I had an interesting conversation today about choice. Someone (that I don’t know) was talking to their friend (whom I also don’t know) and said something to the extent of people in Africa are all corrupt, and we shouldn’t help them because the corruption that permeates their government is their own fault; they made the choice to be corrupt.
At which point, before I thought it through, I turned around and said (complete with attitude and all): “Excuuuuuuuuuse me?”
Ok, not quite as dramatic, but I did feel compelled to join the conversation. I thought perhaps these people were in political science and knew what they were talking about. I thought perhaps these two older gentlemen had served in some capacity or another in African governance or were part of the Canadian diplomatic corp living in Africa.
Believe it or not, neither of these gentlemen had set foot outside of Africa, and neither had read any book on the subject. They were basing their judgment on the news they had been hearing in the last couple of years.
Needless to say, I was very distraught by the fact, and both gentlemen saw it. I had a friend in the store with me and he – thankfully – was well travelled and well versed in global history. I asked him to join in on the conversation.
The point of this post isn’t to tell you about our brilliant comeback and how both gentlemen realised the harshness of their earlier claims (please hold on a second while I pat myself on the back). It’s to share with you a simple truth: while we do have a choice, and we should do everything we can to make the right choice, we shouldn’t forget where we come from. We shouldn’t forget what our limitations or, and strive to figure out ways of dealing with it.
Most importantly, we need to remember that others make choices that are also influenced by their education, upbringing and environment; we shouldn’t rush to make a judgement on their decision, but, if we want to lend a helping hand, should strive to understand where their choice comes from and how they got there. While we can’t hope to fully understand everyone’s choices, the simple fact that we are trying will allow us to better help.
This experience is all the more interesting in that a couple of weeks ago, I was watching – what else – an episode of Supernatural (Season 2, Episode 5: Simon said) and Sam Winchester said something that touches this subject, something I had scribbled down on a Post-it and stuck in my agenda: “Right circumstances, everyone is capable of murder. Everyone. You know maybe that’s what the demon is doing us. Pushing us. Finding ways to break us.”
Oh, how I love watching shows that are entertaining but that also allow for easy elevation of conversation.