Living with Boxes, a System of Pre-Judging all Men

            June 2012    
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By N. Shuldig

When I was a young boy I learned the importance of boxes. My mother had boxes for various types of games and toys. Each type of toy or game had its box. When I was finished playing I was expected to dutifully put the toys back into the specific box reserved for that type of toy and not in a different box.

As I grew I realized the importance that categorizing boxes had in simplifying my life. I utilized shoe boxes for storing my bills. The water bills in this box, the electric bills in another box, the credit card bills in another box and so on. I also have boxes to store my CD's. In addition, I have CD albums to store my various types of CD's. I put music in this album, videos in another album and various programs in a third album and backups of my important data in a different one; each one is marked so I can find quickly when I should need to get the CD that I need.

I also sort my clothing in my closets: the shirts in one section, the pants in another, and the socks in another as well as a place for my underwear. Let us not talk about storing summer clothing in the winter and winter clothing in the summer. I have my Hebrew books on these shelves, my professional books on another shelf, my light reading books on another shelf and my wife's books on a different shelf.

I believe that most people sooner or later have realized the importance in life of sorting objects into categories. It makes it easier to deal with retrieving them. The only problem is deciding which box to put different types of items. Sometimes items can be put in one of two or three boxes.

This is a minor problem compared to the impact this system can have on life. No, I am not talking about where to put the bill from the gardener or where to put the lone CD that cousin Sid sent with family pictures, a video and a few short mp3's. I am talking about when we begin to apply 'boxing' to people.

People are more complex than CD's or socks. People exhibit many facets even in one area. Can a person be a liberal and not vote for Obama? I am. Can a person be Jewish and not like gefilte fish? I don't like it.

Most people do not fit in any 'box', yet we have a tendency to label people and put them in a 'box' so that it is easier to deal with them. Are all Blacks muggers or hoodlums who are just looking to start fights? I have known many who happen to be fine people. Are all Arabs looking to stab Jews? I have known many fine hospitable Arabs who were very friendly and kind. Yet we continue to live with the stereotype meaning we have put people in general 'boxes' so that we begin to judge all individuals of one group as if they are all the same. This in spite of the reality that all people in one group ('box') are not necessarily alike, or even more so, are so dissimilar.

Often, it is the media that plays on these accepted generalizations and presents people in light of their group. In many instances the news media may have a hidden agenda. As an example, look at Ha'aretz, the online newspaper. For what ever reason, Ha'aretz sees itself as the vanguard of Jewish liberal values who will quickly point out to us inequalities in the Israeli-Arab relationship giving the Arab side more credence than the Israeli side. Ha'aretz will blame the government for all lackings in making peace with the Arabs, even though most people have realized that it is the Arabs who are holding up peace. Time after time, Ha'aretz will try to point out criminals who are religious but ignore the secular crimes of the same nature since they feel the need to castigate the religious.

Don't think that it is only Ha'aretz that is pushing an agenda by trying to put people and organizations is boxes. Many other newspapers and organizations do that too including religious newspapers such as Yeted Ne'eman that sees itself as the vanguard of the religious and decries any other religious newspaper who claim to represent the large religious sector.

The reason that this is done, however, is very beneficial for the organization. Once you accept the general and apply it to the particular instead of utilizing individual evaluation you begin to fall prey to the workings of these various groups who have agendas. The various organizations want you to adopt not only the points that they represent that you find positive, but they want you to be a total supporter of theirs with no distinction between the various points in their 'platforms' or 'agendas'.

Now we realize that when we were children, we made a distinction between good and bad. On the television the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black hats. The good guys were totally good and the bad guys were totally bad. But reality is different; good people have also bad character traits and bad guys can posses some redeeming qualities. As adults we know this but it requires mature thinking and investigation – something we do not expect from children. We know that every person has merit as well as personal lackings. Human beings being human are subject to err.

The various groups know that no one takes the time and trouble to think through all the points that this group or that hold, so they show us only the best points and slur the opposition with the assumption that we will not trouble ourselves to think it through.

I am totally against labeling. I find that all organizations have positive points and but also have points that I do not share. To be a part of a group may give a person a base group of friends, but it will also rob him of his independence as a thinker. Can a secular person enjoy learning a tractate of Talmud? Most will say that a secular person is not interested in such activities. But I can not see why not. If he/she enjoys it, why not. Do only religious perform mitzvot? It would seem that of course only they would do such things, but I do not see why some one who is not observant can not do one mitzvah or another. Are all religious endowed with sterling characters? No, there are plenty of charlatans, child molesters and more that we don't want to know about. Do only non religious serve in the Israeli army? Nope, plenty of religious also serve. But we have been taught again and again to put people in boxes. It is in the labeling of these boxes that brings the troubles and dissent between people

The point here is that as adults we must not get distracted with the claims and agendas of the various media outlets and organizations who try to label Jews who live in the territories as “settlers” who are causing the problems of peace as a very gross example of 'labeling'. It is important to open your eyes and see the world as it is, that each person is different and no one has nailed down perfection yet.

Once the concept of putting people into boxes is overcome and we can judge people as individuals, then the conflicts between groups will subside and individuals will be able to live in peace with their neighbors.


from the June 2012 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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