I get a weird feeling in my gut when people around me start placing their rules and principles ahead of their humanity.
In the professional word there is so little wiggle room with what you can get away with. Maybe this is why I don't function properly working for a business with an HR department. Because everything I say might come under scrutiny, it has to be filtered through a long list of rules. You have to ask, "Could this be considered sexist? Prejudice? Racist? Inappropriate for the 'work environment'?" Call me a rebel if you like, I just get this weird feeling when people adhere to the type of mentality that disallows them to act naturally.
Don't get me wrong. I agree that racism, sexism and other forms of prejudice are terrible things and should be punished when it is found that someone is maliciously and publicly displaying these ignorant patterns of thought. There is no excuse and no place for it. Idiots should be treated as idiots. If acting naturally means demeaning women, then you shouldn't be allowed to act naturally. But how many good people with good intentions have been sued, fired, transferred, mistaken... their names dragged through the mud?
What I mean by 'acting naturally' is being able to talk through things in a natural way. This idea that we have to protect people so thoroughly from things that society deems inappropriate is a huge discredit to the intelligence of humanity. What happened to good-old telling someone they've offended you, having a conversation and working it out, learning from each other? Can't people help provide their own boundaries without some corporate watch-dog breathing down their neck? These principles that put certain topics so completely off limits help to breed prejudice. If nobody can talk, then how can we progress? The rules are teaching that color, sex and sexual orientation are things to look out for, things to focus on so that you don't make a mistake. Isn't that the opposite of the idea of "color-blindness"? Aren't we supposed to see each other as equals? Instead, certain topics are off limits, separating some groups from the mainstream and in turn, marginalizing them... highlighting them. There is no progress, because progress requires conversations, and conversations aren't allowed to happen because that would be 'inappropriate behavior for the work environment.'
The fact is, we are all human. We want to laugh and joke and celebrate our differences. We also want to talk and learn and celebrate the things we have in common. We want barriers to go down, we want people to open up, we want deeper relationships with those around us. The rules keep us from that.
Everybody has a watchful eye in the workplace, looking for those who might not be adhering to the rules. In some weird twist of irony, they choose to call the department that dehumanizes people Human Resources. HR, very inhumanly, follows a book of do's and don'ts. We've all watched the videos, the ones teaching us how to react in certain situations, how to avoid them... how to avoid people. Employees are suddenly all potential threats to the code of law. Potential law suits. Potential liabilities. You're probably best not even to look at a minority, lest they or someone watching might take offense.
This must be on some small scale what communism feels like.
Why do you think people go home and flip on Comedy Central to watch comedians of every race, gender, and ethnic background making fun of each other? They're saying what nobody is allowed to say, and thats attractive. It's also hilarious, culturally bridge building, and educational on a really shallow level. It's sad that we have to bridge the gap with comedians. Perhaps they wouldn't be so funny if it was common place that culturally different people spoke to each other, had each other over for dinner, learned from each other, etc.
In communist Romania everyone was a spy for the government. Students were not allowed to go to church, because church was for old people, apparently. Teachers were forced to attend church for the sole purpose of seeing if any students were there. If they saw a student at church, they had to report it to the government, and that student would be punished. Everyone was to have a watchful eye on their neighbor, jotting down the intricacies of what they said and did. People were forced into policing each other out of fear. They were all following the rules of the Romanian Communist Party. A joke was no longer a joke, a passing comment no longer a comment... everything was a potential threat to the regime. This disrupted any freedom of speech they might have at one point enjoyed.
This legalism, this 'off-limits' type mentality not only impedes on freedoms, it sections people off, dividing them into class and culture, keeping the familiar together so that no one can grow. It creates prejudice, because there is a disconnect between cultures. Suddenly, its 'us' and 'them.'
Have you ever been ridiculed? Ever been made to look like a racist or an animal because of something you've said? Have you been sat down and grilled because of a passing comment or a harmless joke? Have you been punished because you innocently and ignorantly broke the code of conduct?
Then you probably have felt what communism must feel like.
The problem is that the system breeds ignorance. Instead of demonizing ignorance, why don't we erase it. Let everyone talk to each other, let everyone learn from each other. There will be bumps in the road, but let everyone work out the kinks. People are intelligent, they can develop their own social guidelines through conversation and understanding. We don't need a Human Resource Department draining humans of their natural social abilities, their true human resources. If allowed to have open and honest conversation, humans might be able bridge the gap that corporate rules and ignorance have helped create.