You Fool!

This post is about ethics.

In this little post I want to plan ahead, in public, for how I interact with people.

As humans our default is to try to pattern match. We hear someone express a novel idea about how to help the poor and our immediate reaction is not to consider the idea, but to try to categorize the idea. “What party does this belong to? Is this secretly far right?” Considering ideas is hard. Considering ideas is not what this post is about.

When I hear these kinds of ideas my instinct is not just to categorize the idea but also to categorize the person. “Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Christian, Atheist, Capitalist, Python Programmer, …” These are labels we apply to people to reduce the effort we use when interacting with someone. If I stop thinking of you as an almost incompressible individual and instead a placeholder, like “a deplorable,” I have decided that you are not worth your divine personhood.

It’s fun to rob a person of their personhood. It’s fun to bite back and call them a deplorable, a snowflake, a snake lord, etc. But it’s a villainous mistake. People have reasons they are the way they are. Some of those reasons are worth considering yourself, and some of the reasons are mistakes the person is making. You won’t learn from anyone you treat as a mere symbol.

But this is all a kind of prevarication. I don’t actually think that the reason to consider people as a whole is because of some pragmatism. I try to be practical but I think it’s a construct I use to convince people, more than anything. I think people should be considered as a whole because their humanity has real worth. A terrifying value incomparable to a dollar or a bitcoin or a pleasant day.

In the coming years (forever, but it’ll be hard work basically forever) I will do my best to treat people as individuals, rather than members of a group. Even if a person defines themselves in terms of a group, I will reject that simplification as mere self-harm and consider the person as a whole.

Posted Fri, Dec 23, 2022

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