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Expat Life

Categorizing other people comes naturally but it can also lead to prejudice

By Michael E. Miner

Within all of us, often beneath our conscious lives, there is an indexing system we use to put other human beings in convenient categories that makes our next interaction more informed. Yes. You have it and it runs large chunks of your life although you may not even know it exists. Where did it come from? What do we gain from it? What do we lose when a large portion of our lives is run by a system we don’t understand or control?

Humans in an active society walk through life stamping labels on other humans so they fit into these categories. The receptionist in your company is having a bad day. Stamp: Bitch. The guy who parks your car is just a little too friendly. Stamp: Foreign Guy Trying To Get Something From Me. Your teacher praises your work. Stamp: People Who Like Me. Once the stamp is properly affixed to their foreheads, the next encounter is safer and more informative.

I call it the Indexing Process, a force that operates completely outside of our normal thought processes yet has a profound affect on how we treat others, as well as ourselves. Indexing uses “us” and “them” as a fear-based defense mechanism and is so deeply embedded in humans that it forms an essential part of who we are, our most basic self image.

Politics is an excellent example of modern day indexing, provided complete with prefabricated marketing labels that allow you to index happily with others while comparing clothing and enjoying the warmth and family love provided by your favorite GroupThink safe space. Look at the “us” and “them” constructs in your own life and you begin to appreciate your complete lack of control over this process.

You admire and genuinely like a colleague at work. In the process of getting to know this person, he makes a comment about government interference in free enterprise. If your beliefs are progressive, he is indexed into the “them” category under Republican Nazis. If you are a conservative, he is indexed into the “us” category under People Who Understand Government’s Place. Stamp.

You attend a business lunch with ten other colleagues. The food is served and one person stops to say grace before eating. If you are a believer, she is indexed into the “us” category under People Who Live Their Faith. If you are an atheist, she is indexed into the “them” category under Cross-Bearing Religious Idiots. Stamp.

The indexing process proceeds so deeply embedded in the background that you are not aware of it but it dominates much of human consciousness. It allows you to value the opinion of one person while completely disregarding anything said by another. It allows you to have compassion for one person while making others less worthy. It allows you to assign characteristics to someone without knowing them at all.

Where did Indexing come from?

At some point anthropology has to kick in. Since humans have not evolved significantly since the cave man days, let’s go back there for a minute.

In the cave, humans lived in circular societies to protect themselves from their greatest threat, other humans. In the center were the most vulnerable and crucial to survival of the clan, breeding women and children. Surrounding the center were the alpha boys, the ultimate predators. The outside ring was reserved for those considered expendable to the clan, non-breeding women and men. Look at any major city. The rules are not much different today.

As a single human being in a cave society there were many ways to get yourself killed and not pass your genes to future generations. Those who survived and became part of today’s gene pool learned very quickly to index other humans with very high accuracy. Indexing could be pecking order within the clan, recognizing humans from outside the clan, recognizing humans who like to kill other humans, recognizing whom you get to breed with, who gets to eat first, ad infinitum. Miss any one of these indexes and your genes are worm food. Humans got really good at indexing other humans.

What do we gain?

In a predatory society, a primary motivation for humans is fear, which quickly includes its by-products, greed and aggression. Indexing is closely tied with the human system of threat recognition, fight or flight, the Core Response Network that operates on the very edge of the human nervous system and initiates actions before conscious thought is ever a part of the equation. In a complex human society, the threat from other humans is real and indexing those other humans correctly can be the difference in survival. Ever wonder why you suddenly feel compelled to watch certain humans carefully in a large crowd? It happened long before you realized that it happened.

Humans use indexing subconsciously as a defense mechanism to protect themselves from the threat of other humans. Since this is a fear-based mechanism, it can also be manipulated by those seeking to control others. Fears can be fabricated. Fears can be attached to other groups of humans with lots of nasty characteristics like eating children or stealing the canes from blind people. “They” are horrible and dangerous people. In reality, they are probably just people and we seldom stop to reconsider our conclusions once we adopt them. Instead, we defend our conclusions with vigor as part of who we are, part of our self worth.

Indexing appeals to human laziness and humans readily adopt indexing from other humans because they credit those humans with special understanding. For example, our government tells us that “they” have weapons of mass destruction and intend to use them against innocent women and children. Most of us simply adopt these conclusions then defend them as though they are real. Those who do the research often reach very different conclusions.

What do we lose?

A brilliant economist goes off on some mindless political hate routine and BAM, indexed at the speed of light, carefully indexed into the same category as the overweight lesbian college student drug addict with tattoos, piercings, army boots and a nice vagina uniform who needs to dive into a safe space after hearing anything resembling rational thought. The category name is “People with Zero Credibility” and these two should never be in the same category, but there they sit and neither will ever get out. Our brilliant economist just permanently sacrificed all personal and professional credibility so he could make a point that he thought was valid or politically correct. We could have learned much about economics from him but we will never hear anything else this man has to say and will usually avoid him socially.

