“Not to attempt to move into higher consciousness of seeing ourselves, and others, is to ‘limit our thinking.'” – Mary Elizabeth
I have been blogging on a local journalist’s blog for over a year. The last two weeks have been particularly trying for me. I have recently experienced the same “not one of us” encounters that I had experienced in my south Georgia high school a half century earlier when I spoke against segregation. On this local blog, I have been appealing to readers not to think in stereotypes regarding others, but to look beyond labels to each person’s core. The recent discussion had begun because of a post by the journalist in which he described how Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Il) had criticized American Jews for not supporting Israeli Jews more zealously in their long conflict with Palestinians.
Instead of focusing on the overall message of my post, which was an appeal to readers to realize that “people throughout the world have more in common than they have differences. . . ,” a few bloggers chose to focus on these words of mine: “The sad part is that Walsh, and conservative Republicans who think as he does, are not even aware of the limitations of their thinking.” (Walsh had thought that American Jews should be in lockstep thinking with Israeli Jews simply because all were Jews. In my opinion, Walsh was indulging in stereotypical thinking about Jews. If you are interested in reading the full post of my words on the local journalist’s blog, it follows the video of Maria Callas at the end of this post.)
My words, evidently, hit a deep chord with some on that blog. The truth can sometimes threaten and offend. I have observed that some who view others with generalized, stereotypical perceptions, often insist that the only valid ways of knowing truths are through factual, mathematical, and scientific deductions. Although those ways of perceiving should be valued, it seems that many who accept only those ways of perceiving truth often fail to recognize and develop higher consciousness concerning why we are here, who we and others are in full, and how we should relate to others. These ways of understanding reality are fostered, not by a series of facts, but by the humanities, which emphasize multilayered dimensions of thinking and perceiving human nature with complexity. Moreover, those who are exclusively centered on sets of facts for determining reality may often fail to appreciate the transcendent beauty and power of the human spirit, as experienced in performances such as Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly.” The humanities and the arts aid in cutting through stereotypical thinking into more realistic and complex understanding of ourselves and others. Seeing others as stereotypes not only limits the other in our mind, but it also impairs our ability to solve effectively many of the world’s problems. For example, I do not think the problems between Israelis and Palestinians will be solved, regardless of how many facts are on the table, until both groups can envision the other as equal human beings who have an equal right to exist where they are, and not simply as the embodiment of a stereotypical external label, which can easily be turned into a one-dimensional, caricatured enemy.
One of those on that blog who wrote so critically of me and my thoughts is a woman who identifies herself as a conservative Republican, a Southerner, an American patriot, and a Christian. I have wondered, if this lady were to be placed in Moscow, or Rome, or Rio de Janeiro, and if she were asked to describe who she is without using any of the obvious connotations of those four labels, would she be able to describe herself uniquely and with depth as to her core being. I do not think that she has given much thought to questions such as those because her posts have demonstrated that she has identified strongly with those four labels. I do not believe she has ever allowed her sensibilities even to consider what I have tried to communicate. I mention her example to illustrate the thinking of many who do not expand their perceptions beyond their givens.
I think it should be reiterated that the degree of negativity against my thoughts which occurred with the Joe Walsh post on the journalist’s blog was equivalent to the intensity I had experienced from white Southerners when I spoke for an integrated society in Georgia in the 1950s, when the norm was still that of a segregated society. I believe this equivalency of inflamed passions is not coincidental nor do I believe that it has been primarily about race or religion. It occurred in both cases as a negative reaction to my challenge for people to break through given norms into seeing with a different (or more expansive) perspective. Most people will resist, vehemently, any change from their known and secure way of life and thinking. Most people will resist social change which shapes reality differently from what they have previously experienced.
