October 15, 2012

Religion, Politics and Magical Thinking...oh my!!

Might as well jump in at the deep end and just get it over with!
POV overview (not really a disclaimer, because I do claim all my experience as valid but it is just MY experience):
  • Spent a couple of decades going to school while working, got my bachelors in nursing.
  • Certified Hospice/Palliative nurse for 10 years
  • Medically disabled for the past 2 years
  • No income for over a year due to refusal of long term disability insurance to pay. 
My goodness, where to start? The world is so very different than I thought it would be. And chillingly familiar to someone who read a LOT of science fiction.
But just to talk about the current rhetoric being thrown about, and some of the issues that have raised my personal hackles.

Firstly of course, is the whole demonizing of the poor and elderly which has emerged as an apparently valid campaign strategy in an economy that has left far too many of us poor as well as impoverishing a lot of the elderly! So we adult children are facing not only our own economic crises, but also taking in or arranging care for parents who have few resources as well. 
The rationale for this gets into the magical thinking that permeates the rhetoric one sees in social media, from pundits, and even from candidates.
"I worked hard, paid my taxes, took care of my family, went to church, and became a success." Ergo - if you are NOT a success then you have obviously failed in one of the above.

Reality and personal experience of individuals puts lie to this myth every single day. The difference that I have seen is that those who indulge in this sort of magical thinking make those instances "The Exception". Much like the racist who has a friend of color "but he/she is Different", the homophobe who finds out someone they know is gay "but he/she doesn't act like That", the misogynist with a female friend "she acts like one of the Guys" - this individual looks at the person they know who is unemployed, or disabled, or divorced, or poor, and says "oh but he/she is Different!"
Each instance that they become familiar with is an exception to their Rule, rather than invalidating the stereotype that forms the basis for overall philosophy.
This is not to point fingers and say "You!" at all. Any of us that grew up in the dominant culture in the US were indoctrinated into this sort of magical thinking from Santa Claus on. Most children's books and stories are designed to teach us that being good is rewarded and being bad is punished.
And while this is true in many cases, the problem arises when one transposes the cause and effect. Assuming that a failure to work hard, pay taxes, take care of family, go to church, etc are the reasons for poverty, unemployment, illness, etc is not only a logical fallacy but also a disservice to human beings.
It is understandable. To assume that one is at the mercy of fate, a spin of the cosmic wheel, that random chance could result in disaster is terrifying. If one can comfort oneself with the reassurance that the bad things that happen to others were probably their own fault then that creates a magical ward against such random chance hitting your own home. Until it does, of course.
Then, it is Different.
So let's try this:
Try changing perspective as an experiment.
Imagine that everyone out there is struggling, trying their best. And everyone has challenges and problems that you know nothing about. Maybe she isn't just lazy, maybe she was up all night with a sick family member or an abusive spouse. And maybe he is depressed and beaten down from being rejected for job after job for over a year. And maybe you have no idea what living in their heads or bodies feels like, and maybe that is something you should just be grateful about.
Disease, economic downturns, natural disaster, death...they all happen. To Them, and to Us. Randomly, to the good and to the bad. To the wealthy and the poor. To the healthy and the well. To Democrats, Republicans and even to Libertarians!
My favorite quote really sums it up for me:
"You know, I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe."
 -- Marcus to Franklin in Babylon 5:"A Late Delivery from Avalon"

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