Part 2: The Difference Between Narrow- Mindedness and Ignorance

(Part 1)

Ignorance

They recognise their own ignorance: There is no shame in acknowledging that we are all ignorant – whether we are rich or poor, male or female, able or disabled, from the frigid North Pole to the scorching hot dunes of the Sahara, we are all ignorant about something. Despite what you’ve been hearing from the hyper-political media of today, ignorance knows no people group. It’s okay to acknowledge this reality. Not only is this okay but recognising the ignorance inside all of us can humble and unify us.

However, if we allow ourselves to think that we are more ignorant than we really are, we might turn ourselves into the victims of narrow-minded people – this can happen to people who are in manipulative relationships with their “friends”, or even with their own family members. These are narrow-minded people who choose to remain willfully blind to their own ignorance so that they can gleefully revel in yours. They can make themselves look like the good guy to you because they make you feel guilty for things that you shouldn’t feel bad about. For example, maybe you’re a man who has to deal with a third-wave feminist telling you that you are part of the “tyrannical” patriarchy.

If you suspect that you are the victim of someone who fits the criteria of a narrow-minded person, don’t be afraid to be sincere and stand up for yourself. If you don’t, you will continuously feel like the impossible is being expected from you. You will be like a rubber band that the other person tries to stretch beyond your limit. Once you snap, you will backlash into their face making them angrier at you than they were before. If you feel like you are being stretched too thin don’t hide your true feelings for too long. Even if you’re aware that you don’t know this person’s experience, don’t doubt that you are in the right by calling him or her out for their closed-minded attitude towards you.

Unknown

Temporary denial: This past summer I found myself in a situation where I thought that people were acting closed-minded towards me, but in reality, I don’t think they intended to be closed-minded. My job search councillor sent me to a meeting with two people who run a career-search workshop. When I got there, these people acted shocked by my life experience that was very different from theirs—they reacted negatively to the things that I haven’t done yet before they knew what I have done. Their emotions seemed to go in this order: unbelief, shock, anger, disappointment and then pity. From their tone of voice, and their impulsive jump into an emotional reaction, my first impression was that they were unopen and unwilling to understand my history, and current situation from growing up as an autistic Military brat moving every two to four years.

I wrote a narrative about my time with them from my perspective, and then e-mailed it to them with a carbon copy to my job search councillor. My job search councillor helped me to see things differently. I realize now that the way I wrote my narrative made me sound closed-minded. She helped me to understand where I might have misinterpreted them. She called the work shop people right after getting my carbon copy. She told me what they said to her—they told her that they learned a lot from what I wrote. I don’t know the background of these people, but somebody told me after this event that people who seldom move may struggle to understand a different kind of life outside of their home town. No matter what the situation, I think that not understanding me right off the bat wasn’t their fault. However, I do wish that they’d reply to my apology e-mail so that I’d know for sure that they forgave me, and that I forgave them.

Were we being narrow-minded, or just ignorant? I don’t know. This is where the barrier between the two starts to become hazy. These two people and myself seem to have fallen into this blurry in-between area. Sometimes emotions cause us to fall into a state of denial against whatever we are hearing or seeing. It’s easy to misunderstand this reaction as closed-mindedness when, in fact, denial might just be the first step in hearing information that seems shocking at first exposure.

This might also be why denial is known as the first step people go through while grieving. In good conscience, we would never say that someone who’s grieving, and experiencing denial is “closed-minded to reality”. We know that it’s nothing more than a temporary reaction to something the person had previously felt was impossible.

Conclusion

I hope that this two part blog post helped you to see ignorance in a more nuanced light. The world today makes ignorance seem so much simpler than it really is and that causes us to hurt each other – can we think differently about this?

Netivity

Christmas will be here in just a few days—Christmas is a time to remember when forgiveness came to us in the form of a newborn baby. When the baby grew up, He showed us how to let go of our narrow-mindedness so that we can see ourselves in others. Try to see yourself in Justin Trudeau—try to see yourself in Donald Trump—this will be hard if you dislike one or both of these men, but it’s worth a try.  I can now see a glimpse of myself in the workshop owners because I know that I reacted similarly towards them to how they reacted towards me.  However, this was just a glimpse.  I still forget my own faults, and then accuse others for shortcomings that I’ve also been guilty of.  The journey towards self-awareness will never end in this life; however, If we are willing to see ourselves in others, we will still be ignorant, but we will never again be narrow-minded.

