There’s a misconception out there that making things less personal makes them more fair. The theory goes: if we can pick the right criteria and apply them in an un-biased way, then the outcome is sure to be an equitable one. This is a nice sounding idea, and I used to believe it was possible, but it doesn’t pan-out in the real world. Humans are the ones setting the criteria. Humans are programming the selection mechanism. And humans are inherently biased. Making every system we create… biased.
No matter how hard we try to achieve fairness through impartiality, we are destined to fail. Each of us is the culmination of our life experiences. We cannot set aside everything we have seen and heard and felt during our journey to this present moment. We cannot switch-off the way we think and feel because that is how we make sense of the world around us.
And that’s okay. It’s great, even. It’s both the challenge and exactly what we need to meet that challenge.
The societal systems we create and operate in are biased, so overcoming the inequity in these systems will take some very personal solutions. For example, capitalism favors wealth. Where there is already wealth, more can accumulate. To keep all the wealth from perpetually pooling at the top, we need to redistribute it to folks with less access to wealth.
That means we need to see each individual in our society in a very personal and human way. We need to acknowledge the ultra-wealthy have more than they need. We need to recognize those folks are not any more deserving of a comfortable and privileged life just because they have one. We need to see that poor people deserve food, housing, medical care, education, and time to pursue leisure activities. Not because they have worked hard enough or earned it some other way, but because there is plenty to go around.
A similar analysis can be applied to our societal relationship with policing. Law enforcement is not better when it’s applied in an impersonal manner. Applying laws in a uniform way might be fine if everyone had uniform access to resources and the legal system. But that is not currently the case. It’s not just Cops dealing with Criminals. It’s humans with a badge dealing with humans who make decisions and take actions based on circumstances. Understanding those circumstances is critical in the pursuit of justice.
Getting society to that place of humanizing everyone requires each one of us to get personal with ourselves. We need to look at ourselves honestly and ask why we believe the things we believe. We need to identify how those narratives have served us in the past or are serving us in the present. We need to shine a light into the darkest corners of our being and make peace with what lurks there. Only by acknowledging all the parts of ourselves can we become more whole. And that process can be really challenging.
I see a lot of people falter in their anti-racism efforts, despite their genuine and fervent desire for racism to end, because they have not examined themselves with honesty to see all the ways they continue to disregarded their fellow humans. I have seen quite a few social media posts clearly frustrated by the process. This kind of post laments in one way or another that it would be a lot easier to be a white ally if all those victims of racism would just stop feeling oppressed. It feels to me like an unspoken request for all those humans of color to somehow go away and stop being constant living reminders that we haven’t solved this problem yet and there is so much work left to do.
But even if all the disenfranchised and oppressed people suddenly disappeared tomorrow, that wouldn’t end racism. The folks left behind in this fictitious scenario would just find other ways to express their well-practiced drive for superiority and hierarchy. Instead of skin color, it might be hair color or eye color or arm length to height ratio. It could be anything, and it would definitely be something. Not because humans are naturally and inherently prone to hierarchy, but because that is what we have practiced most often and most completely for so many generations.
Doomsday preppers are a very good example. Many of the folks creating stashes of food and ammunition for the End Times are preparing for a future that likely won’t exist. Despite humanity surviving by banding together for mutual support and protection during our entire history, they somehow think they can go it totally alone. The everyone-for-themselves-in-the-end attitude is only possible to plan on because these folks ignore their current reliance on other people.
They have access to what they need when they need it, largely through the efforts of other people in other places. Those other people manufacture, ship, and sell the food, fuel, and supplies these preppers gather and store. It is likely they don’t even register the impact their prepping has on anyone else because it is probably what they have practiced their whole lives. Disregarding other people is what many folks practice their entire lives.
We just have to practice something different, so we can do something different. After I passed my green belt test my teacher said, "now your training gets really personal." Up to that point, I had studied the general curriculum just like everyone else. But going through the motions of punching, kicking, blocking, and throwing would not be enough to progress to brown, brown-black, and black belt.
Getting to my black belt required something more. It required me to show up with the fullest expression of me. I had to heal old wounds and shed old narratives, accept and incorporate more and more parts of myself into wholeness. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The parts I am proud of and the parts I am ashamed of. My greatest joy and my deepest sorrow. And there’s only one way to do that: I had to practice, day after day, getting really personal.
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.