General Question

resmc's avatar

Do you see a tendency in many people/groups to acknowledge, criticize and discuss problems in others, but be hostile or avoidant to recognizing even lesser versions of the same in themselves?

Asked by resmc (749points) March 28th, 2009

In the US, for instance, we often embrace discussions of how backwards things were in the past (not that that isn’t apt), or in other societies… yet almost use those examples as a foil to our supposed lack of race, gender, wealth and political equality. It’s a very convenient way to never experience the discomfort of acknowledging the problems we have the most control over.

Any ideas on how to get around this somewhat natural resistance to self-criticism and introspection?

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12 Answers

skfinkel's avatar

Self-awareness—first in ourselves. On the national stage, see how this plays out in Obama’s book about his own thinking and development of who he is and how he got there in his first book. This is a person who has figured some stuff out, and can then sidestep the very traps you describe. (Unlike so many others who play out their neuroses in the public arena.)

resmc's avatar

@skfinkel Introspection is crucial, agreed! Any thoughts on how that process may be extended beyond individuals to groups?

Poser's avatar

I remember the best class I took in college. US History. The Prof talked about how social change often takes much longer than political change. “Wars don’t start when bullets start flying, and they don’t stop when treaties are signed.” In other words, the problems you describe are the very problems that eventually boil over into war, and they don’t go away when those wars end.

Ultimately, the social change you desire can only be brought about by large-scale paradigm-shifts. I believe we have just experienced one in the US, but even that is only one step in a journey that is ongoing. Society, after all, is simply a collection of individuals.

Wasn’t it Ghandi who implored us to be the change we want to see in the world?

resmc's avatar

@Poser Agreed! How do you think those wide paradigm shifts come about?

I see such shifts in certain groups, but they tend to stick within that group, since intentionally trying to expand to those with their own mindsets is a lot more difficult than feeling good about oneself for being so ‘enlightened’ in comparison.

Poser's avatar

Teach your children well. I think the largest points of enlightenment come with new generations. Inter-racial relationships were almost unheard of in my grandparents’ generation, mostly acceptable in my parents’, and almost no issue with mine. My son’s generation will probably never blink twice at such a thing.

I also think the intertubes allow for a much faster dissemination of ideas and enlightenment than in previous generations.

Ivan's avatar

It all comes back to the attitude we have towards open discourse. So long as we have a list of topics that we are not supposed to discuss, nothing will ever happen.

jo_with_no_space's avatar

Yes. So typically hypocritical.

resmc's avatar

@Ivan have you noticed one tactic of maintaining that taboo list is to deny one exists, or that there’s a need to discuss those topics? You see this with racism & sexism, among other things.

Ivan's avatar

@resmc Yes, many people take offense at the mere notion that the items on the list should even be discussed.

resmc's avatar

@Ivan Isn’t it rather remarkable, how worked up people tend to act in such situations – even uncharacteristically worked up? It’s like they themselves are being threatened somehow. Maybe those sort of assumptions, of all problems being elsewhere, grow to be part of people’s conception of themselves/the world?

Ivan's avatar

@resmc Change of any sort can literally frighten and anger people.

resmc's avatar

@Ivan Sad, that… living, by definition – especially in a society of some sort – means changing, adapting to shifting environments. It’s apt to cause more problems than anything for one to attempt force those around them/the environment to stay fixed, in an old pattern… yet this happens a lot. That can work to some degree, and there’s limits on how fast we can adapt (some have more difficulty than others) – yet it’s futile to invest such energy into selfishly trying to control what’s not ours to control.

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