Chronicle of the Month – November 2007

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Differences and Marginality
by Odilon Mbog

odilon2 We continue here the reflection started in the month of Jully concerning the attitude that one should adopt in the face of the reality of existence of groups, of categories and of all the features which tend to put people together and to exclude others, naturally or artificially, and which bring to the fore the impossibility of living, or simply of existing, with having to oneself challenged by the notion and the reality of difference and differences.

It seems to us, therefore, that difference is one of the things most fundamentally connected with existence, in such a way that it is simply impossible to be or to exist without paying tribute to difference. The simple thought of it leads to dizziness.

But once we admit differences and that they really exist, it would be necessary to be aware of the fact that there will always be borders, which, with regard to the criteria that characterize the differences, put some together with others and without any doubt, keep the rest outside the cadre or the circle designed by the contours of the criteria. And on that depend choices, selections, elections, adoption and other features which call up analysis that lead to decision making. One is on the useful side or on the margin depending on whether one is inside or outside.

The margin is exactly a concept gives a lot of serious problems to the contemporary world, leading to another concept whose force never ceases to grow and which certain people would wish to be able to eliminate: MARGINALITY. But if we would be able to suppress this word from all the dictionaries, is it really possible, is it simply thinkable or conceivable to be able to eliminate marginality?

It is just like saying that one would like to suppress differences, values and the capacity of man to appreciate beings and events, and to give them value. But in that case, it would come to making all to be the same, of denying diversity in nature itself, of cancelling the different ways and cultural growth speeds. In sum, that would mean denying otherness! In fact, it is very much greater than an intellectual nuclear bomb, since it would mean then to act on the foundations of the human intellect, to extirpate from the depth of his being and even of his power to be original, this faculty which makes of him this being, capable more than any other, of having a thought-out relation, a relation desired, sought for, wished and abhorred with beings, because he is capable of giving sense and value to all that is other in relation to himself, and therefore capable of situating himself willingly or unwillingly in relation to the other, the other that could be a human being, a group of human beings, things, acts or facts, or any other factor that invites one to take one’s distance or to an awareness of a real, effective, empirical or conceptual, or even sentimental distance.

The earth is practically a very small corner of the universe. The landed part of the earth is just a minor fraction. Among the animals, man does not represent a great deal. And among men, races, families, types, cultures, history, constitute an infinity of criteria that make us different. And most often, depending on whether one is in majority or in minority with regard to the criterion that defines the relationship with the others, one can be in the mainstream or on the margin, one feels the weight of difference, as something that oppresses, something which disturbs, and which, at least psychologically, reveals itself as difficult to bear, because one sees thrown on one’s face one’s very finitude, one’s non-possibility of having in oneself all that could be considered as value, be it for just for a time.

Yet, finitude is proper to all being, to all that exists, unless on is the Being, the Existence itself, the Infinite, God (Each finds in it what corresponds to his vocabulary)! If finitude is proper to every creature and every being, all, one day or the other, therefore find themselves on the margin, and it is right to say that one always finds oneself on the margin.

In the final analysis, therefore, marginality is part of common characteristics of all and sundry and perhaps the only person for whom the criterion of marginality does not exist is God. But even at that…! The most exalted pantheism could not draw that conclusion.

Here again we see the whole meaning of the famous saying of youth: “One should have the courage to be like everybody, in other to be like nobody”. The statement, in this case, tries to lead each and everyone to bear his own finitude, to have the courage to accept the difference and otherness proper to him, because it is in that that one is like every other person and above. One should have the courage of marginality to be able to accept differences. The courage that comes into question here has nothing to do with heroism or forbearance before a social phenomenon. It is consciousness of a fact, that humanity should be aware of in order to be able to live it in a truly human way.

We shall dedicate the next chronicle to this human marginality. This present chronicle should help to bring to the end its conceptual framework, in such a way that the sensibility with regard to the diverse sensations of marginality, could be oriented a little less negatively. Situations of marginality do not lack in the reality of human life and especially in the social relationships. When these situations are not accepted, they could be the cause of a lot of sufferings and even of social catastrophes.

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