Attacking a Symptom

I'm going to talk about prejudice or bigotry because it's a hot, and important, topic these days. However, this article could easily be about bullying, road rage, abuse, or war.

But first, l want to be sure that you and I agree on something: Treating symptoms does not get to the root cause of a particular disorder. For example, if a person keeps experiencing headaches, taking Advil cannot cure the cause of the recurring symptom (headaches). Agreed? Good.

Now that my simplistic illustration is out of the way, here's an intricate question regarding prejudice: Why, in spite of a myriad of well-meaning and courageous demonstrations throughout history, does prejudice still exist in the world? The answer is that, like headaches, prejudice is a symptom. It is not a cause.

In other words, people write books, take part in marches, make movies and music, and even kneel during the national anthem in a valiant effort to wipe this scourge off the face of the earth. But it keeps rearing its ugly head. And, sadly, it will continue to do so until we address this root cause:

The illusion or lie that what a person feels is connected to another person or circumstance.

To demonstrate, let's say a stranger strolls through a town, while at the same time the people of the town start to experience the normal human feelings of insecurity or fear. Now, if the townspeople don't know that these feelings (all feelings) can only originate from within--it's impossible for one's feelings to be caused by a circumstance on the outside--there's a good chance that they'll form a connection that doesn't exist: They'll blame the stranger for their insecurity or fear. And since they don't want to feel that way, they'll attack what they think is the cause--the stranger. The trouble, of course, is that they're attacking something that has nothing to do with their insecurity or fear. But because they don't understand that, they'll keep attacking in a never-ending quest to feel better.

In short, the outside-in misunderstanding is the only thing that causes prejudice. That's why all forms of prejudice can be traced back to a person who has blamed his or her low state of mind on another. Can one person's skin color, gender, or sexual orientation make another person feel bad? Right now, you probably say no. Yet, in the heat of a depressed feeling state (and we all get them), how often do you look around and pin it on someone, or something, else? That answer for all of us is: way too often.

Here, then, is my bottom-line inquiry regarding prejudice: Are you truly willing to do your part to help wipe this scourge off the face of the earth? If yes, it's time to stop railing against prejudice, a symptom, and start taking into consideration--and guiding others toward--the root. For those who deeply understand that their feelings are solely connected to the ebb and flow of their own thinking, the act of prejudice toward another human being (like bullying, road rage, abuse, or war) is entirely out of the question.