Do you ever feel like we are totally doomed?
Does watching television or reading the morning paper fill you with anxiety and feelings of dread?
Do you schedule important events around your quarterly existential crisis?
Do you find yourself in a state of perpetual outrage?
Have you ever considered faking your death and running away to a remote foreign land to escape the idiocy that surrounds you?
Have you ever wished the apocalypse would just hurry up already? Or, wondered if we’re right in the middle of it? (Zombies, everywhere!)
Do you ever wonder if the world would be a better place if run by baby chinchillas, unicorns, kittens or goats?
Do you ever feel like you’re too small to make a difference? Like, your voice isn’t heard or doesn’t matter?
Do you feel hopeless about the future, or helpless to change it?
Do you use dystopian novels and movies as an escape? Do you later compare said dystopian works of fiction to the shit show that is our current reality and feel even worse?
When asked where you’re from, have you ever lied and said, “Canada” instead of “‘Murica”?
Do you frequently wonder how we got so lost? Or why we seem to waste all the amazing technology, resources and opportunities available to us?
If you said, “yes” to any of the above we are in the exact same boat. And the good news is, it’s a great big boat, and there are lots of smart, reasonable, frustrated passengers on it. It may not feel like it– especially if you’re watching the news or spending a lot of time on social media– but, there is still intelligent life here.
Here is the problem: we’re segregated.
It’s human nature to organize and categorize things into neat little piles. It helps our brains process all the chaos around us. We’re bombarded with stimuli: sound, color, energy, responsibilities, emotions, a million thoughts a day… if we didn’t mentally sort things and put them into little buckets, we would be constantly overwhelmed by it all.
Putting things in buckets is a subconscious thing we are all doing, all the time: Cold things go inside the refrigerator, school notes go on the outside of the refrigerator, cars drive on the right side of the road, coffee is an appropriate beverage choice while at work, pineapple pizza goes in the garbage can…
This process requires us to make little judgements about almost everything we see in the world. If we can identify something and make a quick judgement about what it is, we can move it neatly into our little mental bucket and move on to the next thing.
Unfortunately, in our very limited human perception, we’ve categorized and divided ourselves.
We make the same quick judgements about other people based on very limited information, and sometimes no personal interaction at all.
We judge on appearance: young, old, short, tall, fat, thin, race, color, ethnicity, gender.
We judge on circumstances: relationship status, zip code, level of education, title at work, religion or lack there of, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation.
We take stereotypes, attitudes passed down to us from our families, or things we learned in the place where we are from, and maybe some past experiences into account when making these snap judgements. They happen almost without us realizing we’re doing it. But, somewhere in the background of our mind, it’s there.
Because we’re all sorting people into little categories to make sense of the world, we’re simultaneously looking for “our people”. The ones who look like us, think like us, talk like us, like the same things as we do, have the same belief systems and values and so on. In the pursuit of our own personal tribe of likeminded awesome folks to share our human experience with, we may decide that the folks who didn’t fit into our little bucket on first glance don’t belong there.
This is what is wrong with the world.
Dividing, judging and categorizing ourselves into neat little buckets has basically turned the world into a giant high school cafeteria. Think about it: Preppy kids at this table. Band geeks at that table. Stoners over here. Jocks over there. Wanna sit at a different table? Good luck with that.
And, so is life in America today. White church over here. Black church over there. Feminists at this table. Men who are terrified of feminists at that one. Young folks way over there away from the old folks. Hippies in the patchouli section. Asthmatics as far away from the patchouli as possible. Divide, divide, divide.
What happens when we’re divided up into groups? Competition for one. Sometimes the big group will even divide in smaller subgroups and create drama within the group. Ever sit at the nerd table and listen to the Star Trek vs. Star Wars debate? DC vs. Marvel? Superman vs. Batman?
We want to be right, we want to be the best and we want that thing we love to be honored for the awesome thing it is. This creates an atmosphere of us vs. them.
Just like the high school cafeteria, we look at other humans and say, “you can’t sit here,” because our snap judgements have told us that they don’t fit in the bucket we are sitting in. We think our bucket is the best one. We think our beliefs are the only way, our values are the only ones that are right, and we dismiss everyone who doesn’t honor them.
The other product of all this division is conflict and fear. We may try to convince people who don’t think the way we do that their beliefs are wrong, bad, immoral, unjust, offensive, sinful or hateful. We may go around pushing our beliefs and agenda on others. Usually, this does not inspire change, it just pisses people off. We may jump to wild conclusions about people who think differently than we do. If you just go to the internet for half a second, you’ll find all kinds of examples of this.
We often fear the unknown. Most of the hate I witness in this world is driven by fear. People can be passionately ignorant– rejecting the unfamiliar without any education or experience simply because they fear the unknown. Maybe they’ve been indoctrinated by religion, or grew up in a racist family, or picked up misogynistic attitudes from the media. Maybe they’ve never left the place they were born to experience other cultures, languages, religions and people. People have all kinds of ridiculous reasons to treat others like trash. It’s unacceptable, and it’s eroding our society and respect for humanity.
Here’s the question: How do we fix this shit?
Step 1 to saving the world right now: We have to take all the little buckets we put people into, and dump them into one giant bucket with one giant label on it that reads: HUMAN.
This means every other label disappears in our minds, and instead of man, woman, old, young, black, white, gay, transgender or anything else we see a human first. We honor the human. We respect the human. Appearances don’t matter. Bank accounts are not important. Country of origin makes no difference. Because, we’re all just humans. We’re all basically the same. We all want the same things. We all have the same basic needs. We are all flying through space on a ball together in our little meat suits, and the least we can do is treat each other with kindness and respect.
If we want to create peace and unity on this earth, it begins with every individual making a conscious decision to extend empathy and unconditional acceptance to others. If we could learn to stop judging and dividing ourselves into us vs. them situations, all conflict, competition, and fear would subside, and we could refocus our energy in more positive directions.
If you want to save the world today– go out there and be kind to people who are not just like you.
Smile at strangers.
Speak up when you see injustice.
Be an advocate for change, a voice for the voiceless, a light in the darkness that is our world.
When you’re introduced to an idea that is unfamiliar, be curious.
Travel far and wide and experience life in different cultures.
Celebrate all the things that make us unique and special, while remembering that we all belong in the same big ol’ bucket.
Be a cool kid. Invite someone new to sit at your table.
This is how we fix what’s broken.
This is how we teach others how to be good humans.
This is how we change the world, one day at a time.