Greetings fellow passengers, valued conductor, others who may be reading this. I'm back on the @ecotrain to look at the question of this week about the topic why we judge others. Thinking back, there was a similar QOTW last year, and in my reply I posted the video of a cute kid named Bob Marley singing about not judging. Now I looked over what I wrote in that post, and I feel it's pretty hard to add anything to that. (Holy cow, did I write that???) It features a couple of vivid examples on the relativity of passing judgement.
The Times They Are A-Chainging
Don't worry, I won't continue by posting Bob Dylan here. Instead I'd like to point out how much things have changed since I wrote that last post. That was January 2020, and at the time the most significant factor affecting that year was barely more than some bad news of a new virus in China. Only a couple months later, I found myself among people torn apart by where they stood on an issue that previously would have counted as benign, if not insignificant: personal health and hygiene.
But apparently, both sides felt a huge motivation to take a stand against what they believed was a disastrous approach. And in a way I could understand both sides.
Two Ways of Reasoning
On one hand, you could argue that it was the personal responsibility of each and every one to stop the spread, flatten the curve, and prevent the most vulnerable in our society from getting infected. In and of itself, a very altruistic and admirable cause. Washing hands frequently, avoiding getting crammed into tight spaces with others (such as public transport), and filtering your exhalation, were promoted practices. But just as it is with organic agriculture or even traffic rules, these things only work if everyone participates. So anyone who would not comply with whatever they considered was safe (but indispensable behavior) was immediately judged. And rightfully so, coming from that mindset.
On the other hand, there was an ever growing concern about inadequate measures, based on insufficient data, creating more problems without solving the original one. This could be as simple as questioning the effectiveness of masks, all the way to the refusal of becoming a human test-subject for an experimental vaccine. They pointed out the frequent double standard in deciding which business could operate, if so when and how, and which ones could not. They illustrated the plight of isolation in nursing homes, and the rise of teenage depression and suicide. Finally, the invasive tracer apps, normalized curfews, and constantly re-occurring travel restrictions posed further concern for civil liberties. No wonder that any reasonable person would come out and judge the fearful ones, who support following all the rules in order to fight the disease.
Caught Between Two Fronts
As you can tell from my previous post on judging I don't like to take side. I really don't! First of all, I can empathize with both ways of reasoning without taking it all the way to oppose those on the other side. So in this particular conflict, I have als been supporting masks, when I found them to be reasonable, as well as opposing them in situations when I thought they were pointless. But no matter the case, I always drew the line where people on either side started inviting me to form an opposition to people on the other side. Is it really so hard to see where they're coming from?
Take the lady who puts on two masks, a visor, and rubber gloves drenched in alcohol, when she visits her elderly mother. Or the street vendor ignoring the "voluntary lockdown" because if they stay home their family won't eat. Or the medical staff at a hospital, dealing with an overfull capacity and a shortage of oxygen. Or the staff of another hospital, staring at empty beds while turning away patients, to be ready for the avalanche of Covid patients, that never happens. Or people like my sister, who got fined €200 for sitting on a park bench (charges eventually dropped, fortunately). Or this shop owner supporting the enforced curfew, because his shop was looted during the 'lockdown light'.
So Why Do We Judge, Really?
Coming back to the original question, why it is that we judge, I would say, because we believe in something. We believe in this value strongly enough to stand up for it, if necessary, and oppose the opposition. Unfortunately, this opposition feels the same way, about other issues, feeling the need to make a stand for it too. Noble as each belief may be, ... this is how wars get started!
We've seen this before, with every major issue around, whether it's immigration, recreational drugs, choice or life, you name it. But does it really have to be this way? Is this vehement opposition the best way to handle issues and possibly bring about change? Couldn't it be that the issue itself, and people's reaction to it, may benefit some others? Wouldn't it make sense that they would play these believers out against each other? And if it was so, would you still stand up with the same firmness in support of your side?
What About the Value of Empathy?
This is where I tend to take a step back. I do not have all the information (same as everyone), and though I have my opinions on each aspect of the story, I don't want to ignore or discredit the other side, even if they have the complete opposite view on things. In a way, what I like to take a stand for, is compassion and understanding. I don't want to see good people on the opposing side of a stupid arbitrary line.
Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same as me, and in these tense times I keep constantly encountering vehement proponents of both sides. Can I judge them for being so judgemental? As you can probably see, this brings me back to the conclusion of my last post: There is no definite answer. It depends, it all depends...