Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We celebrate the man for the incredible strides he helped make for civil rights and the way he’s changed the world. One thing that is overlooked is perhaps the most important and vital trait the man had, perspective.
People are conditioned to be Manichean in their world view. Either you understand them or you don’t. You are an enemy or a friend and often we make that decision within a split second of meeting new people. What we fail to take into account is that we aren’t the only ones living on this great blue ball. Given the way we structure our literature, movies, and plays we are a society that focuses on the singular character. Our thinking constructs itself to think of one or a few more people as fully fleshed out characters with everyone else playing character roles. We dehumanize others to make our way through the world. Of course our current methods of dehumanization are exponentially less severe than the Jim Crow laws of segregation, but still.
Why this is an issue although a totally natural and healthy one is that it severely limits communication. When we don’t think of others as human beings with the same motivations as ourselves we tend to think that the other person is acting strictly out of malice. That’s when every person who doesn’t fall into your agenda become “haters” who are to be defeated and ridiculed. This projection of archetypes also applies the other way and your significant other is no longer a person with insecurities, needs, and wants but an angel whose every action is predestined to bring you joy, your boss is a fire-breathing dragon who’s way too demanding. What these viewpoints do is force you to act in a way that ultimately damages yourself, your “haters” may have a salient point, your significant other is probably tired of being your personal savior, and your boss just wants your lazy ass to work. You see we all live here together. It is hard to imagine that each person you meet is an individual with a story just as deep and complex as yours. The failure to recognize that fact leads to tragedies great and small.