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Posts Tagged ‘twitter’

Today I have passed a new blogging milestone: my first guest post on someone else’s blog!

It’s actually something I put together on Storify, a site that encourages the telling of social (media) stories by pulling in twitter posts, facebook statuses etc into a blog post. I see lots of tweets that spark off gestalty thoughts in me, so this was a first attempt at putting those thoughts into writing.

So without further ado, I suggest you all make your way over to Reversal experiments: @suey2y vs the seasick as hosted on Diary of a Benefit Scrounger.

@suey2y is the twitter account of Sue Marsh, a campaigner for disabled rights who recently led multiple smackdowns on the Government by beating them over the head with the Spartacus Report.

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I’m seeing lots of bigotry related comments flowing through my twitter feed in response to Baroness Warsi’s upcoming speech about Islamaphobia.

The interesting thing (for me at least) about the word bigot is that when I contemplate the meaning of the word, I stumble across a logical puzzle in which levelling an accusation of bigotry would itself make the accuser guilty of bigotry.

According to Cambridge Dictionaries Online, a bigot is: “a person who has strong, unreasonable beliefs and who thinks that anyone who does not have the same beliefs is wrong”.

Two things stand out in this definition for me. One is ‘unreasonable beliefs’, which necessitates a judgement against some criteria for what constitutes an unreasonable belief, and the other is the part about thinking ‘that anyone who does not have the same beliefs is wrong’.

One of the characteristics that I observe in accusations of bigotry (Gordon Brown’s infamous ‘bigoted woman’ jibe being a case in point) is that these accusations tend to include the implication that the bigoted person’s viewpoint is both ‘unreasonable’ and ‘wrong’.

I consider the term ‘unreasonable beliefs’ to be relative, begging the question, relative to what? When Baroness Warsi says she will use her position to fight an “ongoing battle against bigotry”, what criteria is she using to determine whose views are reasonable and whose are unreasonable? And, ironically, isn’t the launching of such a battle not its own form of bigotry?

Consider this phrase: “they also should face social rejection and alienation across society”. It is very easy to level condemnation like this at people when they are judged to be ‘wrong’. And considering the Baroness makes this comment in relation to people who have committed acts of terrorism, it seems hard to disagree with her without implying support for terrorist acts.

Yet this simply highlights what happens when we apply value-laden labels to people; we place a social construct between ourselves and the other, and relate to that construct instead of the person. In gestalt theory this would be a projection; we take an aspect of ourselves (eg our internalised template of what a terrorist is) and relate to that instead of the actual person before us. Dialogue disappears altogether, and we lose the valuable opportunity to create understanding between two polarised positions. This in turn entrenches the conflict, as the two warring viewpoints polarise further.

Is it possible to adopt a perspective that never judges the beliefs of another? I find that unlikely. Is it possible to refrain from ever thinking someone who disagrees with something I believe is wrong? As much as I’d like to think so, I suspect that to be unlikely too. In which case, the onus is really on me to discover the ways in which I am bigoted rather than accuse others of bigotry. This owning of my own forms of bigotry is the reversal of the projection process, allowing me to acknowledge and explore what Jung referred to as my personal shadow-self; those aspects of my self that I find unacceptable, the dark side of the force.

Today’s common sense is often tomorrow’s bigotry because the cultural norms that shape our criteria of ‘reasonable’ and ‘unreasonable’ change over time. That doesn’t stop me disagreeing with views I dislike. But it certainly suggests that I could benefit from taking my own values with a pinch of salt.

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