ONE: We believe in the rights of an individual to be treated as an individual by
The amount of prejudice and discrimination that exist in human society is almost endless.
(Note that prejudice is the tendency to think and feel negatively toward members of a
group, whereas discrimination is the unfair treatment of someone because of their
membership in a group). It can come in many forms, including racism, culturalism,
nationalism, religionism, sexism, wealthism, ageism, etc. You may think you’re immune
to prejudice, and that you harbor none yourself. Then consider the following:
You're walking down the street. A thin, short, grey-haired, highly wrinkled, bent-over
Caucasian woman wearing a faded dress in a style that’s popularity died 40 years ago
says “hello.” Then, a few minutes later, a muscular, tall, bearded, young, dark-haired
black man wearing clothing popular among teenagers says “what's up?” Later, a
handsome, medium weight, medium height and middle-aged Asian man wearing a tailored
three-piece business suit comes by. He carries a briefcase and says "good day." You
know nothing about any of these people other than what you see and hear them say. And
even then, your perception of them is largely personal and subjective--what does “short”
mean to you, or “muscular,” or "handsome?" But chances are, your feelings and reaction
would be different, even though you really know nothing about them as individuals.
To a certain extent, our differing reactions are understandable--people do tend to
associate with and act like those they resemble. We are a social species, and we tend to
identify with a “like” group.
But individuals are still individuals. And the biggest problem with prejudice happens when
we continue to hold those beliefs in spite of evidence to the contrary.
For example, let’s say you had never seen someone wearing red shoes. The first man
you see wearing red shoes kicks you in the right leg, and then runs off. Then you see a
second man wearing red shoes, who also kicks you in the right leg and runs away.
Chances are, when the third red-shoe-wearing man comes along, you’ll protect your
right leg! You’ll be very cautious around that man. This is prejudice, although somewhat
understandable. Being cautious around a potential threat is part of the survival instinct.
But some would have a more extreme reaction, and attack the next man first. And
others, after those two initial painful experiences, will continue to distrust red-shoe-
wearing men. They'll do this even if they meet dozens of them who commit no violence
whatsoever! Both of these reactions are definitely prejudice and discrimination.
We consider one of the most common and public forms of prejudice/discrimination,
Perhaps the form of prejudice/discrimination that is most accepted in modern society is
ageism. This is making assumptions about individuals and treating them differently purely
because of age.
The assumption that an 18-year-old is automatically more mature than a 16-year-old is
very common and, in many places, legally defined. The 21-year-old may be automatically
defined as more mature than the 17-year-old. And yet, many of us know a teen-ager who
behaves more maturely and shows more responsibility than someone else we know who
is much older. But the law ignores this. Unless that young person commits a heinous
crime--then in many cases e can be considered and tried as an adult. But act maturely
and responsibly, and you're a child.
On the other side is the concept of "you're too old." Mandatory retirement ages and
other laws reinforce this. In parts of the United States, some laws, such as many of
those dealing with abuse, put senior citizens in the same category as very young
children! The idea is that someone who is over a certain age, say 65, is automatically
helpless. We know of people that age and older who have begun mountain climbing,
swam and ran long distances, written a first novel, acted, served in government, and
even been chosen as national president or prime minister. Are they too old? And are
others too young? There's something absurd in the stereotyping of age. And it's not even
In much of the United States, for example, you can drive a car, one of the most
dangerous machines available to the average person, at age 14 to 16. At 18, you can
become a trained professional killer (in the military). In fact in many parts of America,
you can get a hunting license before you're old enough to start kindergarten! But you
can't buy a can of beer until age 21. Which would you rather have coming straight
toward you--an 18-year-old driving a car, one grasping a .357 Magnum, or one holding a
can of beer?
Note too that this arbitrary age division is not some "ancient, universal tradition." The
modern definition of adolescence is about 400 years old; a pre-modern concept of
childhood was first defined about 500 years ago, and the modern concept in about the
mid 19th century. And in some societies, the old were considered to be sources for
wisdom, not an unwanted burden. The legal age for various activities varies
tremendously even today, and even within a single nation such as the United States. Until
the 1990s, for example, the age of consent for sexual intercourse in California was 18
for females, and 14 for males.
In many societies, adulthood was defined one of two ways: at puberty, or after passing
certain tests and training. Puberty is the time of biological adulthood: when an individual
reaches the stage of development where e can mate and produce young, that individual is
biologically an adult. In other societies, adulthood in terms of social status was reached
when the individual proved emself ready to handle those responsibilities. Both of these
recognize the development and maturity of the individual, and not an arbitrary age.
Can someone have been completely incapable of adult responsibilities yesterday, but then
be completely capable today because of a birth anniversary? And can someone else be
completely responsible today, but helpless and incapable tomorrow because of the same
thing? We believe that both of these are ridiculous. The greatest prejudice that exists in
the modern world, the only one almost universally accepted, is the prejudice against
Note: We use terms such as "e, em, emself, etc." These are genderless pronouns. Instead
of "he" or "she," we use "e." Instead of "him" or "her," we use "em," and for "his" or
her, we use "es." Instead of himself or herself, we use "emself." These terms are easy to
say, and much less awkward than the alternative "h/she or "(s)he" forms sometimes used.
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Five Basic Beliefs
|Copyright 1998-2010 by The Loveshade Family
We released the white textured background into the public domain.
exists in the
modern world, the
only one almost
accepted, is the
A clarification: this
quote has variously
been attributed to
and to Robert
While we have
great respect for
the late, great
Wilson, and while
Beliefs" is a jointly
written piece by
particular line was
written by Alden