Let’s bravely say what we truly feel about narrow-mindedness, and have more mercy for other people’s, and our own ignorance.  Merry Christmas!

 

 

Part 1: The Difference Between Narrow-Mindedness and Ignorance

Where do we draw the line between narrow-mindedness and ignorance? The line is very fine, so it is difficult to detect it in other people, and even in ourselves; however, it’s important that we learn how to recognize the difference between the two — terrible things can happen if we don’t. We can end up causing a lot of pain because we misunderstood someone else’s ignorance as closed-mindedness, or they misunderstood us in this same way. Knowing the difference between the two might prevent us from expecting others to pay an unrealistic price that shouldn’t have to be paid – all because they, just like us, don’t know everything about the world.

Ignorance is usually harmless, but if we deny that we are ignorant our innocence turns into narrow-mindedness. If we see ourselves as knowing everything, then naturally, we will see others as stupid, uninformed, and maybe even evil.

I decided to split this blog post into two parts.  Today I will list three traits of narrow-minded people.  Tomorrow I will post about one trait of ignorance, and then I’m going to talk about a time this year when I couldn’t recognize the difference between the two in myself and others—I’m going to tell you the story that inspired me to write this blog post in the first place.  Stay tuned tomorrow for the second part about ignorance, and to read my story.  In the meantime prepare for yourself a steaming hot cup of cocoa (a couple gingerbread and shortbread cookies can’t hurt either) , get comfortable, and join me as we contemplate on three traits of narrow-mindedness that we should look out for in ourselves and others.

Hot Cocoa

Narrow-Mindedness

Calls other people “ignorant”: Whenever I look at media today, the news, internet, etc., I notice a strange trend. The characters on our electronic screens point their fingers at others and call them “ignorant” as if not knowing things makes them evil.  You don’t know anything about Indigenous culture?! “If you are not Indigenous yourself, don’t appropriate that culture and risk misrepresenting it”, or you might learn from your human tendency to be curious about what you are ignorant about. (Gasp! How awful would learning from our ignorance be?)

There is nothing wrong with being ignorant – absolutely nothing.  This word is being overused in a negative way by people who want it to have a strictly negative meaning. We are all ignorant, so if we call others “ignorant” out of pride or spite we risk acting like closed-minded hypocrites.  Whenever we are learning something new we need to start somewhere–we have to start off as being ignorant before we can become informed.  Where else can we start?

They do whatever it takes to avoid understanding you: Some children cover their ears to avoid listening to others; once people grow up, however, this behaviour becomes socially unacceptable. Because of this, adults might resort to other means. These means can include beginning a conversation with someone else while you are trying to talk to them, giving you a dirty look while you are trying to express yourself, changing the subject, or simply walking away to do something else.

Sometimes they will also use noise to block out information that others are trying to give to them. If there have been people in your life who tend to do this, you know that you feel trapped in their presence. If you try to sincerely express your own feelings to them, you can’t get a word in edgewise before they begin to shout at you angrily, roar with laughter, or burst into tears. They sabotage your freedom for the sake of their own.

If these things only last a short while, and later this person shows some willingness to communicate with you to find the truth, this may have not been closed-mindedness in the first place. Maybe this person was just confused or scared. Maybe he or she is now seeking forgiveness and trying to help you to understand what you did that upset them so that you know what you need to be forgiven for. However, if this person never shows any intention to understand you, or helping you to understand them, then this person is choosing to remain closed-minded.

They don’t believe in potential, and the need to change: How often have you heard people say, “You/I don’t need to change anything about your/myself”, “I am perfect just the way I am”, or “you are perfect just the way you are” as if these are complements? This philosophy is rooted in subjectivism, also known as relativism. I spoke about relativism in a blog post called “Smallfoot – Objectivism vs. Subjectivism”. Whenever people say these things, I believe that they want to hold onto their own opinions about you, and themselves whether these opinions are good, bad, true, or false. I know for a fact that I need to change – I need to get better at seeing the good in other people, and to develop my own potential to see other’s potentials. I would hope that others would want to see potential in me to become a better person than I am now — I am not “perfect just the way I am”. If they don’t believe in the need to change their own false perceptions of me, or my own false presuppositions of them, then they are acting like closed-minded relativists. I want to see potential in people who don’t believe in potential. Is that a bad thing?

