Has this happened to you?

You share an opinion or a preference with somebody – and their default response is to assume that you’re attacking their preference or opinion.

Here’s how it looks:

  • “I love cats!”
  • “So, what’s wrong with dogs?  Dogs are also nice you know!”
  • “I really enjoy visiting Cape Town”
  • “There’s nothing wrong with Durban, you know!”
  • “We educate our kids differently.  They don’t attend school”
  • “So – what are you saying?  Are you saying that we’re bad parents because our children attend public school?”
  • “I’m an agnostic.  I’m not sure how I feel about God these days”
  • “So you think we Christians are deluded, huh?”
  • “I love travelling.  I get kinda bored being in one place for too long.  It’s not my thing”
  • “Oh – so you’re saying that I’m boring because I don’t travel as much as you do?”
  • “I’m a feminist”
  • “So you hate men”
  • “Black lives matter”
  • “So – you’re saying that white lives don’t matter?  Well white lives also matter!  All lives matter!”
  • “I really think it’s important that the arts aren’t pushed aside in schools.  The arts are a lifeline to many kids”
  • “So what about all the young mathematicians?  Do they not count?  Maths is important too, you know!”
  • “Omigod!  The refugee crisis is terrible!  Something has to be done!”
  • “Well, poverty is terrible.  And we have our own people suffering right here, right now.  Do you not care about the poor?”

and on and on and on it goes….

In fact, this kind of response has become so ubiquitous these days – that I’ve invented a name for it.    I’ve decided to call it:  the Default Dualistic Defensive Diversion (or the DDDD).

  • DEFAULT – because it’s almost like an automated go-to response.  Many of us fall back on it without even thinking about what we’re saying.
  • DUALISTIC – because the DDDD seems to see dualisms in everything… as if there’s only TWO options:  Option “A” – and it’s assumed counterpart, Option “B”.  Coffee OR Tea.  Cat OR Dog.  Man OR Woman.  Black OR White.  Believer OR Unbeliever.   Democrat OR Republican… etc, etc.   Either this OR that.
  • DEFENSIVE – the DDDD is a defensive stance… because it assumes that differences of opinion or belief are, in fact, a direct attack.
  • DIVERSION – the aim of the DDDD is to divert attention away from Topic A – to focus it, instead, on Topic B.  So… if we’re talking about black lives – the DDDD diverts the focus to white lives.  If we’re talking about the refugee problem… the DDDD diverts the focus to the poverty problem.   If we’re talking about art – the DDDD diverts the focus to maths.  If we’re talking about Donald, the DDDD diverts the focus to Hillary.  You get the picture.

In a nutshell:

The DDDD is the incorrect assumption that my love of coffee is a direct affront on your love of tea.

And… I have to say… it I find it both fascinating and flummoxing.

See… I’m an “AND” person.

I’m not an “OR” person.

I’m just not designed that way.  Black-OR-white thinking is foreign to me.  I don’t understand it at all.  It doesn’t make any sense to my diversity-loving psyche.

It’s not coffee OR tea.

It’s coffee AND tea… and milkshakes… and lukewarm tap water… and Amarula cream on the rocks… and wine… and, and, and….

It’s not black OR white.

It’s black AND white… and purple, gold, yellow, maroon, turquoise… and, and, and…

It’s not cat OR dog.

It’s cat AND dog… and pigeons, chameleons, snakes, pigs, hamsters… and, and, and…

I just don’t… get… the dualisms.  I don’t understand the assumption that there’s only room for ONE “RIGHT” WAY (Option A)… and therefore, all other beliefs, ideas, opinions or differences are viewed as wrong or threatening and thus, a direct attack on aforementioned Option A.

As an “AND” person… I truly, deeply believe… that there’s enough room for ALL of us.  With all our preferences, beliefs, opinions, tastes, strengths, weakness… whatever.

This may sound a bit condescending – but truly, I marvel… (in the way one might have marveled at circus freaks back-in-the-old-days)… I marvel at the idea that ‘there’s only one ‘right’ way to live / be / believe / behave’… in a world so stuffed to the brim with beautiful, colourful human diversity!

