Unhappiness – yours and others – can be caused by many things. Your own and other people’s behaviour for a start. Using the examples of racism and sexism, let’s explore how we can be happy humans.
Racism, like sexism, happens because you collude with it. Is that a surprise? It shouldn’t be.
Like any bullying behaviour (racism, sexism etc.) it can be overt or subtle. Group dynamics can be deeply racist or sexist without ever being overt.
Think about the way you might behave.
- Telling someone to stop being over-sensitive is the equivalent of saying “I don’t care, I’m not the subject of the crap you’re dealing with so, whatever” ;
- Ascribing the achievements of, say, a person of colour, to the white person standing next to them is to say to that person of colour “you are incapable of original thought / action in my opinion” (as though you were the centre of the universe, an ultimate arbiter) ;
- Misrepresenting what a person has said or done in order to ‘diminish’ them in other people’s minds, so, “so and so is just an Accountant” (read: boring, linear, numbers – incapable of creative thought, expression or deed) ;
- Talking over someone or after them as though to ‘amplify’ their point is actually to undermine them totally, it says “you are incapable of expressing ideas in our language because of your otherness / stupidity / incapability” ;
- Refusing to apologise – a way of tacitly acknowledging you’re wrong whilst simultaneously defending your unsustainable sense of self-referring ‘rightness’ against all evidence to the contrary …
For any of the examples above you could replace the person of colour with, say, a woman, a transgender person, a disabled person … any human being not defined as ‘normal’ by your self-reference.
None of this is overt. Conveniently you can always wriggle your way out of any suggestion of racism or sexism, instead blaming the person who is affronted.
Multiplying insults is yet another example of bullying behaviours. Victimise someone, then blame them for speaking about what you’ve done or the way you’ve behaved and encouraging a kind of lynch mob to back you up.
Why does this happen? In short, self-reference. Self-referring behaviour means that examples like this go unchallenged.
What does self-reference mean? Here goes …
If you only mix with / talk to / exchange ideas with people like you all you will ever do is enforce the ‘rightness’ of your wrongness.
That is self-reference nailed in one sentence. How can you have your assumptions reasonably challenged when what happens around you enforces your self belief so totally? And you made it that way – you are responsible. You do have to apologise and moderate your behaviour.
We’ve seen it in action with the recent cases of Julien Blanc, Dapper Laughs and now Redfoo. The aforementioned examples are a group of men who mixed largely with men like them, never sought out opinions or ideas from anyone not like them and then wondered why people not like them (which is most people by the way) might be offended by the rape culture they advocated. Racism, like the sexism described above, works very similarly.
Is there a solution? Of course:
- Engage openly with a rich variety of people, not just people like you;
- Listen to people, don’t tell them what to think or steamroller over them;
- Think again;
- Discuss ideas and approaches with a variety of people, they might surpise you with insights;
- Think again;
- Give credit where it is due …
Above all, self examine every minute of every day – see what it feels like.
Here’s a handy tip – tell yourself you are not the centre of the universe. Start there. The people on the receiving end of your rudeness – no matter how unconscious it may have been – have to self examine every minute of every day because of your undermining behaviours. Imagine how destablising that is. Credit people you’re offending with some humanity.
Try and you might learn something about yourself, your place in the world and how you could change your behaviour to truly respect people instead of undermining them to make yourself look like a passable semblance of a human being. It’s not difficult, it’s called being a proper humble and happy human with the capacity to make others so.