I'm going to call out so many people here, I'm not naming (many) names or pointing fingers, this is an "if the cap fits, wear it" method. If you recognize yourself, good. If you are in denial, this lesson will repeat, somewhere, so no worries. That's what ethical teaching is all about. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. And sadly, if the student isn't ready, the teacher won't have any effect even if she beats him with a 2x4. So, when we teach, we must be very patient.
This is a lesson in listening to hear (and maybe even understand), not just listening to reply/argue. It's a lesson in not demanding attention. It's a lesson in awareness.
So, let's start with the simplest example. If you have kids, or if you ever had siblings, you'll know this one. It's the one where the kids try to argue their case by citing what one of the others has done, or hasn't done. In my house this is the commonest version:
"Have you done the dishes like I asked you? If not, why not?"
"But, but, HE isn't doing anything....."
"You got a D for English? English is your best subject!"
"But, but SHE flunked it too!"
In all these instances we remind them:
"I'm talking to YOU."
I have been through versions of this more times than I can count. With my bunch there were times when this happened multiple times daily. To excuse their behaviour, they'd try to divert the issue to somebody else's behaviour. Despite the fact this never, ever worked on either parent, it was a daily ritual.
When and where do they learn this? I must conclude it's innate, because as you are about to discover, that it's rife.
I began thinking about this blog after 3 occurrences on Facebook. Yes, good old Facebook where all the deepest discussions happen. Well, OK, no, but where we can, IF WE CHOOSE, actually learn something. Unfortunately all the time we see examples like these, it's clear that nobody is learning.
#1. I was discussing a news article about how many of the conservative Christians don't give money to the poor the way the Bible tells them to. A Christian friend insisted that he does/his church does/his denomination does. Great. Tickety-boo. But the issue in hand was why they don't. In fact many of them do the opposite, especially the rich TV evangelists. They take money from their "followers" and preach the opposite of charity. Every time this general topic comes up I hear the same "my church does X" or "well, they aren't all like that". And? Some do, and that's what we're discussing.
#2 I was talking about Stephen Harper's wealth to one of his fans on a friend's wall. She kept referring to Tom Mulcair's financial situation. That wasn't the topic. But it seemed that the only way she could answer was to turn it around and attack the other guy. But it didn't stop there, then she referred to herself and essentially gave a defence of her own wealth. This was unsolicited, not relevant, and frankly, rather weird. She actually said "I didn't steal it." Nobody said she did. In fact nobody said Harper did either. Theft was never mentioned.
#3 When I thanked my son in public for his help over the weekend, my husband had a little dig about what he'd done. Nobody ever suggested for one moment he'd slacked off. He actually worked really hard. But this was about my gratitude to James. No more, no less.
Now, this is all very petty and mundane, but I threw in three examples from just yesterday to demonstrate how often this happens. There's a sort of flow chart.
Person A says something (good or bad) about Person B.
Person C, reading it, or listening (possibly even eavesdropping!) wants to talk about HIS angle, HIS side of this, HIS problem, HIS opinion. So instead of just reading/listening and butting out, or contributing something appropriate, draws the attention to himself (or his organization/family/team/country, whatever) and discusses that instead.
Is it all about you? Is it.
Well, let's see.
There was a neat little "meme" that succinctly explained this, and of course I've lost it. But I can remember 3 out of 4 of the examples it used.
One was on the topic of gay marriage. I don't care whether you approve of it or not, I just want those who don't to stop pretending it affects their own marriage. Because it doesn't. What other people do in their personal lives has no effect on yours. They aren't asking you to marry your own gender. They aren't asking you to attend their wedding (well, I doubt it). They just want you you to shut up and mind your own business about who they marry, because they don't tell you who to marry.
So, if you want to argue against gay marriage, knock yourself out, but talk about that and not your situation. It's different. It's not about you.
Another one, which came up again today, as it happens is the "Not All Men" issue. This is where whenever violence against women is discussed, sooner or later somebody will say "not all men are like that". This is really getting old, and I can't believe anyone still doesn't see it, but when I posted this today....
....a friend mentioned something about not feeling guilty. And nobody asked him to.
But I struck the motherlode on the 3rd one. A friend drew my attention to this. It covers the one issue, but does so very well, by giving two perfect analogies. If you are too lazy to read the article, don't worry, I'll extract the best bit for you.
A good metaphor I keep seeing is the man who goes to the doctor for a broken arm, and the doctor starts examining the rest of the man’s body. The injured man says, “Doc, it’s my arm that’s broken; everything else is fine,” and the doctor responds, “All bones matter.” Of course they do! But they aren’t the ones that are hurting right now!
"But, all lives matter!"
Yes, including yours. But this isn't all about you.
There is probably a concise term for all of this, but I don't know it. If you do, please create a pertinent Twitter hash, because I'm sick of it and I am absolutely determined to get my point across.
Everything matters. When lions are shot, yes, the unborn babies and the abandoned dogs matter. When celebrity transsexuals get awards, yes the disabled children and the firefighters deserve awards too. Everything and everyone is important. Not just your cause, or your passion. It all matters. There is no score card or ratings table as to what matters more. But when you paint your house you have to start somewhere, do the windows bitch because you started with the door?
STAY ON TOPIC. Comparisons have their uses, obviously, and to prove it I'll finish with one. Just watch that you are paying attention to the issue at hand. Bragging rights and a box of Smarties for anyone who can explain why the "meme" below is not part of the problem I just described.