What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us—Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is no secret that the best way to make a group of people “sick” is to marginalize them. Public health practitioners have worked for years to shout this out to the greater world. Consider historically any marginalized group that has been stripped of its culture, homeland, access to health and education, and minimized by a majority. For example (and this is just a small representation): Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, Blacks, Gay people, Jewish people, and the list continues.
It seems to be human nature to create tribal affiliation and then assume the culture, values, beliefs, and attitudes of that group prevails over any differing approaches. We are often threatened by that which is different.
Perhaps we as a species too often revert to the reptilian portion of our brain that reacts with a fearful or aggressive response rather then employing the pre-frontal cortex that developed to provide us with a sense of empathy, compassion, and sympathy.
We are, however, seeing change. In the United States the recent two-day rulings by the Supreme court supporting health care and gay marriage has been an extremely hopeful turn of events in a country so divided on many issues with often a majority imposing their worldview on others.
The so-called millennial generation is perhaps our corrective experience generation in the United States. This group has grown up with a greater acceptance of others and willingness to live and let live. They have seen parents suffer economically, and realized that the pursuit of happiness does not necessarily lie in the pursuit of material goods. Their attitudes are creating rapid social change.
Individuals and groups flourish if given the opportunity to access health-care, education, and economic opportunities. These are human rights and social justice issues that humanists and other groups support.
We can all work towards providing ourselves and others a sense of hopefulness and helpfulness through inclusion and policy change. It may seem overwhelming to dedicate any space to this in today’s demanding world, but small investments, as we have seen recently, lead to change we wouldn’t have dreamed of happening even five years ago.