. Simply putting different people in the same room isn’t useful, but I think it is, unfortunately, what inclusion is about currently. It isn’t, however, diversity.

So I wondered, using this model, what diversity would look like and, just out of interest, how it might differ from assimilation. I changed the colours of the dots for aesthetic reasons as you’ll see below. And here’s what I came up with:


Assimilation is when “different” people are included as long as they take on the “colour” of the majority, ie. beliefs, values, behaviour etc., in order to be accepted. This is often the result of our current model of inclusion.

True diversity, however, is when all parties are able to learn about each other’s similarities and differences — or uniqueness and commonality — and, as such, colours blend, creating a new set of values, beliefs and behaviours, unique to the group. As a result, the colour of the group — or its culture — also changes.

This post originally appeared on www.philippatston.com

Labels – past their used by date?

When you go to the supermarket to buy stuff, you expect to read labels. I mean if you want shampoo it makes good sense to have shampoo bottles labelled so you don’t accidentally put toilet cleaner or dish washing liquid in your lovely locks.
There has been both a move toward creating more labels for people and resisting labels and trying to ‘unstick’ some that have become old, worn and perhaps not so helpful in understanding what is behind the packaging. In particular the language around sexual diversity has exploded, (I’ve already done something on ice-cream but this is slightly different). The supermarket equivalent could be breakfast cereal or chips. Back in the day there were only 3 flavours of chip – plain, chicken and salt n vinegar…don’t ask me how chicken got in there, still a mystery. Gender and sexuality for years were pretty simple packets. Two flavours of gender and two of sexuality – three if you were in a sophisticated supermarket, I mean environment. Someone who might best represent a label free upbringing is iO Tillett Wright. Functional diversity has followed a bit of the same journey with disabled and ‘normal’ being the limits of language in the past. I like more options to define ourselves but I’m not convinced that infinite labels are the way to go.
People are not consumer products, although maybe some might want to stick warning labels on at times. But whether we like it or not labels for people exist. Pretending we don’t notice people based on certain characteristics is sort of like saying all cats are the same…try bringing home a full grown tiger and pretend you got it from the SPCA! Anyway, my point is noticing difference is fine, it’s absolutely normal and natural to observe things that ‘stand out’. Our eyes or other senses are drawn to this so if we are in an environment where everything is the same then the slightest difference will stand out.
For example, if you are at a ‘single sex’ school, with all girls wearing skirts or boys wearing shorts then people might naturally start to notice alternative forms of diversity. Probably the most common thing we notice is ethnicity but what then? Well I suggest our ideas about what that could mean might start filtering assumptions, beliefs or ideas about whether this person is someone ‘like me’. Sometimes it might be hard to know but at some level we’ve probably already put some knowledge into motion to assess if this other human being could be someone I can relate to, communicate with, have a laugh with, feel safe with?
What I wonder about is the role of communication in all of this. If someone looks ‘foreign’ either because of their ethnicity OR because they function differently (e.g. in a wheelchair with a different kind of communication device) our first instinct is probably related to ‘how will we communicate?’ So I think enough of the labelling, or trying to label more things about people – I’m already confused but talk to me about bikes, lego, sport and science fiction and I don’t care what planet you are from you are one of my kind!

Big shoes to fill or just find a better fit

I got thinking a lot after I saw this pop up on Facebook.

As long as human beings have been conscious of their own existence in the universe there has been wonderment about the meaning of life and the place we have in it. There are traditions, rituals and beliefs that stretch back to the ‘dawn’ of our species. Indeed, how our collective ‘sun came up’ is one of the most contested and debated ideas of all time. Religion has been around longer than science (I think), but for its short time in our cultural landscape, science has weighed in just as much into the debate and for some it has turned into arguing two sides ‘evolution vrs creation’.

But we cannot ignore the fact that a very large percentage of the worlds population follows one form of religion or another. I did a quick google search (as you do) and was pretty amazed at the incredibly diverse faiths, traditions, beliefs and religions of the world. Some have emerged in more recent times to dominate in terms of numbers of followers but within Christianity alone there are so many denominations it kind of makes my head spin. I suppose one of the things that really interests me is the way cultures shift and change through migration and colonisation, especially for indigenous cultures.

I was watching Avatar recently (for about the 10th time) and aside from the futuristic offworld giant blue people and crazy scary flora and fauna, the parallels of one group trying to impose its beliefs and values on another are pretty clear. There is a pattern we shouldn’t ignore or be afraid to examine because it might help us understand and possibly reclaim some different ways of relating to nature and each other.  Read More…