Friday, May 20, 2011

People in glass houses with loose lips call the kettle black

I like proverbs, cliches and stereotypes. I know that's not politically correct to say, but I don't like political correctness. This is why my mouth has always gotten me in trouble. I believe in honesty, transparency and, most importantly, context. Words are not bad, in and of themselves. Not much really is. Until the mini-mustachioed Hitler held it up to a mirror, stuck it in an falcon's claw and emblazoned it on a flag; what we know today to be a swastika was actually a sign of good luck in Tibet. It's connotation that ruins things for everyone.

Stereotypes are often given a bad rap. Stereotypes are stereotypically bad. That sounds like a mighty fine level of hypocrisy to me. How can apply a blanket policy that bans blanket policy as a society. This plays in so many parts of life, but often takes up residence in racial settings. I'm in the military. We're a fairly diverse bunch. Being a northerner, or damn Yankee as I'm called down here, I have to learn to live with all kinds of people, over 99% of which are not even a little bit like me. I have no problem with it. It is because of that I take issue when I apply a stereotype and get yelled at.

What is a stereotype exactly? Oxford English dictionary tells me it is a "widely held, but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing." So would a saying like - all lemons are sour be a stereotype? That idea is widely held. It's fixed in people's minds and I'd say it's over simplified because the lemon eaters of the world will say there's more to a lemon than it's sourness. Does anyone come to the aid of the defenseless lemon? So I'm being a bit silly, but that's the definition. How do stereotypes come to be? The same things happen over and over again. Acts are perpetrated by a class or group of people with a unifying characteristic so often that it comes to be expected.

Let's look at the post-9/11 world. Do we say that all bearded people are terrorists? Nope. We do, often, say that Muslims are terrorists. This is not necessarily true. There are many Muslims that couldn't be further from terrorists. However, let's look at changing the qualifier. Can't say Asians, even though the part of the world that we are at odds with is really in Asia because people think of the far east. So what do you say? Dark complexioned people? I'm mostly Sicilian and I turn straight brown by August. I'm not a terrorist, nor are my ancestors. So we default to the religious aspect. For the sake of science, let's consider those alternatives. How many acts of terrorism have been carried out by Christians (post Crusades)? Jews? When's the last time a Buddhist monk set anything on fire besides himself? Looking at acts of terrorism in our current world, they are religiously charged and completed by Muslims. Granted, they are Muslims of the extremist variety and maybe that qualifier should be added when discussing it but at its core, that's the religion creating the drama. There's quite a bit more than a modicum of truth to the thought about Muslims and terrorists.

So I use stereotypes. I didn't make the X-number of people of a particular race/ethnicity/religion/geographical location/etc do something so many times that it becomes expected, but I'm sure as shit not going to dance around the fact that the association is made. Maybe that's an opportunity for the good eggs of the group to become advocates for their people to spur disassociation. Positive outreach, perhaps?

Understanding that stereotypes, like ANYTHING, have exceptions and are generalizations rather than rules, make the whole thing ok in my book. Unfortunately, the coddling that goes on requires us to be sensitive and not say it out loud. There's that "the whole truth" thing I spoke about a few days ago.

Proverbs or cliches (defined by the level of cheesiness, I believe) are something else that I'm a real big fan of - hence the title. Yes, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. People may look at your glass house and see you naked. Actually, I think it's because someone may throw a stone back and break your house, which incidentally is your own fault for living in a glass house. That's gotta be expensive to heat in the winter, too. I get it. Don't judge people. I hate being judged. It's one of the worst things in the world and I'm at odds with some people currently over it. There is a difference between fair and unfairly judging people I think. If I do something that applies to and affects only me, I shouldn't be judged by anyone. It's my business. When I overstep my freedoms and my bad choices affect other innocents, then it's no longer my business. You can also judge my actions, but not me as a person. You can judge my actions because some things are just wrong - by society, law, or morals. It's safe to say that punching a stranger in the nose is something that people can pass judgment on.

Loose lips sink ships. I think loose seals in the hull... or an iceberg... may sink ships, but loose lips? (by the way, please don't ever say lose. That means it's misplaced and you can't misplace your lips... they're attached to your head). Maybe if the captain of a ship is talking to a pretty girl too much instead of steering than loose lips can sink a ship. I guess the meaning there is that people who talk to much, let word get around that may or may not be true and it undermines the effectiveness of a team of people. Rumor mill type stuff. That's my guess.

The pot calling the kettle black. First of all, what if the pot is green and the kettle is black? Then why the hell would the pot NOT call the kettle black? Really people. What if the pot is a dark gray and it's not in a well lit area? It could appear to be black. What if the pot is color blind? Has anyone considered these scenarios? So let's say it's noon on a sunny day and they're both black. The pot shouldn't call the kettle black, even though it is and everyone can see it. I shouldn't say something bad about someone that does something wrong because I've done that too. Maybe I didn't mean to. Maybe I've atoned for it. Maybe the kettle is not penitent for his transgression. Frankly, the situation that surrounds the act may make it worse for one person than another. But then there's the glass house thing again. Geez, nobody can have an opinion anymore.

Here's the thing (and we'll use the Muslim terrorist reference again). I judge them. I talk about them. I'm negative, but I do it in context and as it applies to me. You think I care that Muslims don't like how I live my life? Nope. They can cover their wives and kneel on their flying carpets all day long and hate me because I don't. But when they choose to try to end my life over it, I'm gonna be pissed about it. I can throw stones at their houses, which is usually worthless since theirs are made of stone anyway. But if they lived in glass ones I could throw stones at it. I do my thing, in my country, on my own, as it applies to me. And I say, in deference to them, you do your thing and I'll do mine. As for the pot/kettle thing, I suppose I could take flack for being in the military and causing death and destruction since they do the same, but there's a big, Big, BIG difference. I help kill enemy combatants. They kill whoever is standing nearby, including themselves. I'm part of a military that's acting in response to their attacks. Self-defense and self-preservation. We were fine to ignore them until they showed up with a sucker punch (more than once - remember 1993?).

I guess the point is that... well I'm not really sure to be honest. Wait... I think I found it. Using judgmental cliches about why people are bad for judging others may sound silly, but it's the context that makes the difference. I was going to write a whole post on judging people and hypocrisy but I think this may have covered it actually.

If I listen to my TV loudly and you don't like it, don't judge me. If you listen to your TV so loudly that it wakes me up from another apartment, I'll judge you because your actions infringe on mine and that's wrong. That's rude. I can think you're rude over the whole thing. If what I'm doing affects only me then you have no place to tell me it's wrong because it's simply not your business.

And to think, the whole post could have been done in 5 sentences. Where's the fun in that though?

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