Fellows

A path away from pride and prejudice

Editor’s note: the following is an except from a post that originally appeared on Rising Pyramid. Please click here to read the full post.

2009 was a seminal year in my life.  That was the year that I took my first step. Looking back on the path of my life, I can see clearly that I grew up dreaming of making a difference in a world that didn’t feel quite equitable—even if I didn’t understand why. My dreams shaped my choices and my choices shaped my experiences, but until 2009, I had yet to diverge. Chris and I started Rising Pyramid three years ago because we were dissatisfied with the level of difference we could make at our day jobs.

Back then, we were high-fiving when we got over 10 viewers in a day.  Reflecting back, at first, Rising Pyramid was more about us than about the outside world; we were learning and inspiring ourselves as we wrote. Three years ago when we published our first post, we pivoted away from the normal path.  That action was significant, not because it mattered to the rest of the world, but because it was a choice that mattered within.

Starting Rising Pyramid was a decision—a commitment to pursue the dreams that a childhood had created.  Without realizing it, I had found the act of prioritizing something meaningful over my free time so rewarding that it inspired a thousand similar acts. Through one post per week, we learned the joy of doing something that felt like giving back.  We were off the ‘beaten path’.

The less trodden route can be a slippery, thrilling slope; before I knew it I was walking the path to work at a startup in Pakistan as an Acumen Fund Fellow.   My choices shaped my experiences as I learned to appreciate the perspectives of a people who couldn’t be more different from your average Californian.

The trouble with this path is that there is a long way to go.  As I become increasingly cognizant of the chasms of trust that exist between the peoples of our world, I’m saddened on a deep level.

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The events of the last week highlight just how deeply ingrained our problem is; in multiple countries, offended Muslims stormed or protested American embassies because of a terrible and hateful anti-Islam video.  As a result, the US Ambassador to Libya, who was a local hero, was killed.

This is bound to stir up hate within Americans and Muslims alike, but if we only knew each other, we could see that generally all major religious or national groups have some crazy extremists attempting to cause lots of trouble, and frankly they should be ignored.

The video that created so much trouble was heavily publicized by a wacky pastor in Florida—the same one who has ignited hate by burning the Koran in the past.  Most Americans find the video repulsive and the pastor himself a nut.  Yet, someone who is perceived as crazy domestically may still be perceived as a representative American abroad.

This is where the confusion, pride and prejudice begins.  I am absolutely certain that right now, around the world, people are blaming America as a whole saying, ‘Did you hear about the anti-Islamic video from America?’  If you are American, this may seem like an unfair assessment to you, but don’t be so blind as to not realize that us Americans are guilty of misguided prejudice as well.

At the moment, millions of Americans are appalled that ‘Muslims’ are attacking our embassies.  Pride, especially national or religious pride, has the power to blind us.

We are talking about extremists on both sides of the equation.  Just as it is unfair for others to call this hateful video ‘American’, it is downright wrong for Americans to judge the people of the Middle East for the actions of a few crazies.

Having lived in Pakistan, I can tell you that the Muslims there are an incredibly peaceful people.  If anything, Muslims themselves are more affected by the regional extremists than anyone else ever is.

The ticket to progress is truly setting aside our national pride and our personal prejudices—to be open to the fact that maybe we’re all just humans hoping to live, laugh and love for 80+ trips around the sun.  One dream—to live happily with friends and family—is shared across the world, regardless of race, color, creed, preference or nation.

The answer to distrust in this world is not war or more colonization and hate, but individual experiences and personal connections. We need more people to go into the homes of the incredibly poor and talk to them like they are equals.

This not an easy path, but it is the only path to mutual understanding. We need more social entrepreneurs, not just to build businesses that make dignified life easier, but also in order to establish relationships built on mutual support, rather than mutual prejudice.

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Bryan Farris is a co-founder of Rising Pyramid and 2ndNature.

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