This past Friday, my car got hit by a motorcycle. There’s a story there, but this post isn’t about that. Rather, it’s about people’s perception of the rider.
He must have been speeding.
He must not have been paying attention.
He must not know how to ride.
None of this is actually true, though. He wasn’t speeding, he was paying attention (mostly) and is a veteran rider with about 25 years experience.
Generally, I think for “most people”, it’s maximally convenient and efficient to categorize things (and people, and ideas) in the most extremely polarizing way, and then work inwards towards an understanding or acceptance of that thing.
I also think this is why I have hard time navigating the world; I think of everything as inside-out vs. outside-in. My starting line is in the middle, and my Good-o-meter(TM) swings based on whether I found joy or pain in that thing.
There are currently a few members of our local village government that have reputations for not being very friendly, for having ideas & beliefs that go against the grain, and for being a bit confrontational. And that reputation has glorified them into villains, which is pretty silly if you stop and think about the individuals.
There is no Good and there is no Evil. There is no right and there is no wrong. There is only circumstance and action, or a lack of either or both.
Everyone chooses how to act or feel based on their awareness of what’s appropriate, what’s possible, and what their level of maturity is in dealing with those situations. The circumstances for this motorcyclist are different than mine with my car are different than the eyewitnesses.
It’s easy to feel like someone closing your issue on Github makes them a terribly stupid person who does not understand the importance of the issue you’ve raised. It’s easy to think your WordPress core ticket sitting around for 5 years means no one cares. It’s easy to say someone sucks because of something they’ve said or done you don’t agree with.
It’s easy to assume that mass shooters are crazy, that they’ve snapped, or any other extreme set of rules that polarize the perpetrator. Who knows, and the why almost doesn’t even matter, because it doesn’t change the outcome, and not much will be done to prevent similar outcomes in the future. What if someone broke his heart, and he couldn’t cope? Do we suddenly try to prevent all future heartbreak?
There will always be unpredictable terrible circumstances created by human-kind, and it requires collective bravery and awareness to reduce the consequences of those harmful decisions. (And full disclosure, it’s my experience in my own life that “most people” are neither aware nor brave, meaning my outlook on the pool of resources available to make positive change is, honestly, bleak.)
It’s equally easy to say homosexuality is evil. Or being pro-life is evil. Or white-dudes are evil rapists. These are all obviously incorrect assessments; and… think of all the times you’ve identified something as bad (or felt wrongly profiled by someone) and imagine that there are millions of people that find genuine joy in that thing without you.
Instead of starting with good or evil, please train yourself to start from the middle and let the circumstances steer your assessment about the variable value of a thing in your life. Actively avoid extremes, and politely remind others that people are people, and heroes & villains are figments of their imaginations.
Be objective. Be sincere. Be better.