I marvel at this strange… (albeit powerful) belief system… that separates us and divides us and pigeon-holes us into dull, simplistic little boxes or categories – as though we were vegetables.  As though I’m a carrot… and you’re a pear.  And it’s impossible for a carrot to mix with pears… because carrots are carrots and pears are pears!  As though we’re almost… a separate species.

  • Us (Carrot) or Them (Pears).
  • In or Out.
  • Black or White.
  • Fat or Thin.
  • Ugly  or Pretty.
  • Old or Young.
  • Believer or Non-Believer.
  • Man or Woman.
  • Liberal or Conservative.
  • Citizen or Alien.
  • Straight or Gay.

On and on it goes… these dull LIMITING boxes that pretend to have the answers… that pretend to know who we really ARE…

When – in fact…

We are so much MORE than what those little boxes say we are!

We’re so much deeper than that… so much more complicated.  There’s so much beneath the surface.  We all have good and bad in us… light and dark in us.  We have questions (some of which we’re too bloody scared to even ask ourselves).  We have doubts.  We have dreams.  We have the widest spectrum of feelings and fears.  We have different talents… different strengths… and a plethora of weaknesses as well.  Our tastes and preferences are incredibly diverse… as are our beliefs, cultures, opinions and ways of being

We’re intricately made… deeply complicated… and each one of us is so very, very unique.  Not only in our external features and fingerprints – but in everything that lies beneath the surface… the deepest parts of who we really are.

And yet…

We live in this world… this strange society… that attempts to categorise us.  Lable us.  Box us.  Define us.

Place YOU… over “there”… in your little allocated box…

…and ME… over “here”… in my little allocated box…

…and never should we mix.

Like I say… I’m equal parts fascinated, flummoxed… and frustrated.

It just makes no sense to me at all.

Since I’m using fruit & veg metaphors… I’ll end this post with this little analogy:  I’m not a carrot.  Or a pear.  I’m actually a teeny bit of rhubarb… with a hint of beetroot.  I have an apple stem… and a pip like a peach.  I taste a bit potato-like at times.  Other times, I’m a bit blueberry’ish.  On occasion, I’m mistaken as a banana.  But, if you spend time with me… you’ll notice the unmistakable fragrance of garlic… mixed with strawberry.

I don’t have a nice, neat little box-I’m-supposed-to-stay-in.  And I can’t think of a single person that I know who is strictly 100%… anything.

I enjoy mixing and mingling with ALL the other diverse produce out there.

I’m friends with a few cranberry-pineapples.   Some of them have radish leaves.  Others have prickles.  They’re a bit odd – but I enjoy their company nonetheless.  Some of my family members view themselves as 100%-potato and prefer to hang around with others who also define themselves as 100%-potato.  But I can smell litchi and apricot when I’m in their company… even though they flatly deny it.

The other day, I met someone who defines herself as “100% Lemon”.

I don’t have much lemon in me (personally)… but I like lemons nonetheless.  Unfortunately, the lady in question didn’t see it that way.  She felt that… (because I’m not lemon-like)… that I’m therefore ANTI-Lemon.  She offered me her Default Dualistic Defense;   “So… you’re saying there’s something wrong with us Lemons?  That we’re dull and boring and sour?”

“No!” I said, “Not at all!  On the contrary – the world needs people like you!  I might not have lemon in me… but that doesn’t mean I think that lemons are wrong or bad!”

Sadly, she didn’t seem to believe me.

She distanced herself from me and huddled in her lemon box  with friends who also viewed themselves as “100% Lemon”.  And as they sat there, I could clearly smell the diverse fragrances of paw-paw, onion, olives, grapefruit and pomegranate.  I badly wanted to tell them that they were MORE than just “lemons”.  And that this was beautiful news… to be celebrated!

But they had already erected a sign that said:  “KEEP OUT.  Only 100% Lemons allowed!!”

PS:  Here’s a post I wrote a while back where I illustrated the DDDD in action with a cartoon:

The arrival of my book and an illustrated rant on not being heard