Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Diversity and the Outsider

"We have become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams." ~ Jimmy Carter

"Peace is not unity in similarity but unity in diversity, in the comparison and conciliation of differences." ~Mikhail Gorbachev"

"Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations (IDIC) represents a Vulcan belief that beauty, growth, and progress all result from the union of the unlike. Concord, as much as discord, requires the presence of at least two different notes. The brotherhood of man is an ideal based on learning to delight in our essential differences, as well as learning to recognize our similarities." ~STAR TREK

Myth and folklore are all about interactions between humans and magical and otherworldly creatures. That hasn't changed today, although you are as likely to find aliens and mutants among the gods, faerie folk and elementals. Otherworld includes the entire universe of possibilities.

Except for tales of the gods, classic mythology and fairy tales are usually told from the human point of view. There are exceptions, but in general the stories were meant as cautions to keep people safe; which could also mean keeping them in their place. Thus in the original Little Mermaid tale, the nonhuman heroine loses her prince to a human woman, returns to the sea and dies. There are tales of changeling children swapped for trolls in Swedish and Celtic legend; in both the way to get rid of them was to treat the child cruelly.

It's only recently that stories have shifted to the outsider's point of view. Superman, of course, is from another planet, but Kryptonians are human in most respects; he is more a god than an alien.

The first truly nonhuman character that I recall was Eando Binder's Adam Link. Adam Link was a robot who appeared in a series of stories from 1939 to 1942. The stories were about his attempts to be accepted by human society. There were other robotic heroes but most of these were so humanoid that it didn't matter or human brains in metal bodies.

Since then outsider heroes have become popular. Aliens like STAR TREK's Spock and the comic books' Martian Manhunter, demons from other dimensions like Hellboy (see image), vampires, and like creatures are heroes too.

In faerie lore, changelings were fey beings left behind when human children were stolen. The modern versions are the mutants in stories like X-MEN. The children are "different" from their parents, sometimes just by having super powers, but some have blue fur, tails, claws or scales. They are the ultimate version of the outsider. But in the new stories the changelings are the heroes.

Of course the truth represented by these heroes has nothing to do with the Otherworld. The appearance in popular culture of outsider heroes reflects, I think, a growing acceptance of human diversity in all its forms. And this is something we have to learn. There is too much beauty to be seen in differences and truths to be learned from each other to waste it hating ourselves over small differences.

And that's all there is between us ... small differences. There are no outsiders.

1 comment:

Dawn said...

There is too much beauty to be seen in differences and truths to be learned from each other to waste it hating ourselves over small differences.

The problem I see is that our [American] society is becoming less and less tolerant of diversity in its myriad, beautiful forms. I can't tell you how much richer my life and more open my mind has become by making friends with people from Canada, Paraguay, Argentina, Columbia, Venezuela, Ecuador, England, Sweden, Germany, France, Spain, Czech Republic, Pakistan, Kenya, Nigeria, India, Australia, China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea.