Why people are more than a collection of differences between each other
So many of the world’s problems have their roots in creating dichotomies: separating things into this vs. that, us vs. them. Examples of this can be seen all around us; The opponents in sports are seen as villains, members of other political parties as new age Hitlers destined to drive America into the ground, even people who own differently branded items from what we use are seen in a different light. We’ve all heard the debates: PC vs. Mac, Ford vs. Chevy, etc. But all dichotomies are false dichotomies, yet we continue to put others in these neat and tidy boxes because that’s the most straightforward way for us to categorize the world around us. It is so easy to fall into the trap of overlooking faults in oneself and to nitpick every little fault in those “outsiders”.
Of course the reverse is also true. Just as it is easy to over analyze someone else’s faults due to the opinions you have of them, it is equally effortless to put them on a pedestal. The question “Who is your hero?” always struck me as odd. Everyone has an answer: Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington, Amelia Earhart, and many, many more. These people are renowned for their successes, but they all faced hardships and felt unsure of themselves at many points in their career. They did things their parents weren’t proud of, hurt the feelings of friends, among other things of which they weren’t proud. All of this is natural; they are human after all and no human is entirely perfect. Both of these problems originate in human’s taking the easy way out by just judging every book by its cover.
So many of the world’s problems have one simple solution. We as a society could accomplish so much more if we learned to view others complexly. Complexity and individuality are an inseparable part of us, an inevitable symptom of the human condition, but the symptom that is most often overlooked in others. Cooperation and compromise stem from an ability to see issues through the eyes of another, to understand what goals they are striving for. This can only be done if we see others as complex, multi-faceted individuals rather than pieces of paper — easily read and lacking any depth or further meaning.
Now, while this may be a simple solution, simple solutions are not easy solutions. Overcoming one’s own internal biases and avoiding the snare of viewing others as a flat characters without internal struggles is one of the most onerous tasks for one to accomplish, but also one of the most important. Never judge another man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.