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20 October 2011

The Horror-scope

Imagine opening your Sunday paper to a small section called ‘Ethnicities.’  Here is what you find:

Jews: work smarter rather than harder in order to maximize the opportunities that come your way

African-American: Don't get discouraged by your lack of direction

Asians: Don't bother attempting to justify your actions because your explanations will just grow increasingly convoluted. Keep things as simple as you can and try to finish whatever you begin.

Caucasians: Push steadily toward your goals because you have the necessary inner resolve to overcome most obstacles now. Set your mind on your destination and then don't let anything or anyone distract you.

And so on.

I personally find this sort of thing both offensive and limiting.  But let me explain.  I have made up the categories of ethnicity and simply copied the first few horoscopes I found online to fill in the information.  It is strange that reading how African-Americans shouldn’t be discouraged by a lack of direction feels a tad racist, but saying the same thing about someone born at the end of March is completely acceptable, and printable. 

Horoscopes have no scientific backing, and are indeed based currently on out of date astronomy.  Chances are, you are not the sign you think you are.  Yet, at best horoscopes are thought of as harmless diversions.  We can laugh at their predictions and point to the generic makeup of their advice.  “Finish whatever you begin” is sound advice to Spring babies as well as those born just before the first Winter snow.  So what could be so bad in a little fun.

Well, the problem, as with most things, comes from those who go in wholesale on a superstitious idea.  A great many people actually do, to a certain extent, attempt to adjust their lives according to these little snippets of rubbish.  Love advice often warns one sign against getting involved with another (I couldn’t possibly date Pisces!), denying possibilities to the believer.  Being warned against another because of supernatural reasons is never good.

Yet, my greatest problem with horoscopes comes from my example above.  When used with race or religion, it is offensive.  We are sensitive to stereotypes based on differences in geography.  We shun blanket statements about other human beings separated bt physical space.  Yet, we have become accustomed to stereotypes based on distances in time, separations in temporal space.  Even good natured, they are groundless and distracting.  As a species, in an age of growing nationalism, fundamentalism, and sectarianism, the last thing we need right now is to be separated by arbitrary, and in this case imaginary, divides.  

 We need things, even diversions, which illuminate how we are all a part of the human family, not how we are alien to each other according to some cosmic mumbo jumbo.

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