How did this happen?

differencesSeriously, we’re so different. We have such disparate opinions about the world. About politics. Religion. Child rearing. Twitter. Beer. This is good by the way, these differences.

My frustration comes from the fact that we don’t seem to celebrate these differences enough, that we might all learn from one another. Conformity is valued, whether we like to admit it or not. Hell, organized religion and politics - two of the biggest institutions in the country - depend on conformity for their very survival. Add to this the indoctrination of kids by way of the public school system and, well, you get my point.

The result is that a lot of people use these differences as an excuse to build walls along their borders. To keep people out. And others in. After a while, the view is so obstructed that we can’t even imagine another way, much less respect the perspective that allowed for it, or  learn something valuable from it.

And I guess that’s the answer to the question…How did this happen? That’s how. By turning differences into points of contention rather than discussion. By making rules, if only informal, that exclude rather than include. By raising our young people to fit in rather than stand out.

But you see, our differences aren’t a problem…no, they’re a solution, at least potentially. If we could stop trying to ram ‘our way’ down the throats of those we disagree with, stop presuming we maintain a monopoly over what’s right, I think we’d be amazed at what’s out there. If we could learn to embrace our differences, and truly learn from them, in a way that is more than just lip service, I think that could be a game-changer.

The Mastermind idea is founded upon the value that’s created by people coming together to solve problems, enhance creativity, expand awareness. Imagine if our institutions took that approach. Rather than malign those who disagree, collaborate with them, learn from them. Because not only is there value in those differences, there’s a lot of common ground to be found there as well.

I think social media is leading the way in this regard. Sharing. Collaborating. Connecting dots. Shedding light. Certainly, it’s why I’m here.

{ 22 comments… add one }

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  • jebdickerson March 24, 2009, 4:09 pm

    different is good…

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Jay March 24, 2009, 4:24 pm

    Let us celebrate the snowflakes that we are. Conform only in order to achieve overall peace, but even then, our uniqueness, is what brings it all together. Didn’t Rush have some awful music video for the sub-developments that speaks to this? See no one but me would think of that crappy video. :-)

    Get Jay’s content here..Inner Noodle’s Guide to Dream Analysis- Step 6

    • Jeb March 24, 2009, 8:29 pm

      Hmmm, Jay. I’m a Rush fan (or should I say, WAS a Rush fan), but I can’t pluck that one from the memory banks I’m afraid. Thanks for driving it home baby!

  • jayfrawley March 24, 2009, 4:24 pm

    RT @JebDickerson: different is good… - I am down with the snowflake vibe!

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Bamboo Forest - PunIntended March 24, 2009, 8:11 pm

    Cool post. A bit vague - but I still enjoyed it.

    Can’t really add to it. But here is for nonconformity: I have absolutely nothing to add to this post and yet I’m adding text anyways.


    Get Bamboo Forest - PunIntended’s content here..Why Do People Clap in Movie Theatres?

    • Jeb March 24, 2009, 9:06 pm

      Honestly BF, this was one of those posts that just didn’t work. I know what I meant to say, what I hoped to convey, but at the end, I just couldn’t pull it off. So let me try again, a bit more briefly…

      I grew up in the Greek Orthodox Church. I was a Political Science major, interned in DC. My boys have been in public schools for many years. All these ‘American Institutions’ are riddled with inconsistencies, mired in bullshit, crippled by the ‘self preservation’ mentality . Yet today, right this very minute, here on my blog, there on yours, everywhere across the interwebs, real people are connecting, sharing, understanding one another DESPITE our differences, and coming away from it better. We have the tools and the technology to facilitate this en masse…all but forsaken by the ‘powers that be’.

      But forget the tools, the technology. All of us, we’re people. We intuitively understand that tolerance is one of our greatest virtues. That the things that set us apart - our unique differences - are the very things that bind us together strongest. Yet somehow, somewhere along the path to power and influence, we forget.

      And so it starts all over again with each generation. The ‘do as I say not as I do’ dictum that we all see through. Our priests tell us to contribute our time and talent if that’s what we have to give, then they publish the financial contributions of the highest donors, clearly taking sides. Our politicians give lip service to bipartisanship, then they go on television and lambast members of the other party. Our schools preach the virtues of respect for individuality, then cram standardized testing down the throats of our kids for weeks at a time. The examples are endless, as is the quantity of utter nonsense it all amounts to.

      Such was the inspiration for this post. I’m sorry for not making that clear the first time around. And thanks for calling me out. I needed it. Cheers!

  • jebdickerson March 24, 2009, 9:10 pm

    umm…all that stuff I said earlier at HTM? yeah, scratch that. THIS is what i meant to say.

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Bamboo Forest - PunIntended March 24, 2009, 9:35 pm

    Certainly an interesting perspective.

    The internet is a wonderful thing - our blogs - our ability to voice our opinion.

    It does connect us.

    Get Bamboo Forest - PunIntended’s content here..Why Do People Clap in Movie Theatres?

  • Detlef Cordes March 25, 2009, 2:51 pm

    Jeb, I absolutely agree. And that’s why I started to blog in English - to be able to talk to a wide range of people, to exchange views and to experience difference. I enjoy reading the New York Times for nearly 30 years, for me it’s the best newspaper in the world - but I learned more about Americans in 3 months of blogging. We are different, yet we are friends on a common journey. I hope it will go on a long time, Jeb.

