The other day I was talking to a friend of mine. We have a good amount in common, I’d say. The conversation was going in such a way that he eventually confessed, “I’m a Republican. I know you know that.” My response was meant as a joke, but there was some truth behind it.
“Of course you’re a Republican. You’re a rich, white male!”
That wasn’t too nice of me. Not only that, but it was dismissive and presumptuous. And even though I happened to be right in this case, his political views weren’t dictated by the fact that he was a rich, white male.
Yet, stereotypes exist for a reason, and while they serve as decent benchmarks upon which we can quickly and (fairly) reliably get a read on people, they should only ever serve as starting points. Assumptions should still be regarded as hypotheses and investigated for confirmation, because regardless of how someone is, they’re that way for a reason.
And the reason matters. What’s the saying…? Something like, “It’s not the destination that matters; it’s the journey.” I’m paraphrasing.
There’s a prevalent thought (that seems to be growing) that people with different belief sets from us are inherently evil and/or dumb. This is applicable to religious, political, social beliefs– pretty much anything.
And it’s not hard to understand the reason for that. We all take the time to ponder life as we know it within the scope of our own realities. We discern our conclusions according to what makes sense to us. We’re dedicated to what we settle on because of the investment we’d put into it.
Should someone ponder the same idea or concept and come up with a different conclusion – well, they must be wrong. How could they not be? If they were smarter or more enlightened or less brainwashed, they surely would have arrived in the same place we did.
Something must be wrong with them. As people.
So, as our great sacrifice to the world and in an effort to heal it and make it a better place (RIP Michael Jackson), we impose our views on people. We assume that they only feel the way they feel because they don’t know any better, or because they haven’t thought of everything that we had.
But therein lies the problem. The goal of these conversations isn’t understanding – it’s to change the mind of someone whose world is a very different one from the one we’re living in. It’s a flawed approach.
Every single person in this world lives according to what they know; things they’ve learned through experience, education, and others. Every single person has a life that they go home to that you’ll never grasp completely. I’ll never know what it’s like to be a rich, white male, and he will never know what it’s like to be me.
But we can still talk about it.
Religion is a particularly interesting topic that people are generally passionate about, whether they have a religion they align themselves with or not. As Karl Marx said,
“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”
It serves a unique function in society – all societies – unlike anything else. It’s been the backbone for civilizations and nations, wars and humanitarianism. It’s the first thing we learn from our parents, and our communities center around it.
It holds such a revered status that even if you think it’s pointless, you’ve got to respect it. Whatever your stance on religion, we should all understand that perhaps people on the other side of the fence see something there that you don’t, or that you can’t. Arrogance dictates that you can’t actually see beyond your scope of perspective, effectively blocking off growth and insight.
For instance, is there something to be admired in someone who can find beauty and meaning in the world, or with someone who understands that they do not – and perhaps never will – understand all that this universe has to offer?
Or are they just naïve and looking for meaning where there is none?
Politics have gotten increasingly more partisan, not just in the US, but across the globe. The issue with this is the polarizing effect it has on people. You’re either on the left or the right. People tend to downplay or forget entirely that there’s something of a political spectrum and most people fall somewhere in the middle.
Something that we’re seeing more of now, though, is character assassinations over who voted for who. If you voted for Hilary, you’re a bitter “libtard” who needs to get over the fact that your candidate lost the election. If you voted for Trump, you support and embody all of his character flaws to the point that you’re a horrible person.
Furthermore, if you align yourself one way or the other, you’re perceived to align yourself with all aspects of that party’s identity. You voted Republican? How dare you try to take away my rights as a woman. You voted Democrat? You’re too liberal to understand how the world actually works – you’re practically a socialist.
Socially, there are too many factors to discuss here, but whichever one you choose to examine, the trend tends to be that there is the majority and then everyone else. The “everyone else” usually have more in common with each other than not, and the majority is often quite isolated from those commonalities.
However, in many cases now, the majority may not even be the majority in terms of size and number. They’re the ones with influence, affluence, connections, and money. I’m not faulting them for this – they’ve worked hard to achieve that standing. Yet, allowing a select few to sway or dictate social and political policy can be dangerous, if for no other reason than they will not and cannot take into consideration the plight of the everyone else.
Such is life, though, and due to the sheer, overwhelming vastness of diversity we live with, such will always be life. We’re all subject to our thoughts and experiences. We were all raised one way or another, and those things given to us from birth are hard to shake. We won’t agree on everything, nor should we ever expect to. And our realities are only our own.
But we can still talk about it.