Thanks mostly to the media’s ongoing misinformation campaigns, our society has quickly evolved to the point where we can no longer hear someone with opposing views, consider their arguments, decide critically on their argument’s worth, learn from that different viewpoint. Instead, we have a list of trigger points that waits to make that person go away forever so we no longer have to deal with them. There are a few among us with the education and self-worth to listen to opposing viewpoints and those people actually enjoy comparing their understanding against any new evidence or viewpoints. For the vast majority of humans, critical thinking is an imposition, rude and not politically correct. Asking someone why they believe something when they don’t understand it themselves is usually an excellent way to generate a fear-based, rude defensive response.

Indexing for mainstream humans has been programmed. These people are bad, dangerous, stupid, dishonest, eat children or steal the canes from blind people. Everybody knows that. Where have you been? Keep up. Accept the programming or be ridiculed, ostracized and personally insulted. GroupThinkers are very good at the punishment phase, something that completely baffles people who can think critically. The concept of being punished for wrong thinking simply does exist for those who can think critically. They assume we are all wrong.

I ascribe to no political party or philosophy. I can think critically, have no need for support structures and do not support GroupThink in any form. Since I am outside the box, I enjoy watching those inside the box dance — intellectual comedic relief. I also enjoy the comparison to organ grinder monkeys: When the monkey is being good, the chain gets longer.

Reasonably intelligent people — I use the term loosely — extol their political savvy and understanding with great extended eloquence then spend the next twenty minutes spouting verbatim political party slogans and campaigns without missing a word. It doesn’t take twenty minutes to understand that political savvy for this “reasonably intelligent individual” means memorizing verbiage written by someone else, fully adopting someone else’s indexing because they wear the correct labels. The really scary part of GroupThink 101 is the fact that people like me write the stuff that people like them memorize. I can’t even memorize my own stuff.

Yes, I used to think they were all stupid, still find rampant occasion to fall back into that belief, but the truth is usually the opposite. Statistically, increased intelligence means increased probability of tunnel vision, GroupThink and insanity, not always in that order. Over the years, I have evolved to the understanding that these people are operating at a 4-year- old age level because they are only using a small portion of their intellect. As young children they learned not to think about it too much, usually from their parents, who somehow mastered the art and beat them severely if they misbehaved. These people grew up in a home where critical thinking was punished, they are incapable of critical thought on specific subjects, usually excel at it in others.

Can we correct Indexing?

Your indexing is a process of social prejudice. We all see the present through a lens from the past. A scary dog runs at a group of humans. Some run away immediately, some just stare at the dog. If you were attacked by a dog as a child, your indexing is very different from the indexing of someone who grew up with loving and protective dogs. As we study genetics and epigenetics, we may soon learn that much of your indexing comes from your forefathers through genetic memory. You may be running from that scary dog because your great grandmother was attacked.

Indexing causes you to react in a specific way to specific stimuli. At one time I looked like Bluto from the Popeye cartoon series, 290 pounds, thick black beard, long hair. People saw me coming and crossed the street so they could walk on the other sidewalk. When I shaved my beard and cut my hair, they no longer crossed the street. This is classic indexing but there are also a number of extreme genetic psychoses where no one, including the perpetrator, has any idea what is happening. My favorite example is a mysterious aggression against short people, midgets, where the perpetrator goes completely berserk and tries to kill the short person for no apparent reason. The perpetrator has no control. This extreme reaction is somehow baked into their indexing.

Indexing is the lens of the past through which we see and deal with present life. What happens when that lens malfunctions? Humans have experienced about six years of targeted and pervasive misinformation through media sources once considered reliable. Nicely coupled with GroupThink, roughly half of today’s humans cannot remember real events and quite literally live in an alternate reality. Real events, reality to the rest of us, no longer play a role. They view the present through a distorted and twisted lens that allows them to completely disregard facts and events they see with their own eyes, facilitated by a manipulated media that provides convenient one-line explanations in answer to inconvenient facts. Most are beyond help and will never return to reality. They do not have the skills to question themselves.

Groups of humans cannot be fixed, they simply trade one fear for another. Understanding your indexing means confronting your own prejudices on an intimate and very private level, a personal journey for each individual that starts with a mirror and the understanding that part of you comes from thousands of years of indexing at a time of dominant cruelty and sickness. Even in the cusp before the singularity, we all carry the burden of our forefathers, their strengths, their fears, their suffering.

You can control your programming by simply controlling your thoughts. Control your thoughts and you control your life. I call it a thought monitor, something you can install by simply wishing it into place. Any time I find myself assigning characteristics to people I don’t know, fitting people into convenient categories because of appearance, age, sex, religion … a small alarm goes off with a blinking red light, alarm horn and audible recording, “Hey. Where did that come from? That’s bullshit.” Think about it, decide it is wrong and resolve to correct it.

Stamp: Fixed.

The bad news is that you have been programmed. The good news is that it is easily corrected as soon as you become the programmer. Now might be a good time to start.