The other night I went to see a brilliant play performed by the youth group (my age and older) at the Frankfurt theatre. It was set in modern-day, but also about the “Swing-Youth” during the time of national socialism. But as it was set in present time, the actors would say: “If I had been young at that time, I’d have swinged!”
For those who don’t know: Swing is a form of dance and music that came over from the english speaking world in the 1930’s to Germany. The “Swing Youth” was a group of young people who rebelled in form of dancing the swing. Many of them were arrested or worse.
The play was about a lot of things, one aspect was judging other people and putting them into categories. At first, people just said: “If I would have been young then, I probably would have swinged, I wouldn’t have been scared.” And they get so carried away defining themselves over something they maybe would or maybe wouldn’t have done, they start to distinguish themselves from the others, discriminating against and it’s not about the Swing-movement anymore – and you need the “togetherness” for a movement.
They started pushing their fellow would-have-been swing-youth-members away, judging them and squeezing them into pre-fixed categories to feel superior to them.
Today I was sitting at a table of friends, innocently chatting, when suddenly we got onto the subject of this guy at our school. He’s very tall and pale, black hair, mostly dresses in black too, also he listens to rock: He MUST be a psycho, right?
People talk about him; say it’s weird that he offers to drive everyone, say he’s aggressive and scares them – so he gets excluded by the majority of his fellow students. But guess what, thanks to my dad, we have a similar taste in music (That said I do have a very broad taste in music). But we’ve hummed songs by Queen together and other things, also he drove me home once, yes, sorry mum, and see: I’m fine. In fact it was quite pleasant, we had a pleasant conversation. He even said that he realizes it may seem weird to others that he offers to drive everyone everywhere, but he just likes to drive. And as I don’t expect everyone I meet to be a potential spree or psycho killer or rapist, I believed him and I continue to do so.
When he offered me that drive I had to think about it for a minute, because of course the influence of prejudices and gossip don’t leave anyone untouched.
Of course there were several other people who were talked about today.
I understand why people gossip. I do it too. It’s a relief sometimes. But I feel that getting something off your chest that particularly annoys you about a person, but keeping in mind they’re not always the way we perceive them is different to judging someone without really having engaged with them, spreading assumptions about them and thereby slowly excluding this particular individual from the group.
Stereotypical thinking is poison to every community. What do they say about me, I wonder?
The freak with too much energy, too naive, too skinny – too me.
People forget that we have all sorts facets to our personality and reduce us to one feature of our personality and enhance, making it all that we are.
If you’re wild, you must be a slut.
If you’re skinny, you must be anorexic.
If you don’t drink alcohol and you’re clever, you must be a nerd.
If you campaign for women’s rights, you’re a feminist and from thereon a lesbian or it makes you a tree-huger or a hippie if you care about the environment – you must also be a pothead, because those things go hand in hand.
In short, people making rash judgements about others leads us to distancing us slowly from each other when we could be so much closer and work together on a better atmosphere and set a better example for generations to come.