I wasn’t sure whether to say anything about this, not because I thought many people would read it but, and I’m being completely honest, I’m afraid of upsetting anyone. I lie awake panicking if I think an email I sent sounded a little harsh. However I decided to write this because I’m a bit worried about aspects of Western civilisation and I wanted to purge my thoughts to see if I felt any better afterwards.
You see, I feel like we’re turning each other – and ourselves – into cartoons. Republicans are racist hicks, feminists are screeching harpies, Muslims want to bomb everyone and liberals want to help them, and it’s not always those on the other side projecting – sometimes we take little things too far, all of us. We aren’t meaning to, we get stuff wrong (or not, it’s subjective, I don’t have all the answers), but when the entire world is arguing with each other defences rise and we’re less likely to see rational points of view. Don’t get me wrong, I know history, people have always done this to opposing groups, but I feel like we’re capable of so much more right now and we should be trying to get there.
Maybe, instead of characterising everyone, we should take a step back. You might disagree with a certain person over one thing, but might they be right about another? When you don’t like the way one group is behaving, does that mean we should do the same? I try to think of things on a scale of reasonability (is that a word? It is now). Like Eddie Izzard’s fashion circle of ‘looking cool,’ where one side is uncool and gradually increases into coolness until they once more ‘look like a dickhead,’ we’ve just got to watch how far we ramp things up.
Whether we want to admit it or not, the world does need sorting out, so it’s absolutely necessary to look into issues such as how people of colour can be targeted by police. We can also be more aware of how we treat people of other races and learn as we go. But when it swings back round to claiming rich white people have no problems at all, that’s characterising again. Everyone has problems. Sure, they’re problems some of us might be jealous of (I am definitely not rich), but they may have come from an abusive family for example.
Likewise, you might truly have pride in your police force and see only good men and women trying to do their job, and you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. But is it also possible that those good people might struggle against outdated institutional problems? And in fact, like any group of people, there are negative and positive influences, and some downright unpleasant? The head of the Met said recently that the police were definitely more likely to stop a young black man than a white man, so we have a way to go.
Likewise, I believe in the basic message of feminism. I believe we have had a struggle to be heard and are still ironing out some issues in the West. I faced difficult circumstances at my own part time job recently and was afraid to rock the boat by speaking out, so I would never say that women don’t face certain issues. However we shouldn’t characterise an entire gender just because we feel it was done to us.
We need to bear in mind how different we all are and stop lumping everyone who meets certain criteria into certain categories. It’s human nature to simplify but it’s holding us back. It’s too easy to have a fixed set of behaviour rules in our heads and apply them to everyone, but maybe instead of telling people what they should be doing we should try calming down and listening. Everyone’s a stereotype until you get to know them, and sometimes they turn out not to be monsters after all.
Below is a TED talk by a former member of the Westboro baptist church. I feel she makes some really important points and it’s time to listen.