Thursday, May 6, 2010

Judging Others

I’m usually pretty oblivious to the judgments of others I guess, sailing through my life without noticing. Recently it’s come to my attention however, through various writings on the internet, that people are judging each other left and right out there both in the blog-o-sphere and in the real world. Those of us who don’t “meet the criteria” for entrée into whatever group are deemed unworthy and “less than” those in said group. It’s like high school for grown ups! Recently I’ve come across posts from feminists who can’t stand you if don’t work for a paycheck and doctors who think you are automatically sanctimonious and judgmental if you are a part of the “natural childbirth movement”. (I don’t work for a paycheck and I had The Middle Child and The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, using natural childbirth methods, heaven forbid.)

So what is this judging all about? In its mildest form, it’s the way we make sense of the world and decide who we’re going to hang out with. Who is like us and won’t judge us when we are with them because we are similar to them in our lifestyle and beliefs. We have to judge others in some ways to protect ourselves and make choices about whom to associate with. By choosing my husband I judged the other guys I dated and rejected as not right for me. By choosing which organized groups to be involved with I am judging the other groups as not appropriate for me and/or not worth my time. On another level, I don’t want my kids hanging out with kids who are undisciplined or from families with vastly different values from my own because I am judging those children and families as not like mine and not good for my children.

I want to find groups of people who are like me so that when we have discussions we don’t end up in arguments. I want to find groups of people I am comfortable with. I want to find groups of people who are like minded. I think everyone does to some extent. Why would you hang out with people who make you uncomfortable?

Of course, this can get carried to extremes. When that happens it can turn ugly and become discrimination or racism. That is to be avoided at all costs, of course. I do NOT choose my friends by their race or ethnicity or sexual orientation or income. Is it discrimination, however, to choose friends by their political or religious beliefs? Although I have friends who hold opposite political views and friends with strong religious beliefs it can get really awkward if either of us makes a strong statement about religion or politics. I jumped all over a friend on Facebook when he said something negative about liberal viewpoints recently; it got ugly. I don’t know if he still considers me a friend or not. Most of the time I bite my tongue and try to just get along and not make waves, but sometimes I go off on people when I feel that their statements were snarky. Expressing an opinion that differs from mine is OK; doing so in a demeaning manner is not.

The recent internet postings I mentioned earlier kind of shocked me, like a slap in the face. There was an article on-line about women, family managers like me, who strive to make their families more self sufficient by growing their own food and raising chickens. I thought that was great, but then there were comments and counter posts by “feminists” who said oh, terrific, now women have to be held to some higher standard when they are stay at home moms, or if they don’t grow their own food they’ll be deemed unworthy. But then there were other posts that said these women are just looking for excuses to justify staying at home, and they should go earn a paycheck, or they are leeches and unworthy of even calling themselves women, or something. WTF? Who cares? The women in question are living the life they chose so get over it already. Yes, there are still barriers that feminists need to conquer, but it’s like we are fighting ourselves on some fronts.

Expressing one’s opinion is fine and necessary and it’s interesting to learn about differing points of view, but it seems that the negatively judgmental part of things is getting out of hand. Expressing one’s opinion, no matter how diplomatically, can’t be done these days without sneering at someone else, it seems. By expressing my own opinion I automatically become, to some bloggers, condescending. Judgment taken to the negative. But when that’s not the intent, who’s being negatively judgmental, me for expressing myself or the other blogger for taking what I’ve said the wrong way? If I try to say something in a way that’s just expressing my thoughts and ideas, then someone takes offense or takes it as a personal attack when it wasn’t meant that way at all, who’s judging whom? But then there are people out there who make a living by sneering at those who hold different beliefs; Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck immediately come to mind. Have they so conditioned the rest of us to think that any expression of personal opinion is automatically belittling those who believe differently? It’s like our entire society is sinking to their level; we are all being dragged through the mud with those guys. Blech.

In addition to the recent accusation of condescension, I’ve also been accused of having a chip on my shoulder. (That was from the friend with differing political views.) ??? Is having my own opinions having a chip on my shoulder? If so, then yeah, I guess that chip is right there and livin’ large. I have opinions. I have STRONG opinions, and when I get fired up I will express those opinions. Sometimes to the detriment of friendships which is why I choose my friends with more care these days. I’ve realized that there are people out there I don’t want to be friends with. It’s OK not to like certain people, or people with certain views. As long as I am judging by behavior and who a person is individually and the groups they choose to associate with and not by the things a person can’t help, like race or gender or ethnicity or whatever, then I’m OK with that.

No comments: