You know that book series by John Gray, PhD? The pop-psych empire built around the phrase “men are from Mars, women are from Venus”? Yeah, that comes up a lot. In fact, you yourself probably hear it a lot. It’s, uh, not that useful, as a principle.
Thinking about anyone as a strange, ineffable being who may as well be from another world is, I think, generally not the most conducive approach for understanding, empathy or societal progress. We do it a lot, though. Anyone you don’t understand, anyone whose choices or actions or opinions are repugnant or even just confusing to you… well, it’s easy to cordon them off somewhere in a safe little box in your head marked “may as well be from somewhere near Alpha Centauri”. But accepting that you can never understand someone and may as well not try is how societal divisions, baseless fears and mindless prejudices grow and flourish.
When my mother was little, her parents bought her a sailor suit (and, improbably, she loved it), starched white, with two shiny gold buttons. She hung it up on her cupboard door. One night, she woke up and, looking up drowsily from her bed, saw two menacing yellow eyes staring out at her from what appeared to be the depths of her wardrobe, gleaming in the sparse moonlight. Near-paralysed with fear, she slowly, cautiously, crouched and tiptoed her way to the lightswitch beside her bedroom door, and flipped it, expecting a monster to leer back at her with its eyes glowing and its mouth slavering with anticipation. She saw nothing untoward, switched the light back off, and watched those eyes reappear. It took her several tries before she connected the bright irises with the two shiny buttons of her new sailor suit.
You can see where this is going. The best antidote to blind, panicked terror is light.
The aim of this blog is to have a bit of a ramble about the idea that, while we may be different from one another, we are essentially, at least partially, comprehensible, and it’s worth the effort to try to understand. You don’t need to agree with someone to understand them, though you might find yourself deciding that perhaps their opinion isn’t so awful after all. You don’t need to want to do what they do, or have the same priorities as them. All you need to do is think, and ask, and try.