I am constantly surprised by how people I know and love think about the world and the people in it. I recently had a discussion with a friend about how much people generalize humans into specific groups, whether it be gender, sexual orientation, race, culture or career. Where I am from there is many misconceptions about First Nations/Native/Indian/Aboriginal people. Many people describe this race as being alcoholics/lazy/addicts/bums/dirty/homeless people. There is a terrible history between what you may classify settlers of Canada and the original people from the continent, the First Nations. I do not wish to get into the specifics but there was many wars and disagreements and conflicts that eventually ended in the signing of the Treaties. Sadly this did not end the hate and bigotry towards the race, in some ways it made the judgments and generalizations worse.
This brings me to a conversation I recently had with a friend. I was fighting my point that you just cannot generalize any group of people (on this day we were specifically talking about aboriginals) because not all people are the same not matter what “group” you may personally assign them to. This friend then gave me the example of two apple trees:
On one side you have an apple tree that produces mainly bright red, perfect apples, that appear to be the best apples out there however, this tree produces a few apples that are misshapen, brown and mushy. On the other side you have the same kind of apple tree that appears to produce predominantly bad apples that aren’t as appealing as the others. But again on that same tree there is also bright red, crisp, perfect apples that look the same as the other attractive apples on the opposite tree. The friend then asked Which tree do you pick apples from, which tree to you water and keep alive? The tree with the abundance of “good” apples or the tree with mostly “bad” apples?
I answered honestly, in the fact that innately if it was for survival I would probably pick from the “good” apple tree and support its life. However, if I was being logical I would simply pick the “good” apples from both trees and support growth of both trees since neither tree was completely without flaw. I also implied that it was not realistic to use a metaphor about a plants and apply it to human behaviour.
This friend was not enthused by my answer and suggested that I, as well as everyone would choose the good tree because we live in a survival of the fittest world. I began to explain that I don’t believe we live in that kind of reality anymore (at least in the western world) I believe we don’t have to leave the sick/weak/suffering/struggling to die or rot in their own life just so we can keep on living. I believe (in this day) we have the power overcome what some may call our innate sense of selfishness, our ability to pick out peoples differences and avoid things that make us uncomfortable. I told this friend that I believed this because I live it. I work on breaking through my judgments and stereotypes because I meet people who break the ideals I or society have imposed upon them. This friend still believed that it was not possible for me to do what I am doing, and we ended the discussion at that.
The funny thing is if it wasn’t possible for me to break through my own misconceptions then I wouldn’t have been able to keep this person as a friend. Just because he/she had these stereotypes about these people I didn’t judge him/her. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, that is my opinion. There is a reason that I did not use a name in this blog, because this blog is not about attacking someone for their beliefs its about understanding that not all people have or rather choose to have an open mind. Sometimes people find that living inside the box is safer, easier and more fruitful. Being on the outside I can only reach my hand in and offer a possible way out.
I enjoy to having these kinds of discussions with people. I like to talk about things that may cause them discomfort or anxiety in an attempt to make them think or see things differently. I don’t know if this friend ever thought of our discussion again, but I know I think about it often. It just makes me wonder what other things people believe, what other things people think they know about the world. It also worries me that still in this day people are so consumed in their own ideas and opinions. When will we stop thinking of the world as billions of individuals with certain characteristics trying to survive and start thinking of it as one solid system of life, love and happiness?