One form of chronological snobbery that I often hear, and yet am convinced is erroneous, is the condemnation of previous generations as bigoted, racist, sexist, etc with the belief that were we to live in those times we have gone about life differently.
The haunting question for us, for our generations, is “what do we not see?” In what ways are we blind. In what ways are we unintentionally ignorant and in what ways are we intentionally ignorant. Most people today believe that they would not have been racist in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, would not be greedy if they were part of the 1% today, and would not have been against women voting at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Although a handful may have been able to resist these tendencies, the vast majority would likely have fallen into the same pitfalls as their contemporaries had they lived at that time. The problem is that while we articulate the problems with culture at those distinct times, we find ourselves unable to honestly examine, and then change, ourselves.
It is easy, even enjoyable, for us to notice these defects in those around us. A number of people I interact with make pointing out the bigotry bias of others a full time hobby. However the predominant concern must be for ourselves. Those who call out racism in others, point out sexism in the workplace, and heap titles like bigot upon others are certainly biased against their neighbor in less obvious ways. This is not to say to say that we should support or accept hate and bigotry for even one moment; however it is to emphasize that our responsibility is ourselves. Us. Me. You. Examining ourselves.
The idea that change starts with us is not the call for us to be the keepers of our neighbors but rather the examiners and improvers of ourselves first, and then the encouragers and motivators of those around us.
So instead of pointing fingers and labeling racist, what if we chose to see each person as a human being with intrinsic value. What if we encouraged others to hear the stories of those so different from themselves. What if instead of calling others bigots, we looked within ourselves for ways in which cultural relativity was harbored as immovable truth in our hearts biasing us against others. What if instead of seeing the worst in those around us, we identified the worst in ourselves and strove to change.
What if instead of standing still and wondering “what if”, we examined ourselves and encouraged others to better love our neighbor and live a greater story.