I believe in God. I believe that wooden crosses will walk me closer to a better life. I believe that going to church, and kneeling before a stranger and telling them my deepest darkest secrets will bring me, with certainty, towards salvation. But there are many things that I don’t believe in. For example, I don’t believe that I have the right to choose whether someone else can receive abortion care. I don’t believe that people who identify differently than I do are any less human or should possess any less rights than I can enjoy. We’ve been taught that I’m simply an outlier in a much more vast populous of society. My identity has been thrown in the same mixing pot as anti maskers, pro-lifers and white-supremacists that hold up my religion as a token to justify bigotry.
The world is a complicated place and our mind likes to find shortcuts to navigate the large swells that life can often throw at us. One philosophy that has been subconsciously embedded in the way we digest information is Essentialism. We label the “most essential” pieces of data to create simplifications and generalizations that turn seemingly nonsensical data into something tangible. This bad habit has transformed into a persistent problem, and often, the subconscious simplifications that we make have carried over into our everyday lives. Through our understanding of our new, small, and simple world, we often presumptively judge the mismatching pieces that don’t conform to our perception of reality. This seemingly occasional occurrence often becomes unavoidable under a shroud of Essentialism.
But Essentialism is not fundamentally problematic. We naturally gravitate towards more simple, and more manageable mental habits that help us compartmentalize and process information that seems nonsensical. In fact, we do this all the time. Essentialism seeps into many of our study habits, generalizing large pools of information, small enough to recall in effective ways, even if losing aspects of specificity. We enjoy identifying what is important and what is not. Whether that be associating an outfit to a person or a math symbol to a formula, generalizing requires less conscious work, takes less time and provides less of a challenge. But, sometimes, simple is not enough. The liberal bubble built around our community spaces has often led to the preconception that my faith is associated with conservatism. Whilst that may be right for other people, this fatal assumption often makes me feel isolated in conversations where my pro-choice peers only see me as an opposition instead of an ally.
Our world is being continually transformed into something that’s once simply unimaginable in pasts. The internet has fundamentally changed the availability of information and this sudden influx can be understandably overwhelming. Cultural norms, social expectations and pressure are critical points of who we are in society. We have been thrown into a world that expects us to keep up with a society predicated on constant change and information. Where summaries and excerpts were once sufficient, the complexity of the world requires explanations that are more robust to describe the sudden change our world has taken. Labels and signs can’t encompass the complexity that runs across the different facets of life. So, when the mental constructs become our living reality, we often miss out on the important truth. At its worst, minute details become stereotypes and biases that are only rooted in figments of imagination that often leave fertile soil for stereotyping, xenophobia, and cultural disconnectivity.
Essentialism is not just some sociological phenomenon, but instead a pervasive habit that’s become the epicenter of judgment and oppression. The symptoms of Essentialism are universal but often disproportionately impacts cultural and racial minorities. Our inclination to drive our own presumptions of reality has cultivated a social culture that is increasingly one dimensional. Essentialism contributes to the xenophobic stereotypes and unconscious biases that we are too frequently exposed to. Charged headlines like “big media spreads lies” or “communism succeeds,” are removed from truth and, instead, incite emotional responses, loosely tied to fragments of objectivity. People have become quick to conclude before engaging with the much more sophisticated, comminuted personas. But, crossing the line between convenience and challenge helps us personify people and their lives. We don’t live in a world of certainty or simplicity, instead life lies on a scatter plot of perpetual nuance.
My faith is just one part of me, but it does not represent all of me. I may not fit the mold of who you think I may be and other people will not either.
Editor’s Note: Andrew Chinn is an Associate Photo Editor for The Phillipian.
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