Reductionism is “the practice of simplifying a complex idea, issue, condition, or the like,especially to the point of minimizing, obscuring, or distorting it.” (Source)
This post is a bid to analyse a few of the reasons why people needlessly preserve their contempt for each other over long periods of time (even years or decades). It also seeks to explain why some develop this contempt in the first place.
Akin to ideas, people can end up being reduced (only in someone else’s perception) to the one aspect which has stood out the most about them, in a subjective manner.
A good example is “I hate/ dislike/ avoid this person because of something they said.” This basically reduces an individual to a few words uttered at one point in time (probably triggering to those who take offence).
A few useful questions when trying to reevaluate one’s attitude towards such antipathies:
• -How long ago was this? Is it possible for them to have changed their mind?
• -Were they intoxicated or going through a difficult time (not thinking clearly)?
• -Were they perhaps joking?
• -Were they saying it out of ignorance and might change their minds if exposed to more information?
• -Were they saying it due to a creed which influences their general view of the world?
• -Do they seem decent in general, aside from this one objectionable remark? How would I get on with this person if they hadn’t said this?
• -Is this something they only said once or is it definitely their opinion?
• -Is it really something I can never, ever get over?
Unfortunately, the very popular SJW trend seems to be based on reductionism, urging or coercing people through emotional blackmail to embrace limited views about others in order to side with the “virtuous”. Not only do they want those who disagree with them disapproved of and ostracised over an opinion; they want them bankrupted “in the name of diversity”.
To reiterate the fact that conflicting views are not the end of the world, there are a few more points to consider.
1. Peer pressure
People feel pressured today to issue an opinion regarding matters they are not familiar enough with. On social media, you just might be persecuting some poor fucker for a “like” button they clicked on or a few random words written in order to not seem uninformed, compared to their many peers, some of them equally ignorant yet claiming they are passionate about their chosen subject. Everyone seems to be involved in a campaign nowadays – or more – compared to a few years ago, when activism was reserved for those who could bother their asses with it, scorned by cynics, who were comfortable enough to just live their lives.
Everything is different now. One is made to feel guilty for not taking a stand, for not signing and sharing petitions, as if they were more than a handy database for authoritarian types (who are in power or might be) to use down the line, amounting to comprehensive lists of dissenters’ names. Whilst communist states had to use informants to compile such lists, people now sign their names and hand them over willingly.
To some it sounds better to class themselves as activists for so-and-so, especially when siding with trendy causes. Perhaps the do it as an investment – if something is achieved with all the noise, they can proudly say they were part of the movement. If not, they can move on to the next cause and hope for the best.
2. Exploitation by the media
Quoting people out of context is a technique of choice for those who simply want to agitate; random bite-size quotes in general, when adjoined, seem to paint a larger picture, which is not necessarily accurate.
How many of us have laughed at compilations of random people in the street being caught off guard with a question and recorded for the world to marvel at their level of stupidity? Whilst I admit some seemed a bit uninterested in history or current affairs, their failure is momentary and very limited. One knows nothing about them aside from the fact that they didn’t answer something correctly, were tricked into signing a false (ridiculous) petition etc. Is the consecration of a silly moment in order to demonstrate the general stupidity of a nation/ group really fair? To me it obviously isn’t.
Also, it might be conditioning us to reduce others to the smallest stupid things they might say. A memory fail, lack of paying attention, genuinely not knowing etc – these are not crimes. General ridicule is not warranted. One is not doing the world a service by ”exposing” the amount of knowledge or interest in important issues; instead, they’re likely to stigmatise the people they record and cause real trouble in their lives through this shaming.
Also, the media often peppers a biased report with a few opinions given by ordinary people in the street, carefully selected, of course. They think they can convince a whole country to adopt a “majority opinion” based on the words of four or five people and a poll which may or may not be true (no one can ever verify the accuracy of polls; trusting them is basically blind faith). There must be some well-studied technique behind the success of such reports, some boxes it ticks in people’s minds in order to persuade them.
3. Discrimination and labels
Prejudice breeds prejudice, unless someone puts an end to this chain by simply saying they’re willing to accept a different view.
All types of genuine discrimination are based on reducing a category of people to sketchy stereotypes, ignoring the individuality of everyone comprising it; the infinity of possibilities within each person.
The same applies to self-identified but not homogeneous categories based on political preference, religion, ideology in general, and by extrapolation, to any number of people with a common trait. Assumptions are automatically made about them, according to random experiences one has had with a few of them, even very few.
Whatever a person adheres to in life, they are more than a label and should be treated as such. However, in our days of interacting quickly with as many people as possible, labels have become the way we relate to each other, as it’s difficult to get to know everyone we communicate with.
To conclude, it’s useful noting that people are more than:
• -Something they once did (extreme deeds such cold-blooded murder excluded);
• -Something they once said (whatever it was);
• -Their degree or lack thereof;
• -What they do for a living;
• -The amount of information they possess (which can always change);
• -How they see the world at the moment or how they have in the past;
• -Any crisis they went through or are going through (breakdowns, addictions, suicide attempts, jail time etc.);
• -Any successes or failures they’ve had;
• -Their social circle, past or present; how popular they are;
• -Their health, physical and mental, past or present;
• -Their financial situation and assets;
Etc. The list is a very long one, I’m sure.