We are each riven and ruled by prejudice. We pre-judge. In fact we couldn’t function in the world if we didn’t. We just don’t have time individually to assess each situation, idea, message or person as it flows past us. We group people and generalise the resulting attributes.
We all do this, the right-on as much as the right-wing.
But I want to be treated as individual, and I need therefore to treat other as individual. It is as each that we connect with each. I am me (a separate soul entangled in this body’s life). I am diminished when I’m treated as a generality; and I am.
Middle aged, White, Middle Class, Male, Minor Public-School.
Living in Scotland I’m often generalised as …
White, Middle Aged, Middle Class, Male, Minor Public-School.
All true, but not Me. I feel dislocated and discarded when I’m generalised.As do Woman, Black, Disabled, Gay, Elderly, Unemployed. Of course.
But also as do Privileged, Rich (financially), Banker, Toff. They are also individuals who are generalised. (It is quite possible of course that materialism desensitises us to the loss of our individuality)
How then, should I, me, myself – cope and bring my true self to the attention of others? How can I relate to the each around me, and bring their real self to my attention? This needs to happen whilst acknowledging the need for typing and grouping, particularly as the pace of life accelerates.
It seems to me that there are two types of work I can engage in.
Firstly, I need to deal with my inherited prejudice, the hard-wired core attitudes that I imbibed as a child. I disagree with some (homosexuality is unnatural, beware the Germans), but those tapes continue to run over and over, even though I reject them. I need therefore to be constantly alert. I can’t delete them, I have over-ride them each day. I also need to be aware of the generalisations that others will make about me and factor them into my relationships. There is some truth behind my type-casting by others, particularly when I slip and act out childhood tapes. After all I was brought up as white, male. Priveliged. It’s my responsibility to become myself and to live overtly as individual rather than as a member of my type.
To be individual I have to be individual.
Secondly, it’s my responsibility to acknowledge my prejudice about others and to see beyond to the person inside. It may be that the harder this is, the more rewarding it be (or that the Victorian values of my parents speaking?).
What eases this path is to share something of someone else’s experience. At University I was a feminist. I know I was, I told people so. It was, however, only principle. Just the brain. It was when I moved to Scotland and experienced an opaque undercurrent of unstated prejudice against the English, that I discovered a fraction of what it must be like actually to be a woman in the workplace. When I was a teenager one of my nephews died, a tragic cot-death. I was upset. I know I was, I told myself I was. It was only when one of my own children almost died that I truly understood a fraction of what my brother and sister-in-law must have felt.
In any event here is a resolution, in which of course I will continue to fail..
Let me work, consciously, to be individual. Let me work, consciously, to understand others as individual. Let me acknowledge prejudice but set it aside in my individual dealings.
.. and Lord, help me to do this in love.