Sunday, February 05, 2006

One for all

It's strange how often I've been talking about mass psychology lately, through various forms and in various subjects. How everyone's the victim of exactly the same kind of traps, and how we'll all recognise it where and when it annoys us, but we still won't realise where it applies to our own behaviour, when we do the exact same thing and never notice unless someone bangs our heads with the knowledge - and even then, we'd much rather brand him an idiot in one way or another, a person that doesn't get "us" and the way "we" think instead of us realising our own generalisations and subjectivity.

More than often we'll be offended by the fact that someone generalises, including us (at least in our head) in a category we don't feel like we belong to. Whether the person is right or wrong, whether we do in fact belong to the "type" that annoys them or not, for whatever further reason, we are partly to blame. If what bothers us is that we in fact annoy people, well, that will happen a lot. Than says, and I at least know what he means, that for every single one of us 99% of people are idiots, and we all belong to our own 1%. And it's easy to convince someone, should we care - for other reasons - to do so, that we are worth his while even if we do, in fact, belong to one of his "hate categories" - there are always exceptions to these. If, on the other hand, we have several reasons to believe that we don't really belong to the category altogether, all we need to do is confirm this in our heads (is he indeed so blind, or oblivious to what "we" are, or does he have a point somewhere, whether we are annoyed by it in ourselves and others like he is or not?) and then, if we still feel like we don't belong, we can just feel safe in that knowledge, and brand him any way we like. If, on the other hand, he's right somewhere, then all we need to do is decide how and why this affects us, with our own priorities and personal vision, or not, and if it does then change it to what we'd like (everyone changes in some way, every single second of their life) - or repeat the previous step...

I could go on giving personal examples of this - how I've been whining lately about people generalising about how "Hollywood is evil, Alternative American Cinema rules and French Cinema is easy to digest", "This-and-that genre of comics is so much deeper and insightful than the one you prefer", "Bestseller books are so much shallower and popularised than other types you may read" etc, but I feel that, even though these opinions deeply annoy me when I cross paths with them, I sometimes behave that way when it's a topic which I'm not as interested in as the other person, and I'd much rather give you a positive example (when I've mentioned the other ones in all their apparent absurdity, to me and my likes at least).

I was talking with this friend-of-a-friend the other day - someone who hugely flattered me by mentioning that he actually reads my blog and likes it, although he barely knows me, and will probably read this as well - and the topic flowed to music eventually. We'd talked about music in the past, but I was quick to judge him as "someone who's not into the same stuff as me, fair enough." This time, however, when I asked him what genres he listens to, he gave a great big list, just like I do when I'm asked. Still, the fact remained that not even one of the various genres I mention were anything like the various genres he mentioned. And I gave it a few more seconds of thought. In those few seconds I realised that... "Hey, wait a second, this guy is so much like me in a sense... He cares about a great deal of different music, enough to care about mentioning the genres themselves too, to separate them in his head and feel, just like me, that there's too much overlap between these to mention... Too much for the person I'm talking with to care about...".

One day, in the exact same discussion, you focus on the "difference" side, and the next you focus on the "similarity"... You bitch. I'd still not "communicate" with this person tastes-wise in music, but I just wish I could always give people the same benefit of the doubt before I draw any conclusions about them, about myself, or about anything. I just wish I could always make that "mental click".

And all I'm saying is, if you can, please do.

No comments: