I don’t like shrimp.
When I tell people that I don’t like shrimp, many people have the same reaction: “How could you not like shrimp?” This reaction follows the inevitable rationalization that shrimp-lovers always resort to: “You just haven’t had it cooked right! You should try it like …”
I’ve been a cook in one capacity or another for over 15 years. I have sampled many kinds of shrimp. I do not like it.
And no one seems to believe me.
This is condescension. Because what is happening is that I am asserting my experience, and it is at odds with the experience other people have. So they insist that my experience must actually be different than what I believe it to be. I’m wrong, you see.
I must really like shrimp. I just don’t know it yet.
I experience this in political circles as well. I support position X, so I must also support positions Y and Z. I heard countless people insist that the only reason anyone would not vote for President Obama is because they’re racist — because that’s what fits their worldview, and they don’t want to hear otherwise. And any protestation or argument to the contrary was taken as proof of their racism.
I’ve been told that I’m really bisexual. I just don’t know it because I’ve been taught not to be. Were I to truly understand myself, then I’d see that the stranger telling me this knows me far better than I know myself.
And what it comes down to, as best as I can tell, is the unwillingness of people to believe that people are actually different from them. That they actually think and feel and perceive differently, and that they have different ideas and desires and goals. Because these special snowflakes are smarter and better than everyone, and so they know what is really going on inside your head and your heart. And if you say otherwise then you’re lying or deluded. Because that would mean they’re wrong, and that just can’t be.
I don’t like shrimp.
But other people do. And that’s fine.
And I’m a cook. I will, on very rare occasions, eat shrimp. I can tell if it’s well prepared or improperly done. I know when it’s quality.
I just don’t like it.
I’m not trying to pretend or assert that no one should like shrimp, or that is someone likes shrimp and I don’t, then they’re wrong for liking it, or they’re extra gross for eating it (even though they are gross sea roaches that eat poop).
So I’m not trying to invalidate your experience of enjoying shrimp. (Although sometimes the smell of you enjoying it may gross me out.) Enjoy the hell out of that shrimp.
But don’t tell me that I’m wrong for not liking it.
You live your experience and I’ll live mine. One doesn’t have to invalidate the other. This isn’t a contest, and me not liking shrimp doesn’t make you wrong, and you liking it doesn’t make me wrong.
But you telling me that you know me better than I know myself? Yeah, that is kind of wrong.
I don’t trust a lot of political ideologies anymore. I’m especially distrustful of any group that claims to be “fighting” for me.
Hey Occupy? When did you ask me what my goals and opinions and philosophies are? When did you check with me what I wanted? How can you claim to speak for me when you don’t know who I am and I can’t even see who you are because you’re hiding your face behind a bandana or a Guy Fawkes mask?
When did other people get the right to presume what my opinions and goals and ideals and desires are? When did other people get the right to include me in their movements on the assumption that I must believe and act according to their theories? And that if my ideas and thoughts and actions don’t fit their theories, then it’s not their theories that are flawed, but my understanding of myself and my honestly about my inner processes?
I was once accused of solipsism by a man who disregarded what I told him about my beliefs, asserting that he was able to divine what I truly believed, and that my claims to the contrary were either delusion or falsehood. Obviously I am not self aware enough to know what I actually think about things, but he was able to figure it out for me due to his elite status. I suppose a solipsist accusing others of solipsism isn’t as ironic as it sounds.
Sometimes people misrepresent themselves. Sometimes people don’t believe you at first, or at all.
That’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about when someone deliberately ignores what you are telling you because it doesn’t fit into their expectations. I’m talking about when someone invalidates you because it is inconvenient to how they see the world to take you seriously. I’m talking about when someone assumes that everyone thinks the way that they do, and therefore if you do something they don’t want you to then it is for the exact reasons they don’t want you to do it.
And such a thought process has no legitimate place at a table that allegedly caters to a diverse view of the Universe and its mysteries.
It is by listening to and considering different possibilities that we find growth and compassion. There is value even in positions you believe or know to be wrong.
And assuming that you know all there is to know about others and their motivations begins the path to hubris.