People don’t always tell you what they are thinking. They just see to it that you don’t advance in life.
It comes in the form of subtle messages that can leave us feeling inferior, inadequate, and resentful. It can be the kind where nothing is said but felt. It is a kind that erodes confidence and leaves us in a state of wonder as to what others really think. It can keep us “in our place” at work and in life and make us the subject of dismissal or ridicule. It is contempt, hate, and hubris.
Racism, ableism, and sexism come from contempt, hate, and hubris. I have two challenges for liberals: one, we are exclusive in our use of fairness and, two, we use contempt on our enemies. Why focus on some—race, ethnicity, and sex—but not on others? As feeble and soft as it sounds, the theme that makes liberalism what it is is caring for others.
We here at freethought blogs love to use contempt. From comments to our posts, it is always present. Contempt is the feeling that a person or idea is not worthy of our respect because it or they are beneath us. It works by us finding negative characteristics in ideas and in people and then attributing the whole idea or person to being inferior. It is a form of stereotype since it generalizes.
Contempt is at the heart of racism and sexism since we feel above them and generalize their “inferior” qualities to be what defines them. Hate, by contrast, is when others pose a threat to our status, which is our need to advance in the eyes of others, or to our wellbeing. Contempt and hate involve social hierarchy, that is, who is above us and who is below us, but do so in different ways.
Someone can feel contempt for a very lazy person, but not hate him, because he poses no threat. Similarly, someone can feel hate for a rival, as they pose a threat, but not feel contempt, because they are not seen as inferior.
The Forgotten Persons
For me, there is nothing more disturbing than when Trump ridiculed and mocked the reporter from the New York Times. If we define ableism to mean the ability to accomplish things effectively and efficiently, then there are a lot of people in trouble. There are thirteen million people in the United States that have intellectual disabilities. But at best we pity them and at worst we ridicule them.
If we define social value as what another person has to “offer us”, which boils down to our appearances, likability, and capabilities, then this class of people is at risk of being dismissed and ridiculed. But these people have been underrepresented up until the 1970s. In fact, we actually had “ugly laws” at one time that barred “undesirables” from making appearances. I am speechless.
Think about the movies “Unhinged” and “The Joker“. What “drives” these hypothetical characters is that they were “dismissed” in life and no matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t compete and cooperate. This class of people, let’s call them the “Losers”, decided to not “take it”, “it” being their subordinated role in life, and “do something about it”. But it was at the cost of the well-being of others.