Thursday, June 13, 2013
What do you call a person that kills? A killer.
What do you call a person that cheats? A cheater.
What do you call a person that loves? A lover.
What do you call a person that hates? A hater.
What do you call a person that rapes? A rapist (not a raper...I wonder why?)
Basically, the above examples were made to illustrate a simple point. Said point being that most, if not all, people define other people by their actions. So far we are all in agreement? Okay, so here is where things get interesting. The farther out from someone's social circle is the more likely they are to be defined, in that person's mind, by their actions. The closer they are to that person the less likely (or at least the less intensely) they are defined by their actions. There seems to be an inverse relationship between the degree to which one is defined, in the minds of others, by one's own actions and their social proximity to the other person/people. The rate of adherence to the rules of defining people vary with this proximity.
In the examples given above, one would assume that the people in question are people on the periphery of one's social group. Most people would refer to someone they read about in a magazine cheating on their significant other as a cheater. However, in the event that their best friend had an affair, would they be as likely to apply the cheater label? Taking this to the furthest point on the inverse end of this relationship is the judgement passers themselves. What do most people call themselves when they do x or y?
I posit that they are quite unlikely to define themselves by these specific actions and instead are more likely to grant themselves psychological/moralistic leeway in the form of a statement such as "I'm not that kind of person," "I don't know what I was thinking- I don't do things like that" or "that's not me; I'm not really like that." Furthermore, I contend that you the reader have yourself done this, as, I will readily admit, have I, your gracious host and sexually proficient blog author.
So why the dichotomy?
Well, for the same reason that (in my opinion) most negative aspects of humanity exist: Ego.
Ego is a motherfucker. Ego is an incredibly strong motivator for much of the world's population; one that can be bested (or at least mitigated to a certain degree) but in order to learn to do so one must undertake a measure of study and practise. For most people, this process is unknown to them, and therefore out of their reach, regardless of their readiness to partake in it. This unreadiness/unwillingness to tackle the inhibiting effects of the ego (and the maintenance thereof) keep people in the default state in which they are prone to bending the truth (or at the very least use whatever techniques/tricks that are available to them in order to maintain a certain narrative in their minds-a narrative regarding themselves and who they are as a person).
It is this psychological phenomenon that is responsible for the shift from actions being held to be the defining characteristic of a person's character to there being an essential "self" that exists outside of one's actions. The logical question is thusly evident, although the answer to it is not:
What are the criteria by which this essential self is judged?
The answer, it seems to me, is partly past actions, partly the moral code that the person assimilated throughout their upbringing (a code that nearly no one follows at all times) and partly an idealized version of the self that is congruent with both a person's culture and the attributes they ascribe to a self actualized, idealized 'hero' character. Basically, we define ourselves by who who want to be, not who we are as would be judged if we were to be judged as we judge others; that is, solely by our actions.
The problem with this is that it can't be both. People either are the sum total of their actions or they are not. So which is it? Just remember that whichever choice you make applies to both you and everyone else. One interesting aspect of this fact that just struck me as I am writing this is that this choice basically comes down to either being harder on yourself or easier on everyone else. I'm not sure what people would rather do but I do know that either one comes down to the same unavoidable implication: You and everyone else will be held to the same standard. The exact thing that I believe sparks this problem in the first place.
I have a saying that applies here, and it as follows: You will be judged not by your actions but by the perceptions of your intent. Unless those doing the judging aren't you ;)