(Part 2)

Smallfoot – Objectivism vs. Subjectivism

Smallfoot Several months ago, I watched the movie Smallfoot in the theater, and its message really resonated with me. For a children’s movie, its theme was very philosophically mature — maybe even more mature than most movies made for adults today. Plenty of reviews online say that this movie is ‘cute and funny for children while also being well-made, but unoriginal and kind of forgettable’. I must disagree. Sure, it’s not perfect, but I find this movie extremely original. I believe that Smallfoot tries to reveal a step forward for us as a society that is invisible to many people. This movie exercises a theme that has hardly ever been brought to the big screen in these post-modern times without catering to Christians in the western world – this movie is about searching for the absolute truth.

As I was watching this movie, I sensed that the writer really felt the weight of todays ideological war between objectivists and subjectivists. To clarify what I mean by these two terms, I define objectivists as people who believe in facts over opinions and subjectivists as people who believe in opinions over facts.

As a Christian, I also felt that this story was written by somebody who is moved by the Holy Spirit. After a little bit of research, it turned out that my intuition may not have been far off.

According to Movieguide.org, the script was written by a Christian screenwriter named Clare Sera. In an interview, she expresses her awareness of the dangers of demonizing people who aren’t us, especially because we all sin. She says it best like this: “I’m so tired of us making monsters of each other. Which is the major theme in the movie. I understand it’s an easier narrative to dismiss someone if you think they’re evil, and it’s fun because it makes you all the more righteous! But I’m not God. I don’t know who’s righteous or evil in His sight. I just see every single person falling short of His Glory and that includes me.”

What does demonizing others have to do with objectivism or subjectivism? I will answer this question with another question: Do we rely on our own subjective illusions/opinions about other people, or are we patient enough to learn the complex, objective truth about other people that might reveal that they are less different from us than we originally thought? Sera said, “I understand it’s an easier narrative to dismiss someone if you think they’re evil, and it’s fun because it makes you all the more righteous!” Whenever we dismiss others as being completely evil, we can never be wrong in our own eyes. In the same way, whenever we believe that we can never be wrong, or that we don’t have to change, we can’t prevent ourselves from believing that other people are evil. I see no way of escaping this cycle of cause and effect.

Due to the gradual development of subjectivism over the past few decades this mindset has grown into a monster. If a subjectivist has a negative opinion about another person, they will most likely count their own feelings about that person as being completely valid before taking the time to know him/her. We are seeing this happen whenever people get dismissed or attacked for denying that the patriarchy is a grand conspiracy to hold women down.  I can say that I don’t feel oppressed as a woman, and a subjectivist would be likely to brush it off or call me ‘privileged’ for some other reason.  We are seeing this happen whenever people question the motives of the “Black Lives Matter” movement because this movement has been put on a pedestal without any clear, objective meaning behind it, and without a clear answer to why they regard the statement “It’s Okay to be White” as being a disgrace.  To a subjectivist, the truth is relative even when taking other people into consideration.  If people seem good, they are completely good.  If people seem bad, they are completely bad.  If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck.

IT IS A DUCK.png

We all have tendencies towards acting on our own subjective thoughts even if we’re trying to be objective. We see this happen in the movie when Migo (a yeti) assumes that Percy (a human) doesn’t have any language skills because Migo only hears gibberish when Percy talks.  Percy assumes that Migo is a scary monster who wants to eat him when, in fact, he’s just trying to be friendly.  I see this happen whenever people think that I have nothing important to say because of my struggles with face-to-face interactions.  However, I am certain that there have been many times when people were interested in trying to understand the things that I was trying to say, but I didn’t recognize it in the moment. My mind’s view of you is extremely flawed, as is your mind’s view of me.

We live in a time when it seems that the harder we try to connect with others, the more other’s opinions will create a distance between themselves and us. These opinions, or illusions, can be enforced with religions, -isms, and world-views as represented by the machine in the movie (spoilers ahead).

snow covered mountain

We are told at the beginning of the movie that the yetis believe they live on a mountain that sits on the back of mammoths and float on a massive sea of clouds, and that there is nothing underneath the mammoths but darkness. We are also told that they believe the sun is a giant glowing snail in the sky — it doesn’t wake up until a yeti hits a gong.  This job currently belongs to Migo’s dad — a job that’s expected to be inherited by Migo in the near future.

