Friday, December 28, 2007

Strange, Bigoted Interjections

Maybe this shouldn't shock me -- I tend to move in a very educated, socially-capable, easy-going crowd -- but twice this past week I've encountered people who have emitted strange, bigoted interjections in social situations.

I'll be the first to admit that negative generalizations are easy to acquire; when I talk about "meatheads" and "hootchies," I'm laying a negative stereotype on people I hardly know, and I need to constantly remind myself not to jump to conclusions. But I like to think that the stereotypes I fall prey to are based on less superficial evidence than religion, skin colour, or gender.

I'm not going to get into an in-depth discussion about bigotry -- since the causes and effects differ depending on the person who says them, the setting they're in, and the target of their venom -- but it seems to me that people who make socially-obnoxious, bigoted comments are probably responding to some combination of three things:
  • Ignorance. They just haven't thought things through, or they're basing their assumptions on inadequate information.
  • Anger. They've got some sort of chip on their shoulder, and they focus their anger on some group of people in order to direct it away from themselves.
  • Social Inadequacy. They don't know how to attract positive attention so -- like schoolkids -- they "act out" and try to shock people. And they probably aren't aware of how they're perceived when they do this.
How do you confront somebody who does this sort of thing around you? That depends. If they're ignorant, you may be able to point out the flaws in their reasoning. But if they're angry or if they are socially handicapped, arguing with them is probably what they're HOPING you do...then they can get angry at YOU, or revel in your attention.

5 comments:

JJ said...

I tend to move in a very educated, socially-capable, easy-going crowd

Is that irony? At first reading I took that statement at face value.

And happy new year, by the way. I saw it in the most boring way imaginable - I slept through it. :)

JJ said...

Bigotry also primarily comes when people (with perhaps self-esteem issues) derive their self-worth from their self identification with a "tribe". That tribe can be based on language, the rock star you worship, your religion, your country, your province, whatever. Important thing is, that tribe neatly divides the world into "us" and "them".

Muffy St. Bernard said...

I actually AM being serious about moving in an "educated, socially-capable, easy-going crowd," in that the people I meet day-to-day tend to be well-read and pretty much laid back.

It does seem that we're always happiest when there is a "them." It makes us feel like we're part of an elite crowd, and we can look down on anybody who isn't "us." It also gives us something almost mythical to struggle with, as opposed to degrading stuff like paying the phone bill or vacuuming the carpet.

I hope you at least got a GOOD sleep during your New Year! I was drinking a glass of complimentary champagne, and then drinking somebody ELSE'S glass of complimentary champagne, when the New Year rolled around.

JJ said...

It also gives us something almost mythical to struggle with, as opposed to degrading stuff like paying the phone bill or vacuuming the carpet.

Aha! Have you read Carlyle on Heroes and Hero worship?

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