Thursday, July 2, 2009

Giving Misanthropy Its Due

When I was a kid, Polish jokes were all the rage. And it surprised me to discover that each culture has its Polish analog - a group deemed stupid. And its Jewish analog - a group deemed stingy. And its black analog - a group deemed lazy. How bizarre it was to learn that Norwegians tell jokes about "those dumb Swedes"!

The same negative labels persist all over the world, regardless of the group being pinned with a given label. And that's because plenty of people, of any given group, are, indeed, dumb, stingy, and lazy. Those are human qualities, but since our perceptions are set up to focus on the unfamiliar, we notice those qualities more readily in those unlike us.

We study the Other...and we don't like what we see. Men rue the cruelty of women; women rue the cruelty of men. Both are quite correct, really.

Racism, sexism, classism, etc. are nothing more than the incomplete registration of a perfectly appropriate misanthropy.

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