Friday, July 1, 2011

The Content of Character

The day before last, I was watching the following TED Talk by Alice Dreger.



She explores situations where one's anatomy often determines his/her destiny, and explains how anatomical differences such as sex are not that definite. There's indeed a very fuzzy line between male and female.

Gender Inequalities
Thinking about Alice's talk, and in light of the words of Martin Luther King Jr, I also asked myself why we often let our anatomical differences, particularly gender, determine our fate.
In University, I studied Mechanical Engineering, in a class of 30 students. Only 1 was female. The entire engineering class of over 150 students had less than 10 female students in my year.
Now who is to blame for this disparity?

It should be noted that this post will not blame women for seeking to be empowered when they do not actively seek opportunities. Neither shall I blame men for dominating some fields. In addition, I won't address the societal stereotypes that occasion these unfortunate inequalities. This post is not about the merits, or otherwise, of affirmative action.
It is about how we can shape our character, by providing whatever determines it.

Character
Back to Dr Martin Luther King Jr's words:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. 
Gifted Hands 20th Anniversary Edition: The Ben Carson Story
King's words remind me of something I read in Dr Ben Carson's Gifted Hands. He wrote that whereas people may be prejudiced because of your race or background, they'll be obliged to accept your services should they be the best.
That was from his experiences as a top-notch black neurosurgeon, in a largely white neighborhood, hospital and country.

Recently in Kenya, the appointees to the Supreme Court in line with the new constitution were rejected because the number of women appointees is not enough. I quickly wondered: Suppose the number of qualified women who actually applied and therefore got appointed exceeded those of men, would we be having these problems?

Making Ourselves Worthwhile 
My point in the above illustrations is simply to highlight the need for us to start actively seeking opportunities, and therefore make it easier, actually inevitable, for others to judge us based on our abilities, knowledge, qualification, merits and character.

To achieve this, we need to believe in ourselves and in our God-given ability to achieve whatever we set our minds on. We need to get rid of stereotypes which cast people from a particular race, gender or region as being better than others in certain aspects. We need to realize that skills are learnt, not innate. Character is also cultivated and nurtured, not inherited.

To be judged by the content of our character, we have to come up with that which constitutes the content of whatever character we desire.

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