How many people are truly and genuinely openminded, displaying a natural all encompassing understanding for any behavioral trait or characteristics that deviates from the norm? Raise your hands, I’m curious who you are.
I hear people muse about the social injustice in our society, they are outraged that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, but they are still unable to show any kind of basic understanding that some people have less money to spend than they do. They have never bothered to get to know or befriend people from lower social classes.
I hear people criticize racists and homophobes. Dare to express any kind of discomfort and you will experience their holy anger at your narrowmindedness. “How can you…???” is their prefered way to start their I-am-holier-than-thou-attacks. I wonder how many of them really do have gays or people from other races as friends.
They place a lot of expectation and pressure on other people while rarely being able to fulfill their own in moral drenched demands.
I think this world would be a better place if people were allowed to admit that they are not perfect, that they have prejudices and are hesitant regarding things that might disturb their little peaceful world. Do I think prejudices are good, something to strive for? No, I think that to a certain degree some are quite human though, which is not the same as condoning oppression, violence or hatred. By not being allowed to admit unease and discomfort, people do not have the opportunity to openly discuss and maybe find a way to overcome them. The constant criticism of the good-doers must create defensiveness or is there anybody here who feels comfortable when he gets told that he is a latent racist/misogynist/homophobe/whatever-despicable-being-that-has-ever-walked-the-earth? Get lectured every day that you’re supposed to like something, that you are a bad person if you don’t, and in a short time you will hate it, whatever it may be.
I’m going to take Mike as an example (not sure if you like that, but I remember your post quite vividly). He made a post about this animal sacrifying priest who lived next door. His attempts to communicate and resolve his problem with his neighbor were greeted with threats and insults. Was the priest the one who wondered if his behavior was appropriate and who tried to make amends? No, it was Mike who was brooding whether he had been truly fair and whether he had not been led by some hidden prejudices. He wanted to be a tolerant and fair person, but I also saw something else in it – the fear of being someone with latent racist tendencies. Why is that? I think the priest was an idiot, taking advantage of the fact that he was facing someone who placed a lot of importance on decent behavior. Being Asian and a member of a minority it is way easier for me to say something negative about this dude than for a white guy, because I ran less risk to be called a racist and nobody expects me to question me and my goodness constantly. Not that I have never been called a racist.
I once wrote an email to a friend of mine telling him that I hated Arabs, that I even hated their children. Yup, I did. His reaction was, “How can you…??? You are so…! Blablabla…” You wonder about the reason why I wrote this? I was an intern at that time in Egypt, I felt overwhelmed by the poverty, the different culture and I started to have even more trust issues than I already carry with me due to the many scammers I met there. Simply put, I felt often stressed during this time. Now, one day, during Ramadan, a friend and I went to this big Khan-al-Khalili bazaar. It’s the biggest bazaar in Cairo and during Ramadan the meeting point for people. This place is crowded on normal days and during Ramadan it gets claustrophobic. I don’t know the reason why, but my friend decided to take a walk straight through the crowd, I was hesitant about it, but decided to follow her. It was a really bad idea… I think local women wouldn’t have done this as they’re more educated about the consequences of moving in crammed places. What happened was that we got trapped in this huge crowd barely able to move forward while all the time guys were passing by and feeling us up. My friend is more relaxed about such things, she didn’t like it, but was still able to deal with it more or less, but I was digusted and getting anxious and hysterical more and more. We finally managed to get out of the crowd, but at that point I was also extremely angry; my friend had trouble holding me back from beating the last guy I was able to get a hold of. It was not a nice thing to say about Egyptians, it was not the most mature way to behave, I was upset and it was a gross overgeneralization, but only someone with a moral superiority complex would take it seriously and start a lecture on tolerance. Or maybe he truly worried that I would go on a global crusade to eradicate all Arabs. Yep, caught in the act, I’m the mastermind behind the Iraq war.
I also admit that I never had much contact with homosexuals when I was younger, I thought it was something weird, something strange, gossip material, but not witchhuntworthy though. In the last couple of years I had the chance to meet some gay guys and the weirdness went away. Some are nice, some are not. They’re people like everybody else. Or let’s quote Erich:
Speaking of sex, I do realize how I myself have changed with regard to my attitude toward gays. When I moved into my urban neighborhood 20 years ago, I knew very few gay people and I didn’t know any of them well. In fact, I remember feeling a bit awkward around two gay neighbors when I first moved in. Fast forward 20 years. Today, I rarely think it to be a significant fact that someone is gay or not. What brought about the change were the numerous occasions where I talked with, shared meals with and worked with people who happened to be gay (as opposed to “gay people”). Somewhere, the fact that someone was gay became very small my radar. I didn’t realize I was changing in this regard over the decades, but I do now, given my focus on the issue.
Feelings of uneasiness when confronted with something that you’re not used to are normal. Yes, it is. Most of us currently live in societies that are safe, but our ancestors had to survive in hostile environments – seems logical to assume that a state of wariness and attention is more normal and has been wired into our brain, doesn’t it? Some people are more adventurous and open than others, but I believe the majority of people is just not.
I resent these self-proclaimed protectors of higher ethics who guilt trip people for perceived crimes against humanity. They push the good people into a perpetual state of intense self-scrutiny at best or create a repressive environment where things develop their own dynamic and fester in secret at worst.
We have honor killings of women among immigrants, but people are afraid to criticize it openly, because, beware if you say something that might hurt some patriarch’s feeling, you run risk to get called a racist. Well, it’s just some foreign women who get butchered, why bother. Or just some young girls who get kidnapped and married to someone twice or three times their age – it’s a tradition, don’t you dare to criticize this. Why assume that these young women have rights like any other citizen here. I don’t think the perpetrators of these actions are evil per se, more likely they are just adhering to what they have been taught by their parents, by peers, by society and they do what they think is expected of them, nevertheless they do things that violate laws and they should not get a free pass because they are foreigners. They know pretty damn well what the laws are.
Another example, our multicultural liberal politicians are unable to admit that minorities are underrepresented in higher institutions of education. Be nice, don’t say anything that might sound as if you are discriminating against a minority. Well, as nobody admits it voluntarily, we had to wait for PISA to find out that in Germany many children of immigrants are underperforming in schools and the situation is worse here than in other countries.
Traditional immigrant societies like Canada, Australia and New Zealand, for example, show significantly better results than Germany. Second-generation 15-year-olds with an immigrant background in Canada, for example, have scored 111 points more on average than their counterparts in Germany.
For example, immigrant students whose families come from Turkey tend to perform poorly in many countries, but they do significantly worse in Germany (405 score points) than they do in Switzerland (436 score points).
There are reason for this, but as nobody addressed this problem, nobody looked for the explanations behind it and worked on finding a solution. How can you resolve something if you are not allowed to admit that there is a problem? We have on the one hand people who are truly racist and couldn’t care less or would use this kind of information to pursue a truly discriminatory policy and on the other hand those who are too afraid to say anything and thus enable a continuation of unjust and problematic situations.
Those who have genuinely pure motives or have occasional pangs of uneasiness should not feel the need to fear repression or criticism from the morally superior. We all do and say stupid things, we all have our petty prejudices, sometimes we are not nice, but that’s how human beings are and there’s no need to judge and attach a moral label to every mistake that happens.