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If You're Like Most People...



If you're like most people, you probably don't hate that phrase as much as I do. This is mainly because I overthink things. It's something I do a lot and you will therefore be seeing a lot of it in my contributions to this blog. Actually, come to think of it, overthinking is something pretty much all of us have in common in the Writing Mafia, so you can just expect it all the time from all of us. You're welcome. 

Anyway, back to 'If you're like most people...'. This phrase wouldn't bother me if people actually meant it. But they don't. They don't mean 'If you're like most people...', they mean, 'If you're like most people who are like me...' Because let me tell you something, most people - as in, the majority of the human population of the planet - are living either under the poverty line or hovering dangerously close to it, have minimal education and don't understand this rant or anyone who says that most hated of phrases because they don't speak English. So no, you do not mean 'most people', you mean 'most people who look/think/act/live like me'. Which isn't a bad demographic to be referring to, just so you know - I just happen to be a stickler for accuracy. 

I also happen to be a very internationally-minded stickler for accuracy, as you may have noticed. Now, I'm not trying to make anyone feel bad for any of their privileges or imply that I'm any better at including others in my world than you are, but, if you'll oblige me, I'd like to make you think for a little. (And yes, I appreciate the irony of writing on this topic and assuming that you're all pretty much like me - from an English-speaking country and relatively well-off compared to the rest of the world.) It's human nature to identify best with the people who are the most like us, the people who we recognise and who are therefore nonthreatening. And that's not wrong. But it's also not the end of the story. See, if we only think about things and people who directly affect our everyday lives, we miss out on a huge swathe of humanity. Not, of course, that we are totally unaware of their existence. However, we do tend to 1) go about our days without thinking of them almost at all and 2) manage to bundle hundreds of distinct cultures and languages together simply because we don't understand them. 

Both of these things are becoming increasingly dangerous in our rapidly globalising world. The first means that although we are by no means malevolent or destructive, we do not actively care for those in the world who could do with our help. We like saying things like, 'Everyone's on their phones all the time nowadays' and 'The internet has connected the world', but it's easy to forget the people we're leaving behind. Those who can't afford a smartphone or an internet bill, for example, or those who come from food-insecure families or who are struggling even to find shelter each night. This applies to people in wealthy countries as well as developing nations. We do not intentionally marginalise them, but even our most off-hand words have power. The more we only refer to people like us as 'everyone' or 'the world', the more we will begin to believe that it's accurate. I challenge you to make it your business not to let them slip through the cracks, even if that's just in the way that you think and speak.

The second thing, bundling different people into broad categories, is also extremely unhelpful. Again, it's natural, but it's an exceedingly bad habit that we as the human race really have to stop. Because 'Asian' isn't a thing. If I tell you someone is Asian, you know next to nothing about them. They could be from any one of hundreds of individual cultures and subcultures, could speak one of a plethora of languages and could look vastly different from another 'Asian'. And don't even get me started on Americans and Australians. We're all nothing but glorified mutts. But we're human. Everyone is human, which should go without saying, but apparently it doesn't. We're all humans, which means that we're all insanely, divinely, amazingly complicated and more valuable than any of us can know. Every human from every nation, tribe and tongue is made in the image of God. So, while generalisations can be helpful at times, never let yourself forget that you are generalising about the most unpredictable and incredible creatures in God's menagerie. Don't judge someone based on where they are from. They are a person in their own right. Get to know them and you might just be surprised at what you find when you stop putting priceless humans in restrictive little boxes.

So there you have it. I don't care who you are or into what demographic you fit; consider yourself challenged. And the challenge is this: think. Think before you generalise. Think before you judge. Think before you forget the inconvenient existence of the rest of the world. And then, if you like, pray. God's heart has always been for the downcast and the forgotten, and it always will be.


-Jo
Soli Deo Gloria

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