Last year I read a book called “The Consolations of Philosophy” by Alain de Botton, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was thought provoking at every page. But one chapter, about one philosopher – Michel de Montaigne, said something that really got me thinking:
"I am a man, nothing human is foreign to me."
What this fifteenth century Frenchman said is essential to being human – empathy. When I read it, that instant my life changed. I became a less judgmental person.
Unfortunately, the world is full of people who cast harsh judgement on others, without any thought of anothers life experience. While reading about the proposed tax hike on cigarettes, which may raise prices to $20 a pack, I read some truly ignorant comments from others readers. People calling all smokers “stupid” and “ignorant”, and my favourite “It is simple maths..........if you do not want to pay the tax, give up smoking. There is nothing difficult about stopping smoking if you really want to”. Have these people ever smoked? Have they ever considered that it might not be as easy as they believe it to be? Somehow, I doubt it. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have depression, but I wouldn’t say to someone who has to just 'smile and be happy'. Humans are not so simple.
“Human understanding is marvelously enlightened by daily conversation with men, for we are, otherwise, compressed and heaped up in ourselves, and have our sight limited to the length of our own noses.”
I used to think Islam was an archaic, uncivilised religion and its followers not much better. Then I realised – I live in a Christian dominated country, Christian dominated media, everything has a bias to it. I’m sure many Muslims feel the same way about Christianity. So, they’re people too. Upon realising this, that wall crumbled.
“Everyone calls barbarity what he is not accustomed to.”
Another topic that made me think harder about myself and the way I judged others was a story on Hungry Beast about paedophiles. People just see paedophiles as 1 dimensional characters – evil creatures with only thoughts of raping children on their minds. After seeing that report on the Beast, and reflecting on it, it must be a hard life and not one which would wish upon anyone.
Sometimes I catch myself judging people, other times I don’t – but when I do I always end up realising others are just like me. Human.
P.S. This probably doesn’t need to be said, but those three quotes are Michel de Montaigne.