Reject Labels, Embrace Human

Photo by Tom Hill on Unsplash

Ranting and raving and pointing the finger doesn’t help.

Decrying toxic masculinity or toxic femininity in print might get the clicks but it does not bring minds together. Nor does it foster a mutually respectful dialogue across the gender divide so we might devise practical ways to transcend it.

Instead of focusing on the common good, such diatribes keep us at loggerheads based on what’s in our pants.

People fond of shouting at one another are generally more interested in being right and righteous than in taking action. Besides, echo chambers are lucrative.

It’s a lot easier to dash off yet another hackneyed screed about mean people online than to ask ourselves how we can help fix the problem. Or even if we might be part of it when we choose to type out filler copy that deliberately alienates a vast swath of the population.

Language and tone matter. But when paying lip service to clichés is our bread and butter, why bother thinking out loud? It’s a lot easier to hide behind our body parts and let rip because we know it’s what gets our audience riled up, clicking, and asking for seconds.

But if our aim is to contribute something of value to the global conversation, attitude may not be the smartest approach.

The ability to set aside differences and focus on our shared humanity is key to initiating dialogue.

Doing so calls for the kind of humility seldom found among those who co-opt victimhood culture out of laziness.

It’s less cerebrally taxing to complain about being gaslit than to take a long, hard look at oneself. Instead, blaming someone else and embracing entitlement is the preferred shortcut. In this context, someone who doesn’t even publish under their own name can call out anyone who left nasty comments using a pseudonym without the slightest hint of irony.

Self-awareness, it seems, no longer is a pre-requisite for human interactions, be they online or in meatspace.

Because capitalism and individualism dictate we should only look after number one, we are often blind to one another’s struggles. Worse, we end up engaged in some bizarro oppression Olympics in which someone always has to have it harder than everyone else.

How did we become so inured to one another’s suffering that even human pain has become a matter of competition?

Our respective struggles may be different but they all have one common denominator: us.

As a member of society, each of us has had a hand in creating the mess we’re in. Or in perpetuating an established order that serves some at the expense of others, whether consciously or not.

The problem with privilege is that we’re generally oblivious to it until someone less fortunate than us points it out. And when they do, susceptibility and defensiveness can shut down the conversation before it has even started.

But how can we claim a seat at the negotiating table if we’re unwilling to set aside our fragile egos? And will we still want to sit down together once we realize humble pie is the dish of the day and we’re all expected to tuck in?

Failing to recognize the fight of another human as our own and not standing by them makes monsters of us all.

Toxic humanity isn’t about body parts but about being so wrapped up in ourselves that we refuse to care about issues that do not affect us directly. We all do it, be it out of thoughtlessness rather than malice.

Under a regime that seeks to exclude those who don’t fit its very narrow description of an ideal American, many have only been at war for two years while others have struggled with discrimination and systemic inequalities for a lifetime.

But this doesn’t stop some of us from pretending we know better and continuing to fight our isolated battles with more or less success instead of joining forces.

While the most enterprising — from nationwide TV networks to bloggers — are lining their pockets by fanning the flames of outrage and promoting their -ism of choice, many of us self-soothe with the editorial mediocrity to which we’ve become accustomed. Rather than seek to consume or produce content that calls into question our biases and forces us to examine them, we favor that which exclusively reinforces them.

Nothing will change as long as we refuse to stand in front of the mirror and ask ourselves how we plan to undo the hate we made.

While any form of misanthropy remains inexcusable, if we can’t find it in ourselves to overcome our mutual reticence to connect and converse, how can we ever evolve as individuals and as a society?

I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

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