Western society nowadays is a society constantly struggling with all kinds of problems. Sometimes I feel like people keep making up social, economic, moral, ethical, philosophical, and other issues just to have something to fight with. I am not saying that all of the issues people currently face are unimportant or insignificant, but I cannot help but think that many of them are either exaggerated, or do not require as much public attention as they draw to themselves to. This is only my opinion, though.
For instance, I believe that people advocating for the complete abstinence of meat (arguing it with the unethical attitude to animals, or its negative impacts on health, or whatever) and trying to make others do the same, are wrong. Not because they went vegan or vegetarian, but because they tell others what to do. Or, people actively protesting against gay marriages, propagating straight sex, and criticizing everyone who disagrees with them: why in the world would you care who has sex with whom, and in which way? If it is legal, voluntary, and does not hurt anyone, then why not leave people with non-traditional sexual orientation alone? Or, those who would like to turn the whole world into one huge religious community living by strict laws taken straight from the Bible, Koran, or any other sacred book: why cannot they let everyone choose their own way of living?
These are just some of the examples, but I hope my thought is clear enough: it is totally alright to confess whatever beliefs you want, but only unless you do not try to force others to share these beliefs as well. However, the aforementioned problems, as well as a huge number of other issues, are nowadays being emphasized to an extreme; almost every group of people sharing a certain ideology claims themselves to be right, and everyone else to be wrong. People tend to fight over important and unimportant subjects, trying to convert each other in their own outlooks, aggressively promoting their points of view, criticizing and suing those who disagree or even try to stay neutral. In my opinion, this is what is causing almost all of the social turmoils.
I have always lived with the conviction that my life is my business, and I do not mess with the lives of other people. Respectively, I treat people around me in the same way: if I disagree with a person, or think they are wrong, that they should or should not do something, and so on, I keep it to myself. If asked, I express my opinion and give advice; if not, I try to either avoid such a person (if the discrepancies in our outlooks are incompatible), or seek ways to make our communication as comfortable as possible under the given circumstances. Moreover, I believe this is the way any healthy society functions—this is the freedom of conscience and tolerance in action. However, what bothers and even annoys me is how other people think it is their business to know about what is going on in my life and and to try to change what I am doing with it. “A man of your age should already be married”; “You do not have children yet—it is not normal”; “You should be more sociable, and care about what people think about you”; “How can you not believe in God’s grace, heaven, and life after death?”; “You do not criticize gay people—you must be gay yourself”;“You are a white male—life must be easier for you than for me”; “You are a man, so I bet all you have in your mind is sex”; “Since you make good money, you must help those who are in need.” These are just some of the stereotypes and biased opinions I have personally faced throughout the previous year. For some reason, people often think my life is somehow gone wrong, and it is their duty to fix it.
And this is considering the fact that I am a regular, white, straight, Caucasian man; I can only guess how much prejudice and criticism women, people with a different skin color, sexual orientation, income, religious background, or education have to deal with on an everyday basis. We all know those ugly stereotypes: “A woman should stay at home with kids while a man is at work”; “Black people are more inclined towards committing crimes”; “non-Christian people are all terrorists;” “Gay people have AIDS”; and so on. Originally, stereotyping was a psychological mechanism enhancing cognition and allowing human brains to process information faster. For example, if you lived in a tribe wearing bear skins, and your home was attacked by a tribe wearing tiger skins, later you and your tribe would associate tiger skins with aggressive barbarians. Later, your community would act on this stereotype. Or, if you have been robbed in an unfamiliar city at night, you are more likely to think of this city as a dangerous place—even if your case was the only robbery committed in it for the last 50 years. This experience will probably prevent you from going out late at night in other cities as well, and who knows, it might save your life once.
However, stereotypes as of late have become too numerous, and rather often too detached from reality, to live by them. Some of these stereotypes are not supported by anything. This especially refers to gender stereotypes. Many of them originate from traditional patriarchal societies, and are so outdated that there is not a single reason to live by them currently. Some are seemingly harmless; for example, claiming that all women are emotional and all men are rational does not really hurt anyone, unless you are a woman rejected from an executive position just because you are “emotional” and “will not be able to make pragmatic decisions when needed.” Other gender stereotypes are harmful in more direct ways; for example, the infamous “kinder, kuche, kirche” prescription for women (“children, kitchen, church” in German) imposes them with strictly-regulated behavioral models, limiting their freedom and infringing upon their dignity. Unfortunately, even nowadays this stereotype is deeply rooted in the minds of many people.
The same is true for many other stereotypes: racial, ethnic, profession-related, and so on. I do believe that it is impossible to get rid of stereotypes completely; this is one of the most ancient functions of the human brain, and there are probably no truly open-minded people in the world (perhaps you have noticed how often “open-minded” people get annoyed and frustrated if you doubt their outlooks). At the same time, I also believe that it is possible to comfortably coexist with other societal members despite whatever stereotypes you have in your head: the key is to not try to impose your views on others, and to attend to your personal matters. This is what is going on right now throughout the world, though. Countries mess up with other countries: “The Muslim world is cruel to women,” “The western world is neck deep in debauchery,” “China oppresses civil freedoms,” “Europe is too liberal,” “Immigrants are taking our jobs,” and all this nonsense you can read about in your daily newspaper. Leave other people’s lives as they want; leave other nations to confess their own morals and customs. Unless no one tells each other how to live and what to do, people can live together in peace.
This is what I believe.