    Get Detlef Cordes’s content here..Being an Only Child

    • Jeb March 25, 2009, 8:38 pm

      Yes Detlef, I feel the same. One of the wonders of the internet is how it allows us to share so openly, to display ourselves much truer than we likely do elsewhere. And in so doing, we get to know ourselves, and others, much more deeply. Such value!

      I attended a workshop in college that sought to address race relations not just at the school, but ideally well beyond. At the core of that workshop was the premise that if we took the time to get to know one another, to hear each other’s stories, to see that despite our significant differences, we had much in common…we might learn to place a greater value on tolerance.

      We’d all overcome significant challenges. We were all grateful for the opportunities we had. We all had similar hopes and dreams and expectations for the future. So what started out as a discussion of differences ended up as a lesson for the ages…at our core, where it matters most, we share so much.

  • Henie March 25, 2009, 4:05 pm


    Your writing voice is distinct; add raw descriptives and it makes the tenor sharper! :~)

    Though there are certain points you made that would differ from my own, I wholeheartedly can embrace and enjoy yours!

    Thank you!

    “Our difference is our alikeness!” ~Henie~

    Get Henie’s content here..What’s To Expect?

    • Jeb March 25, 2009, 8:41 pm

      Ah Henie, and that’s the point isn’t it? Think how boring these connections would be if we were all carbon copies…No thanks. Take 1 part Jeb, a dash of Detlef, two tablespoons Bamboo Forest, a pinch of Jay, and 1 cup Henie…that’s a recipe for success! Thanks Henie.

  • Evelyn Lim March 25, 2009, 7:55 pm

    Oh wow….I have to say I am bowled over by the first post I read on your site! Powerful and compelling indeed! What’s wonderful is that I agree with what you’ve said, despite the fact that I am not American.

    Essentially, it is very much the same. The schools and systems here taught us more about separation rather than being united.

    Like you, I’m glad to have stumbled on blogging and social media. I’ve seen how helping others have been more of a joy than anything else. There is “no you against me”. We are all learning and growing at the same time and as much as we want to, in our own time. There is so much fun in community!

    I’d be checking out the rest of your posts! I’m looking forward to reading them!

    Abundance always,

    Get Evelyn Lim’s content here..Akashic Records Reveal DreamMaster

    • Jeb March 25, 2009, 9:02 pm

      Hey Evelyn, thanks for being here. And you’re right…community is fun! I tend toward a slow approach to building it, letting others point me in new directions, for new connections (rather than going out with the thought that I’m missing something and, therefore, must follow a thousand people on Twitter and subscribe to equal numbers of blog feeds).

      It’s how I met you, and it gives me time to dig in, get to know the people who are saying things that are important to me. I look forward to seeing you soon.

  • jebdickerson March 25, 2009, 8:44 pm

    ahhh collaboration! look how Jay and Henie and Detlef and Bamboo Forest made me better… thanks you four!

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Detlef Cordes March 26, 2009, 9:53 am

    Hey Jeb, thank you for including me in the successful mix!
    One point I forgot to ask: “Dickerson” doesn’t seem like the typical Greek name to me?

    Get Detlef Cordes’s content here..Small Town Loneliness

    • Jeb March 26, 2009, 10:01 am

      Hey DC…:) Mom is Greek, Dad is English. Sardonis is my mom’s maiden name. Growing up with her (they divorced when I was 4), we grew up with the Greek traditions. And, thankfully, Greek food.

  • Detlef Cordes March 26, 2009, 10:59 am

    Yep, Zaziki, Souvlaki, delicious meat balls. Hey, there is a home made pizza in the oven! (sorry for being off topic - but no: Italian and Greek food are different, too. And aren’t they both delicious, irreplaceable?)

    Get Detlef Cordes’s content here..Small Town Loneliness

  • Rashin D'Angelo March 30, 2009, 6:53 am

    Well said Jeb! All my life I’ve felt like a square peg trying to fit into a circle, often cutting off pieces of myself in the process. Needless to say, it’s been quite painful! Finally at the age of 37, I’ve realized that the square peg is not the problem. It’s the circle that doesn’t fit!
    Reality is that we are all different and unique in our ways. As much as we need some level of conformity to uphold our social standards, it’s time to celebrate our differences and allow others to shine as well. Thank you for bringing awareness to such an important issue.

    Get Rashin D’Angelo’s content here..Spring Bear

    • Jeb March 30, 2009, 8:54 pm

      Oooh, Rashin, I like that…thinking about the system as the problem as opposed to my inability to fit into it. That sheds a new light, helps me see a little better. Maybe we could start a club…’The Square Peg Posse’. Yes, you can be the leader cause you coined it, but I’d like 2nd in command, and a cool title. Now then, what about a tag line…??? :)

  • Rashin D'Angelo April 1, 2009, 6:43 am

    I like “The Square Peg Posse”. I think we’ll get more members than we can manage. And you can absolutely be the 2nd in command. Have to think of a tag line…all that comes to mind are cheesy ones like “too cool to care”, at which my 13 yr. old daughter would gag! :)

    Get Rashin D’Angelo’s content here..The Transcendent Function of Music

    • Jeb April 1, 2009, 8:33 pm

      The Square Peg Posse…”If it doesn’t fit, cram it”. INK IT!!! :)