The hardest thing in the world to do is start again from the beginning. That’s why it’s always difficult to get people to abandon their long-held values, even when those values are clearly outdated. In my last post, I talked about marriage equality and what reasons people might have for opposing it even when they can plainly see that the tide of history is turning against them. I’m not much for judging historical figures in a modern context. So what if Jimmy Stewart turned down the role of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird for being “too liberal”? He might have come around to a more progressive way of thinking in his later years. Then again, maybe not. Either way, I’m not sure if we can lay all of the blame for the slow progress of civil rights on people like him. What’s tricky about social movements like that is that they are so heavily rooted in communication. The old saying that the opposite of love isn’t hate, but apathy, goes a long way toward explaining the persistent ignorance of much of the American public. What’s more dangerous–a person who thinks gay people are inferior, or a person who doesn’t care much either way? We are talking about changing the way that we do things, in this country, but we have to acknowledge that they started out that way for a reason. It may not be a good reason (at least, not anymore), but that’s how you move forward–at least, in my experience. Knuckle-dragging bigots are, in my experience, pretty rare, and almost anyone can be convinced to relax or finesse their views, given time.
I’ve talked before on this blog about an incident in which one of my best friends from my undergraduate years turned his back on me. It wasn’t much, really, he just decided that he didn’t want to host the Doctor Who screenings that were so important to me after doing it for nine or ten months. He told me that he wasn’t getting into it, but I remember looking over at him during the screenings and thinking that he was either enjoying himself or doing a marvelous job of faking it. Maybe he was subtly trying to tell me that I should really start hosting these things myself. Which is what I’ve done since then, and I suppose it’s going a little better. At the very least, the people who show up seem to be doing a little bit more than just humoring me, so that’s nice.
I’m still not entirely sure why I decided to pursue a degree dealing with environmentalism and politics as opposed to anything else. I think it’s because I grew tired of being a humanities person after a while. If you’d asked me whether I preferred math and science or humanities when I was a little kid, I would have told you that I preferred math and science by a country mile. Somewhere along the line, my allegiance changed, and after four years during which I was very proud that I did not take a single hard math or science course, I figured I should go in the opposite direction for a while. There is an intersection between humanities and environmental science, and it comes with figuring out how to present the message in such a way so that people will care. A rather interesting article I read recently cited a study that found that people will typically refuse to eat a piece of fudge shaped like shit even when they can plainly see and smell that it is not shit. At a certain point, they don’t care whether or not what you’re saying is true, only whether you can say it without disrespecting their intelligence. This is why I have an aversion to people who tell me that I should really listen to them, because deep down, I know they’re right. Actually, I don’t, and even if I did, there are times when I am perfectly willing to do the wrong thing just to spite somebody I don’t like. It’s not petty, it’s just human.
I’ve been trying for a long time to figure out why the Doctor’s traveling companions are predominantly female. He travels with men sometimes, but he clearly prefers women, even though his relationship with them is strictly platonic. (In the original series, anyway. The new series keeps giving him companions who have feelings for him that he doesn’t return, which I find boring and repetitive.) Maybe it’s because he is so quick to jump headfirst into whatever problem confronts him that he naturally needs somebody more cautious to save his ass. That person doesn’t have to be a woman, but it’s telling that my favorite male companion in Who history is Jamie, a highlander from 18th-century Scotland whose headstrong, impulsive nature contrasted nicely with the 2nd Doctor’s more indirect approach to problem-solving. He was kind of like Robin to the Doctor’s Batman, and both actors cited it as a high point in their careers.
(In case there are any Whovians reading this who wonder what I think of Rory: he’s fine. Amy is kinda bland, but Rory is likeable enough. So, yeah.)
I think people have to accept that there is a little bit more to giving advice than just telling the other person what you think they should do. Just as being a critic is about a little bit more than having opinions, it’s important to remember that if your idea of giving a suggestion is to make the person feel guilty for doing otherwise, shut your mouth. I don’t normally tell people to do that, but sometimes, it’s good advice. Don’t confuse advice with criticism, and definitely don’t think that claiming not to be judging anybody is the same as being non-judgmental. I’ve run into people who believe that before, and there are few things more aggravating than somebody who keeps “othering” you, insisting that they’re not like all of those other bullies who do exactly the thing that they just did, but aren’t as good at dressing it up as something else. It’s useless to point out that they’re not following the Golden Rule, because their existence revolves around making sure that nobody ever can treat them the way they treat others. I try not to mistake being tolerant for putting up with people who don’t give a shit about me. Tolerance and patience are not the same thing, after all. Unless you’re a Dalek, in which case, the distinction is irrelevant, as both are signs of weakness.
I have to go do my laundry now.