After Migo explores the world underneath the clouds and sees no mammoths or darkness, but instead encounters the truth of human existence, he begins to question everything that he was taught. The Stonekeeper, an elderly yeti who wears the community’s laws on stones like a suit of protective armor, learns about Migo’s discovery of humans, aka small feet.  Out of fear for the community’s future the Stonekeeper reveals their grim history of trying to befriend humans to Migo — He told Migo that a long time ago humans attacked yetis before they got a chance to know them.  Soon after this the Stonekeeper reveals the massive machine that keeps the illusion going – a machine built inside the mountain that creates steam around it to maintain the illusion that they are floating on clouds. As the Stonekeeper is revealing this factory of turning gears and puffing steam to the younger yeti he raps these words:

“Every job and every task as pointless as it seems

all of it ensures that this important machine

keeps turning and turning and spinnin’ around

so those below don’t look up and those above don’t look down

and they’ll look ‘cause even if they hear of these atrocities

the only thing stronger than fear is curiosity.”

What kind of curiosity is the Stonekeeper talking about? Is he speaking about the curious notion that humans may not be purely bad, but instead, nuanced, and curious themselves? Is he referring to the curious thought that history might be more complex than he assumes it is? At the beginning of his rap he says “…we used to live down there but there were actions that we could not forgive down there.” By not being curious himself he seems to be denying that humans can ever be curious, or open-minded about yetis.  A lack of curiosity regarding the objective truth about other people will naturally lead to unforgiveness.

It’s a lack of forgiveness, and a lack of belief in other people – it’s a lack of belief that we can or need to change, and that other people can and should change, that causes us to hang by the thread of subjectivism. It won’t hold. I’m seeing the thread break. Our world is politically polarized right now. This ideological war is subjectivists vs. objectivists.  The subjectivists seem to be leftists, and the objectivists seem to be libertarians (classical liberals) and conservatives.  On one hand, the subjectivists are holding on tightly to their own opinions about other people; on the other hand, the objectivists are Christians, Agnostics, Atheists, and many others who believe in objective truth, all the while watching the train wreck that is happening on the far left. As we watch this train wreck, we notice how a lack of forgiveness over the sins of our ancestors, and a lack of desire for knowing the objective, nuanced, and often messy truth about who we all are as human beings can destroy us.  We do not want to become like the subjectivists. What can we do about this problem? Can we be curious? I believe that the more we allow ourselves to learn about how human nature unites us, the closer we will come to the transcendent truth.

The Difference between Autistic Pride, and Autism Acceptance

baby children cute dress In a 2013 interview on YouTube, Temple Grandin said “Autism is an important part of who I am, and I like my logical thinking, but I consider myself a college professor first—my career comes first. I’m getting worried about too many kids getting hung up on their autism. I’d rather get them hung up on computer science or being a journalist—something that they can make a career out of.” (The Economist)

This quote has remained in the back of my mind for a long time, and just recently it has resurfaced. I realize that I now share Temple Grandin’s concerns more than ever before. We live in a world that advocates not only for autism acceptance, but also for autistic pride. I believe that pride and acceptance are two completely different things. While I am afraid that autistic pride can block potential, I also believe that autism acceptance is needed for autistic people like myself to reach our full potential. Through this blog post I will share my current opinions about the differences between pride and acceptance. I also want to address the shortcomings that I see with autistic pride, and the good that I see in autism acceptance.

What are the differences?

Autistic Pride:  Not a lot of people know about autistic pride, but it does exist, and it’s very real. I have struggled with this form of pride in my own life. Fighting against this sense of pride within myself has completely transformed my worldview.  I have grown to become very sensitive to this feeling that seems to linger behind many more labels besides the label ‘autism’.Rainbow Infinity SymbolThere is even a day devoted to this phenomenon. June 18th is known as Autistic Pride Day.  This day is represented by a rainbow infinity symbol (shown above). The website Awarenessdays.com says that “this annual event was first celebrated by Aspies for Freedom in 2005 and they modelled Autistic Pride Day on the gay pride movement.”