I believe the world is presently on the brink of entering a new way – a more egalitarian way – of seeing others as the social revolutions in Iran, Egypt, and Libya have demonstrated. In this emerging world vision, people are beginning to see others with their hearts, and not primarily with their judgmental minds. When one opens his or her heart to this higher consciousness, all people are seen as inherently equal, and interconnected, because that is how the heart (or love) sees. Power is not dominant; equality is. The need to think of ourselves as better than others in a hierarchy of prestige or power subsides. We simply see ourselves as different from others, not better or less than others. Perhaps, we will eventually arrive at a state of collective consciousness whereby we will not so much judge sin – or destructive behavior – as we will simply observe it. Moreover, we will hopefully try to help alter it through care and insight given to those with destructive tendencies, instead of creating more destruction in the choices we make, as a society, toward them. That change, or that evolution in consciousness toward a deeper understanding of who we and others are, is what is being resisted today because most people still want simple answers, especially as to who is “good” and who is “bad.” The need for simple answers, especially as to who our friends or our enemies are, perpetuates stereotypical thinking.
I believe that this emerging higher consciousness will continue to be resisted until its tipping point has occurred and this more complex and loving way of seeing reality has been made manifest in the world. It will not come in a year, or even in a decade, but it is as inevitable to become reality as it was for slavery, segregation, and apartheid to end as reality. In the last half century, I have observed signs of this coming egalitarian consciousness, springing forth with more and more momentum, through social movements across the globe such as the dissolution of the Soviet Union into separate nations, the ending of Jim Crow era in the American South, and the demonstrations against autocratic governments in the Middle East. All of these movements have demonstrated a desire for greater civil and human rights for all people. I have, simultaneously, witnessed a desire for greater understanding of the depth of human consciousness through the need to study the groundbreaking work of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. When the people of this planet, including the Israelis and Palestinians, reach this higher and more complex level of consciousness of seeing the other as one with themselves, their problems can be resolved more easily. I hope that human beings will evolve to this higher consciousness before we destroy ourselves in conflicts and wars.
Changing consciousness – from seeing in simple stereotypes to seeing complexities in ideas, in events, and in the hearts and minds of human beings – is one of the primary goals of Mary Elizabeth Sings. Seeing in stereotypes is not only erroneous thinking about the world as it actually exists, but it is a destructively simplistic way of thinking which becomes dangerous not only to the well-being of individuals, but to the population as a whole throughout the planet.
My next post on Mary Elizabeth Sings will explore American Puritanism as it manifests in the American obsession with the work ethic and with sexual mores. I will be attempting to break through stereotypical thinking of these topics for greater insight.
Maria Callas sings aria from “Madame Butterfly”:
Here is my full post which so inflamed some of the bloggers on the journalist’s local blog:
“Perhaps American Jews are aware of something in their perceptions that Walsh and his kind are simply missing in theirs. The sad part is that Walsh, and conservative Republicans who think as he does, are not even aware of the limitations of their thinking. Instead of exploring why America’s Jews may be responding as they do, they choose, instead, to tell others how to think. When those who are similar to Walsh in worldview are in power, the world is truly in danger.
The thinking of the world must move past seeing in terms of limited definitions of who we are and in seeing only in terms of ‘you vs. me.’ A leader of vision, like President Obama, can show the world how to break through that old way of seeing others which creates conflict, in itself, simply by its limited and narrowly defined vision of what and who people are. People throughout the world have more in common than they have differences, simply because all are human. It is wiser to emphasize those commonalities rather than to seek to polarize the differences.”
Postscript: I Corinthians 13:2: “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.”
Addendum posted on Jay Bookman’s blog April 6, 2017 by Mary Elizabeth:
“Here is the lesson of this week on this blog, for anyone who cares to learn it:
Whenever we see another human being as a caricature, we tend to be cruel to that caricature.
And, more often than not, we feel free to project our own unrecognized defects onto the ‘other,’ who is not human in our eyes, but a one-dimensional personification of evil or goodness. This is limited and sad thinking that has its destructive effects on us and on others, personally, and as a world community.
That is why I have written so often that stereotypical thinking is dangerous thinking.”