Hierarchies du Jour

According to Webster's Dictionary, issues that are popular, fashionable, or prominent at a particular time can be called issues du jour. The dictionary lists environmentalism as an example.

Hierarchies du Jour are hierarchies that are currently strong and accepted by many people as the natural and normal order. They are difficult to identify because so many of us have lived with these hierarchies all our lives and have been taught they are the customary or moral way of living.

Because Hierarchies du Jour are especially elusive, it is important that we do not get trapped into supporting them. We must pay attention to CLUES and other telltale behaviors, especially if we are in a higher group. We can use role reversals. We can also listen closely to people who represent lower groups, then equate their experiences with our own in a different hierarchy.

It is easy to make the mistake of justifying and compromising with arguments that support a hidden Hierarchy du Jour. Even if we are tempted to be fair to "both sides," we must keep in mind that when one side supports a hierarchy, there is no need to compromise, as the issue is not a matter of "differences of opinion."

 

History Lessons

imageWe have much to learn from past generations who dealt with their Hierarchies du Jour. Since these social and political norms have become more exposed over time, they point the way for us in dealing with our current Hierarchies du Jour.

imageChief Joseph, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Martin Luther King, Jr., Helen Keller, Cesar Chavez, Frances Willard, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harvey Milk, and Harriet Tubman were all mavericks of their times. Each challenged an entrenched, powerful, hotly-debated hierarchy.

These "troublemakers" stepped out of their historically defined lower roles, eventually becoming wise and courageous role models of today.

Many of us find it easy to be judgmental about the past. We ask how our ancestors in the higher groups could have treated so unfairly the groups that these heroines and heroes represent. We don't understand why people could have acted the way they did.

Today's middle school and high school students who study their nation's history might look upon the generations of their parents and grandparents as prejudiced, naive, or just plain unfair. They might ask:

• How could European immigrants ignore treaties and slaughter indigenous people while stealing their lands?
• How could people buy and sell human beings as slaves?
• How could companies kill workers who are trying to organize unions?
• How could women be denied credit cards just because they were women?
• How could people send their children with disabilities off to institutions for life and not visit them or tell their other children about their brother or sister?

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History Repeats Itself

Hindsight gives us 20/20 vision when it comes to understanding and appreciating unfair behaviors of the past. We become less judgmental about our ancestors when we realize that had we been living years ago, we would possibly have acted the same way. When we are in the midst of a struggle, our vision is less clear than when we look backwards in time.

Years from now, the children and grandchildren of our present-day schoolchildren will be asking questions about our Hierarchies du Jour. They will ask their parents and teachers to explain the judgments, limitations, and isolation we inflicted.

Future generations will likely be perplexed by prejudice, naiveté, and discriminatory actions against people who are not heterosexual. They will ask why we used legal, social, and religious systems to keep gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people in low-status positions. Decades from now, we will recognize leaders for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered rights alongside other pioneers for human rights.

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Children of the future will also ask:

• Why did parents hope their sons would grow tall?
• Why did one's country of origin determine who could immigrate?
• Why were rape hot-lines and domestic violence centers for women the "solutions" to male violence against women?
• Why were women so skinny?
• Why were animals raised and slaughtered inhumanely?
• Why was excellent health care available to people who got paid the most and could afford it anyway when others who worked the same 40 hours had little or none?


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