(COMIC)Troubled Urban Youths
When I watch or read the news, I see how easy it is for us to form an image of an entire people in our collective minds. Almost every news article or television broadcast shows starving children and warfare in Africa, every Middle Eastern person hates America and is a terrorist, and every old white guy is a Republican who wants to take all the money for himself (while secretly engaging in some sort of form of deviant sex). Perhaps we are getting lazy, or there is too much saturation of media, or just too many of us on this planet. I always wondered why people tend to gravitate toward negative emotions or images of people.
The fact is negativity catches on like wildfire; a hateful statement, a damaging image, a “clever” racial joke. We seem to live in a culture here in the West that thrives and is excited by negativity:
A major reason for the more noticeable role of negative emotions is that they possess greater functional value. The risks of responding inappropriately to negative events are greater than the risks of responding inappropriately to positive events, since negative events can kill us while positive events will merely enhance our well-being. –Psychology Today
I read on a Facebook post about all the horrible things organized religion has done and saw the strong responses below it; but I couldn’t help but remember all the those Christians, Jews, and Muslims out there who are quietly and without expectation helping others. Do they get news coverage? Little, if any at all. We connect with news coverage that depicts the wrong doings of the Church (for example, the assault by priests on children) because we see that as a threat to us, and therefore, we spend much more mental and emotional energy processing it. Likewise, we fix in our minds the negative images and stereotypes as a crude defensive mechanism.
I want to emphasize the word “crude”. As human beings, we have evolved very quickly (in the grand timescale of the cosmos) and developed more refined mechanisms such as logic, attention to detail, law, education, compassion and acceptance. These are the tools of a people who want to rise up beyond their more animalistic instincts, such as those instincts that have us rely too heavily on stereotypes that we create from what we see in film, television, and in the news. I won’t assume there is some grand conspiracy to make us all look bad, but I do believe that we, the viewers, are the ones making those connections. We want to blame the media or our governments, but as with many things; the responsibility for fairness is ours.
You can spend hours trying to find ways to see past stereotypes, but honestly, what has worked for me is to not give a FUCK about race, culture, religion, politics, or any flag people get behind. More and more, I’m beginning to the think that culture/religion/ethnicity is just bullshit that sometimes does good, but for the most part, does nothing but divide us. At the end of the day, there are two people in this world; ass holes and not-assholes. Don’t take stock in all that crap that people use to congregate around in order to give themselves some sense of identity because it’s not real and when you do buy into that shit, you run the high risk of using stereotypes to define others who are “different” from you. I try to go by individual basis. I say, “Hey, that guy is a dick because he did X”. That’s how I fight the temptation to fall prey to stereotypes, and part of that is not “drinking the Kool-Aid” about all the importance people put on their ethnicity or religion. So, on those days when I’m feeling particularly masochistic and I watch the news, all that negativity and bull-shit is more clearly exposed as what it is.
That’s what works for me, anyway.