We knew the French were a nation of liberal bourgeoisie bon-vivants, but now this?
Now, I’m not here to argue the relative merits of the pro- and anti- sides in the debate. Or even discuss the debate. This isn’t a blog about that. Pick your favorite liberal or conservative blog and troll the comments for some great one-sided views on the issue. But then that can’t be helped. It’s a divisive topic at best, and daily protests during the week leading up to the vote in France attest to that. I only lead off with it because the story got me thinking tangentially. Thinking about paradigm shifts and changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes, and above all, our perceptions and how we view the world.
Attitudes do change. Issues that at one time were stigmatized, or even taboo, eventually are allowed into the light of day, and, through greater exposure, then pass through the stages of tolerance, understanding, and acceptance. It’s a trend that repeats itself at various times and in various places. The Civil Rights and Women’s Suffrage Movements here in the United States are two examples, and are examples that have been repeated, or indeed were preceded, in various regions all over the world. It’s not so very long ago those movements happened and yet, those of us born into a world shaped by them can hardly imagine the previous status quo. We’re even shocked when we hear of other countries that haven’t reached that point, that practice racial segregation or don’t allow women to vote.
Perception has changed so much on these issues for us that, while undercurrents of non-tolerance may run here and there, the prevailing sentiment is one of acceptance. But all it takes is a little time. Change the f-stop on the lens, lengthen the exposure. It’ll all turn out alright.
And so acceptance is gained. And yet we can’t seem to parlay that shift in how we view one social issue to a shift that encompasses all social issues.
I was cycling through town a couple days ago, and as I slowed approaching a stop sign a homeless man called out to me. I was focused though. In a hurry to get somewhere and didn’t want the awkwardness of a forced conversation. I had my headphones in as well, so I used them as an excuse to ignore him. But he called out again, and again, and the third time, when I looked up he smiled and said “Nice bike.” He didn’t want anything, only to share a moment. I was the one who had imprinted certain pre-conceived notions and experiences onto the situation.
And I thought to myself, What happened to your own tolerance? Sure you get burned once in a while when you put yourself out there, as not everyone lives up to the ideals we may have as human beings, but you can’t take that scar and apply it across an entire social strata. I’m still working on it. It’s a sometimes difficult lesson. Awakening and tolerance and knowing that everybody deep down struggles with the same issues.
Everyone’s different, yet everyone’s the same.
Thoughts on a napkin, or better yet, in the comments thread of this post.
David Wilson graduated from the University of Texas in 2006. Since then he has gone wherever the wind blows him, living in Europe, China, and the States, and traveling extensively throughout the rest of the world. When he’s not on the move, you can find him obsessing over latte art, playing piano, or trying to bleach his hair in the sunshine. Follow him on Twitter.