When I was a kid my father would say to his 8 children “Children are to be seen but not heard”. I don’t know where he got this saying from, but thank goodness it was ineffective at making our dinner table less rowdy!
Now I consider the expression it age-ist, in other words it assumes the opinions of children are less important than older humans.
It is not just age that is a characteristic that can be used to judge others.
There are 3 main types of comparison, assessment or judgement with others, and all such biases leave us thinking we are above or below the other:
- prejudice (emotional or reactive bias)
- stereotypes (imprinted cognitive bias), and
- discrimination (behavioral bias where our actions differentiate the ‘other’).
Who doesn’t elevate or denigrate themselves due to comparison with others?
If we look at all the ways we denigrate others because of their characteristics the list is long. We might say that we can replace age with the unknown X and there will be countless values for X – here are some of our most common biases and prejudices, our X-ists:
- Sexist – putting people down because of their gender diminishes us all.
- Racist – skin color cannot change a person’s value, but bias against difference diminishes us all.
- Ableist – prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on differences in physical, mental and/or emotional ability; often able‐bodied/minded persons hold bias against people with illness, disabilities or less developed skills.
- Classist – difference in socio‐economic status, income, class; usually by upper classes against lower classes.
- Anti-religionist – this is the bias against people because of belief in spirituality or religious behaviour ; common biases are anti-Semitism and Islamophobia
- Anti-politicist – The bias against politicians in power, or trying to get power; in a democratic system it is common to put down the opposition to the party you vote for.
- Beautist – The created bias in every society towards a definition of beauty and its corresponding put-downs of those not young or meeting the social norm. This is especially prevalent with women as the victims.
- Richist – this is a bias based on the amount of money and toys owned; it is common across western society.
There are of course many more, but how did you react to this list? Do you find you relate to any or all of these, and if so, what is your reaction? Do you find it hard to talk about X-ist thoughts?
The issue here is that we all want to exist, to be valued and loved. We are all biased towards tribalism, to value our family tribe over others, but invert this and we don’t like it. None of us is free from having these biases directed towards us. Why do you think the Golden Rule is so important? Because if we don’t treat others without bias, we will suffer the karma of having bias directed towards us.
Please let us all try to exist together, and let go of X-ist thoughts and behaviors!
Perhaps it may help to do this if we identify what primitive drivers are behind being X-ist?
Have another look at the bullet points above. Find one that you identify with. Now consider what is behind that? Is it fear of rejection, fear of having power held over you, or is it envy or another emotion that drives this?
Once you identify the emotion you may be able to identify a path to peace and co-existence. After all, emotions are not you, they are your body letting you know that there is an issue within YOU that needs dealing with, not an issue with SOMEONE ELSE that you should reject. Acceptance and open‐mindedness to different practices, attitudes and cultures does not mean that you agree with the differences, it means that you agree with the charter of human freedom and right.
A final insight into X-ist thought:
It doesn’t help if we believe that we are treating everyone “equally” if we presume that differences are, by definition, bad or problematic and therefore best ignored; the solution is to accept that these differences DO exist and by embracing them we are enhanced, not diminished.