“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Are you prejudiced?
We all want to live peacefully in a united world, where all men are equal (and women equal more, probably). We want a world of love, with no hatred and oppression, and we believe we could have achieved that, too, if it wasn’t for the others. Those malicious people, who ruin it all for everyone. The ones we hate and despise, and rightly so!
I, for example, being a nature lover making big efforts to protect the environment, heatedly believe that my loathe for the destructive tycoons is justified. Though I never met any of them in person, I know they’re nothing but a bunch of ruthless insatiable egoists. The very idea of negotiating with these inferior people seems not only useless but also undignified.
We habitually lose our wits when it comes to evaluating “us” and “them”. Yet, our instinctive habit of splitting the world into the benevolent “us” and the malevolent “them” is actually an infantile fantasy. Not only because “us” are usually no better than “them”, but because there are no real “us” and “them”.
Dividing people into different groups is, as a matter of fact, fictive.
Why Dividing Is Foolish
Grouping can be either arbitrary or based on a dividing criterion, like skin color, behavior, or a favorite god. Sometimes this criterion is a bunch of qualities nicely tied together, like female organs. Yet, grouping requires us to focus on one restricted criterion and to ignore the entire picture.
Ignoring reality is comfortable, no arguing about that. But it’s not real. In reality, any individual is extremely complicated. Any person is consisted of numerous criteria, and infinite immeasurable, elusive, qualities and merits (in addition to a soul, probably).
No human being can conveniently be only a control-freaked-father, bisexual, republican, or amateur-reggae-singer. Any one of us has such criteria, and many many more, often contradicting, qualities. Which criterion can tell what a parent someone is? What a friend? What a foe? We can’t categorize anyone entirely. Not only we’re too complicated, but we’re also constantly changing.
Trying to divide people into groups is hazardous because it treats us as if we had only a few qualities, like we weren’t persons but objects. And, as Terry Pratchett points up,
“Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.”
Why We Foolishly Add Insult To Injury
Moreover, we, humans, never see groups as divided only by the original criterion. We always attach to groups a variety of imaginative traits and faults. Teenagers, for instance, are unreasonable, spoiled and rude, and they have horrible taste in music. Ask any generation and they’ll tell you how ungrateful their children turned out to be, though they were brought up so very well, and what unbearable noise they call music.
All tycoons, for example, are selfish, greedy, smug and vicious. Everyone knows that.
Grouping always goes hand in hand with stereotypes.
Undeniably, stereotyped thinking makes life very simple. We don’t have to bother with complexity or with the unknown. Give us a person and we’ll tell you by his looks which group he belongs to, and what his habits, wishes and views on any subject whatsoever are. And we won’t even have to ask him or find out anything. How easy is that?
Our Inner Dividing
Grouping can also stem from self-identification. People can categorize themselves by choosing a shared worldview, for example. Even then, they usually don’t see the relevant issues quite eye to eye.
You may have very solid opinions about the requirements of being a feminist, for instance, but odds are the feminist in the next apartment thinks differently, and the feminist in the next continent has other views altogether. And we haven’t yet talked about religions, where the conflicts are often not only between different sects and members, but also within the same person. And they keep changing.
We, humans, are all incredibly complicated, with numerous unstable views, affiliations and traits. Being that complex is surely not easy. Every one of us has, hiding inside, something of a child and something of an oldster, something of a yes-man and something of a rebel, something masculine and something feminine.
We all have in ourselves every pair of contradicting qualities whatsoever.
We all have it all.
Even worse, each one has something of a Left-winger and something of a Right-winger, although we usually don’t admit it even to ourselves.
If we check ourselves thoroughly, we’ll find inside all of the stereotypes we project onto other groups, including the groups we fear and hate.
I, for example, may be selfish too, though obviously not as selfish as the tycoons.
Terrifying, isn’t it?
Definitely. And yet, this complexion is also fantastic.
Why Unifying Is Wiser
Comprehending our wholeness can help us understand ourselves better. Grasping that our stereotypes of others are actually mirrors of what we don’t want to see inside, enables us to see ourselves as we really are, and deal with our less desired qualities. Our aggressiveness. Our jealousy. Our lousy taste in clothes – or our fear to be considered inadequate.
Being whole, however, also means we never have only bad quality in any area. We always have the good contradicting qualities as well. And we’re free to choose which we act upon.
Looking inside, we may even find that what seems bad is not necessarily that bad, and that we actually need the balance between our contradicting characters.
When I look at the tycoons and see their self-interest, for example, I can look for my own denounced selfishness. I can realize that it balances my selflessness and limits my tendency to sacrifice too much. Now I can thankfully stop being so angry at the tycoons, and oppose their pollution judiciously.
Our Outer Unifying
After accepting our embarrassing selves, and loving them, accepting others is a piece of cake. When we understand that we are all whole, we can see that others are also everything – just like us.
Indeed, we should protect ourselves from individuals who act upon their aggressiveness and despair. But we also should stop hating fictive groups, and start accepting their complicated people instead.
Fully accepting both others and ourselves enables us to get inner peace. And we can reach this unreachable peace only by inspecting our resentments, which is much easier than meditation.
Being complicated is not easy, therefore, but it’s much more realistic, and much more powerful.
The Freedom Of Unifying
Looking into our resentments and prejudices to comprehend our wholeness can be a life changer.
Our wholeness is an enormous resource. When we understand it, we can astonishingly be whatever we want to be. Actually, we are already it, somewhere inside. We don’t have to change ourselves. We don’t have to imitate someone else. All we have to do is focus on this part of us we already are, learn it, nurture it, and live it to the fullest.
Our wholeness also enables us to regard every issue not through a narrow factional viewpoint, but fully, from our various inner points of view. Hence, we can surprise ourselves and look at our problems unconventionally. We can come to deeper, better, solutions.
Having it all inside, therefore, frees us to be in peace with everything and everyone.
By wholly accepting others, and ourselves, as we thankfully are.
One external conflict at a time.
One internal conflict at a time.
A version of this post was previously published on Aha!NOW