30 August 2010

Am I a Judgmental Fascist?

Doubt. It festers. You try to push it away, try to reason it out of existence, but it sticks, like burnt milk on a stove. Impossible to fully scrub off.

I’ve been having an ongoing conversation with people lately, and I can’t really decide what I think about it. Actually, it’s not really lately, it has come up on and off for the last couple of years. But two recent conversations are causing me doubt the things to which I am trying to dedicate my life: service, compassion, cross-cultural exchange, making a difference in the life of people, etc.

I mean, I know that I can come across as judgmental of people who don’t choose to live their life like I do, and I don’t ever pretend to be some saint who’s given up everything. I don’t expect everyone to give up things to participate in long-term service… I’m the first to admit I’m as selfish as the next person, and part of what drives me is that good feeling I get when I know I’ve helped someone. But I get extremely frustrated when people attack me for suggesting that they should just LOOK INTO traveling abroad, or getting out of their bubble, and, I don’t know, going down to a soup kitchen for once. Cliché example, but still. I find myself saying things like, “Service is important.” And

I’ve been told (and I’m using their words here), by people I thought cared me, that I was judgmental, snotty, hypocritical, ridiculous, fascist, and stupid, in conversations where I started out talking about wanting to try to change things, and ended in encouraging them to try too. I’ve been told I’m ignorant and a jerk for thinking everyone should value service and travel. Travel, I can understand. Travel is a luxury, and a blessing. But service? “Helping people”? I don’t understand. I don’t believe they are attacking me because they are feeling guilty on the inside or something arrogant like that. But I have this sneaking suspicion that if more people did things like this, the world would be better. And I really don’t understand how people can see all this war, all this poverty, all of this pain, and all of this hate in the world and not want to do something to “make it all better:. I can’t believe that I’m that rare of a person that my desire to change things makes me different from everyone else. Am I being naïve? Are people truly content and satisfied in their lives without these things? Should they be?

In the end, the conversation always seems to come down to the following: Who are we responsible for? Do we only have to take care of ourselves – because if we don’t, no one else will? Or do we have some kind of inherent to our fellow human beings? And can one believe that we have a responsibility to others without being religious (usually I am existing within an American monotheist/atheist/agnostic paradigm), can a staunch atheist believe that we are ultimately responsible to and for others? But, because I didn’t pay enough attention in theology and philosophy, I always end up losing this argument, or give up because I don’t feel like having people continue to chip away at my soul.

This isn’t a “poor me” blog post, but just an attempt release my feelings, and to try to understand people. My apologies for over-simplifying the matter and having my argument be more emotional than logical.

No comments: