Posted on 03 February 2014

A difference exists between humorously critiquing the words and behavior of individuals and putting the hate on them as human beings. A difference exists between critiquing individuals and putting the hate on an entire group of people.

Status is extremely important in our society. While we are growing up we constantly have people telling us that we are getting it wrong in some fashion: parents, teachers, assorted adults. We have clearly made it to the top of some emotional pyramid when we can start pointing out how other people are getting it wrong. The “cool” kids are the ones who push taste by aping adults and making absolute decisions about what and who are important or detestable. This sort of “cool” has more to do with power and bullying.

Below is a table to better understand the distinctions I am making.

Target Acceptable Unacceptable
Gina Rinehart Criticise her efforts to eliminate the Mineral Resource Rent Tax. Mock her weight.
Tony Abbott Criticise the cruelty of his administation’s treatment of aboriginal peoples and refugees. Mock him for being Catholic.
Barack Obama Satirise his administration’s record on spying. Mock him for being black.
The Catholic Church Take to task specific religious leaders for covering up child abuse within their organisation. Call all Catholics pedophiles.

When you point out the ethical flaws in the actions of powerful figures, you are potentially providing a service by raising people’s awareness of the issues. When you start making blanket judgements of whole groups of people, especially when based on trivialities such as looks, you are merely demonstrating what flavour of bigotry you are carrying around. This doesn’t help. It divides and disempowers people. There is no truth and no integrity in this.

Don’t ever think that bigotry is the sole domain of the right-wing. When you see a group of people picketing a shop because the owners were born in Israel, not because they had done anything wrong or supported the actions of the Israeli government, then you are observing bigotry in action. Who can help where they were born, the colour of their skin, or the culture in which they were raised? The issue is whether or not with understanding they are perpetuating bad behaviour, not whether they have a fortuitous connection with people who behave badly.

Recently, I discovered that Bill Cosby’s 1971 monologue demonstrating prejudice was released into the public domain. It is well worth watching in order to wrap your head around what prejudice sounds like.

Peace and kindness,


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