I’m concerned about today’s general emphasis on pride in the labels that society assigns to us, and that we assign to ourselves.  My concern is that this form of pride might keep us stuck with our own opinions, and prevent us from being open-minded.

“Autism” is nothing more than a word that’s being used as an attempt to encapsulate unknowns about human complexity — it’s useful, but it’s not perfect. If we tie ourselves to this word as if it’s a badge of honour I’m deeply concerned that we won’t explore our potentials beyond the ‘autism’ categorization. We have created a community revolving around this word that we call the ‘autism community’.  To a certain extent that’s fine, but I believe that just like anyone else we are meant to branch out as individuals seeking gifts, and truth that is bigger than ourselves.

This is what I believe that we need to do—we need to branch out, but can we do this alone? This is where autism acceptance comes into play.

Autism Acceptance:  Acceptance seems to work as a two-way street. If we open our minds up to others, they might open their minds to us, and vice versa — as a result we can help them to help us incorporate ourselves into the world. If we are struggling to communicate, how can we open our minds to others? I believe that we can do this through our gifts. It’s easy to assume that presenting our gifts or talents to the world is an arrogant thing to do.  We might think that we are showing off; however, I believe that revealing our gifts does the exact opposite of that — gifts are shared with other people. They help others to empathize with us, and us to empathize with them. We are supposed to share our gifts.  We shouldn’t hog them all to ourselves.

April 2nd shares two different names: Autism Awareness Day, and Autism Acceptance Day. Several years ago I was given the opportunity to sing at an Autism Awareness Day event, and my friend presented his gorgeous, heart-felt sketches of elephants along with other wild animals, and colourful paintings of fruits and flowers.  His artwork was presented in a slide show along with the song “How Great Is Our God”.  This song was glorifying someone much greater than a worldly label–it was glorifying the God who gives each and every one of us gifts.

As we were revealing our talents that we have been developing and refining through a never-ending process of transformation and improvement, the label ‘autism’ could have easily been pushed to the side.  People find unity in witnessing and sharing in other people’s gifts because they represent the fact that no matter what, we are all transforming and improving, and we all have stories to tell even if we don’t have the words.

No matter what you call April 2nd, that day can be very flexible, while Autistic Pride Day seems to be rigidly fixed into the notion that we exist, and that we should be proud to be autistic. The impact of April 2nd events all depends on the people who are moving the organized autism-centered events forward. It can be a day of open-minded discussions about autism, but it can also remain closed-off to discussions. Some events might treat autism like a deadly disease (hopefully not too many), while others might treat it as a unique part of humanity, but from there fall into the limiting “be proud to be autistic” mindset.  An April 2nd autism-centered event can also involve many different people who hold different views about autism, and hopefully this would open up opportunities for constructive debates. In my opinion, this is the best set-up; this would create a safe environment for debate and allow for diverse views on the subject to be represented. Not only do I want to see if I can make strong arguments against someone else’s views, but I also want to see if others can make good arguments against my own views.

Even now, you may have great arguments against the position that I have taken here. If so, I want to know what you have to say so that I can continue my never-ending process of transformation and improvement.  I encourage you to share your views in the comment section.

Conclusion

To other autistics out there, I have a few questions — can we seek acceptance from others if we are preoccupied with the autism community as being the center of our identity? How can we seek acceptance from others if we close ourselves off within the autism community while complaining about how the outsiders don’t understand us? Why not help them to understand us? This is what autistic pride can do to us — it can make us love ourselves, but it can also turn us into a tribe against the world who talks about acceptance, but deep down wants to remain segregated from the world. We exercise a twisted form of tyranny if we deliberately prevent others from connecting with us just because we want to remain proud, separate, and unique. We should be open and curious about other people’s ideas, and I hope that others will be open and curious about our ideas. Social skills, and morality are not the same things. Even though socialization is hard for us our conscience can help us to discern if we are treating others with love, and if others are treating us with patience and love.

April is just a few days away now. You don’t have to agree with what I have said, but as the next three months roll by, I encourage anyone who is reading this to be vigilant. If you see something — anything — a video, a poster, or anything else that revolves around the word ‘autism’, I want you to ask yourself this question: “Does this possess the spirit of pride, or the spirit of acceptance and unity?”