A Reminder: Experiences Are Not Conclusions.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 3.618% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Every so often, I’m forced to haul out my two suicide attempts to justify my opinions on depression.  I’m glad I have them.  If I didn’t have the hospitalization and sleeping pills under my belt, I might be unconvincing.
Thing is, I’m told that if I had real depression, I’d automatically agree with this random depressive person’s viewpoint.  Because all depressive people “know” this to be true.
And no.
Not all depressive people come to the same conclusions.
No group ever does.
There are people raised in evangelist households who believe fiercely in Jesus and others who became staunch atheists – sometimes different outcomes from brothers and sisters who slept in the same room.  There are combat veterans who’ve concluded that wars are useless, and combat veterans who believe war is the only way, and sometimes they’re from the same unit.  There are disabled people who have bottomless pity for anyone who shares their symptoms, and disabled people who have come to believe that the other disabled people are whiners.
Yet too many people argue that “If you walked a mile in my shoes, you’d understand!”  And that’s erasing all of humanity’s glorious and contradictory messiness.  That’s a subtle way of saying all minorities are this hive mind who  all vote Democrat and anyone who votes Republican can’t actually have been raised right.
It’s an explicit way of saying that everyone is secretly a carbon copy of you, and they’d all be like you if they’d been raised as you.
T’aint true, McGee.
Which isn’t to erase your experiences.  I think it’s critical to understand other experiences as best we can, which is why I so frequently draw your attention to other people’s viewpoints.  If you’re a guy, trying to understand what a woman goes through as a member of society is useful.  If you’re a woman, trying to understand the guy’s perspective is useful.  And if you’re binary, understanding what the genderqueer and trans and other folks on the spectrum experience can expand your perspectives.  Speaking out without contemplating whether your situation may differ from other people’s is hurtful and thoughtless and should be rectified.
But what occasionally happens when people from the same background clash is an immediate war of credentials.  “Hey, did you do this?”  “I did that, and better!”  And the next thing you know everyone’s snarled in a gigantic game of one-up because the person with the worst experiences is the one who has the “real” viewpoint.  You wouldn’t think that if you’d been through my hell!
They might think that.  Your experience is not someone else’s conclusion.
We’re different.
That is, astoundingly, why we make progress.

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