Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Making Judgements, Part 1: A Warning

It is part of human nature that we look at the world around us and judge the other people we come into contact with. We categorize, we stereotype, we rate based on our own series of merits. Over at the Living History Podcast Stephen and I are trying really hard to be inclusive, using the broadest definitions and giving air time to as many different voices as we can. Doing that feels good. It makes me believe that there might be a chance to form a community, that there are tons of other people out there that share the same things that I do. But we’re not all the same, and that is ok too.

But what if we want to categorize? There must be some judging we can do? Well, I do tend to make judgments about the other LH groups and individuals that I come into contact with, though I try to not make quick decisions based on a single meeting, and I try to take into account what the group is trying to accomplish, and not just my own criterion. But there, I’ve admitted it, I do judge.

Now I’m sure all my readers are on the edges of their computer chairs (or couches or whatever) to find out what my own judging criterion is… well, it is twofold: based on my own criterion for myself and the stuff I’ve learned working in the non-profit world, and is accompanied by a warning about hypocrisy. I’m sorry, I’m going to make you wait for later entries to hear about my judging criterion, I thought they deserved their own entries. Besides, I think the warning about hypocrisy might be more important.

The novel Diamond Age by Neal Stevenson may be one of my “must read” books. It is a good story, told well, that tackles some big topics like self-governance, education, and the control of technology. One of my favorite passages is about how, in a permissive age where everyone is allowed to name their own morals, the biggest sin is hypocrisy. If you say you are the most moral, then people will hold you to it. If you say you have no morals, but then it turns out you do, hypocrisy raises its ugly head and other people get to judge you on it. (It was much better said in Diamond age, I just don’t happen to have a copy on me right now.) It all goes back to the fact that we love to judge other people, and will do so based on what they profess themselves if we have no other means by which to do so. But running around calling other people hypocrites mostly reflects badly on the one doing the yelling as much as it does upon the person being judged. I take that very much to heart.

Part 2: How Museums Do It, Part 3: My Criterion.

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