People who use dichotomies to draw conclusions are idiots. (see what I did there?)
I’m being cute. Truth is we all do it, every one of us open-minded, liberal, thinking folk make generalisations and separate ourselves from the barbarous “other” in order to make a point. And what’s that point? That we are superior, intellectually or otherwise, and the others are somehow defunct, deficient and without hope of change or improvement.
For some reason humans feel the need to define ourselves by what we are not, what we stand against, what we hate.
And we all do it. We make assumptions about each other based on what you or I wear, read, believe, my ethnic background, your peculiar haircut. We sort and categorise, probably because we can’t get to know everyone on a deeper level – so generalisations help us to locate our own place in the world. That is until others make generalisations about us, until someone puts you or me in a box and says this is where you belong, this is what you are like.
When that happens we are incensed. It doesn’t matter if it’s personal or if it’s a broad comment on something you are a part of, our knee-jerk response is – “You don’t know a thing about it!” And yet, we liberally dispense our own opinions about things which we too know nothing about.
Despite our best efforts we still live in a world of:
Smart vs Stupid
Believer vs Non-believer
Liberal vs Conservative
Right vs Left-ish
Community vs Corporate
Rich vs Poor
Me vs You
Though we don’t have all out wars about it, we still think in dichotomies like these – somehow our side of the coin always being the most favourable and important. Waving a dismissive hand over “them”, relegating them to that box we’ve created, which somehow keeps us feeling safe and sound in our own way of thinking and being.
I am just as guilty of these things. You need only read MY ENTIRE BLOG to find that I frequently commit the sins of generalisation, assumption and finger pointing. And what I’ve realised is that I am most prone to these lapses of intelligence:
- When I am angry.
- When my values, expectations, ideals, principles (or the like) are affronted.
- When I feel ashamed.
The opposite is true too, when I am happy with myself, when I feel secure, when I am sure of myself and what I think and believe:
- I feel inclusive.
- I see the good in others (no matter how different they are from me).
- I believe in that all people have the ability to be reasonable, intelligent, kind (I said the “ability to be”, not expecting that this will be a reality at all times convenient to me. You dig?)
These are moments of freedom. Where I don’t need to see the bad in you to reinforce my belief in my own goodness. Instead of assuming, I ask questions. Instead of defining myself by what I oppose, I try to work out what I actually believe. We are so quick to be critical of other people’s opinions, but hardly ever do we apply the same rigour in assessing our own opinions.
Oh that I could be like this more often, that I could be free of fear, suspicion, indignation so that I could open my hand to my brother or sister and say, look what I’ve found to be true – now tell me how you think on such things. How can we improve on our thinking together?
Now that would be a lovely conversation.