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Who are you trying to convince?

Updated: Jul 25, 2019

The Skittle monster

When I was about 5 years old, I really wanted to join a dance class. I remember very vividly how my mum took me to this dance recital to watch all the groups of the dance school perform a dance. They had beautiful colorful costumes, and I was incredibly excited. So excited even, that I didn't realize the dance performance did not allow for ad hoc participants. When my age group started their recital, I jumped up and joined in. I might not have known the steps completely and I might not have been wearing a dance costume but I made up for it with enthusiasm. After the dance was over, all the kids stood in line in front of the dance teacher who was handing out candy for their effort. When I came to the front of the line, the dance teacher informed me that I wasn't supposed to be in the performance to begin with and that she wasn't going to give me the Skittles all other kids were now happily stuffing their mouths with.

I was humiliated...

I remember leaving the dance school absolutely HATING the teacher, thinking of a million different reasons why she was wrong (She was obviously a Skittle monster disguised as a dance teacher) and at the same time feeling like I wanted to disappear into the abyss, never to be seen again. Needless to say, I didn't join a dance class. Humiliation is one of the most awful emotions I know and when I do feel humiliated, my head almost explodes with alternatives to dodge the bullet. Denying what has happened, shifting the blame, taking revenge, anything not to feel this crushing physical sensation of my face burning, my shoulders lowering and my stomach turning.

Humiliation as a strategy

When Donald Trump made fun of Mexican immigrants I was furious. How could someone with this much power and privileges make fun of people who have difficulties he can't even begin to understand!? When Saturday Night Live broadcasts interviews with Trump supporters I often laugh so hard it's hard to feel my face. How is this different?

If we think humiliating our way through political debates, whether it's with full on insults or subtle references to the stupidity of our opponents, is going to convince anyone that is not already on our side, we are going to be very disappointed. Humiliation spurs revenge but is also, more often than not, a form of revenge. Isn't it true that we make fun of our opponents because we feel they deserve it? Because they are saying such horrible or ridiculous things that we feel we have the moral superiority and right to show them how wrong they are? Revenge spurs revenge. Humiliation spurs humiliation. Our strategy is flawed.

Where to go from here

People often ask what it is that they can do on a daily basis to make a difference. Well, here it is: stop making fun of the other side and start listening. Ask questions that are not there to gather munition and attack but to find out. Be curious and hardest of all, let go of any judgment when you listen.

And if that doesn't work, at least offer them a box of Skittles..

Author: Lotte Cloostermans

PS. If you take nothing from this blog at all because the subheader ‘The Skittle monster’ scared you a little or you - rightly so - take my opinions with a grain of salt after my admission of laughing at other people’s opinions, I hope you take at least 3 minutes to watch part this lecture in which Joris Luyendijk confronts the audience (start at 37:00):

(I don’t know if PS is also something you can use in blogs but after Googling what PS. stands for - I didn’t know, please don’t judge me - and finding out it means ‘post scriptum’ or ‘written after’ I feel like this is a completely appropriate location to make a point I just thought of without making the effort of incorporating it somewhere in my blog.)


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