Monday, March 23, 2009

Its Ugly Head

While selecting peppers outside my neighborhood grocery, I overheard two men discussing "Jew Rosen." They kept referring to somebody as "Jew Rosen" and one of them said, 'He's another Madoff waiting to happen." The other sneered, "Like all Jews." They both snickered and chanted, "Jew Rosen, Jew Rosen." They seemed to find comfort in the taste of those words.

"Kill 'em all," said one of the gentleman. His friend replied, "They're all Jew Rosens."

I was livid.

I glanced at Flip, who said, "I know."

For a second, I wished the entire Israeli army was standing behind me with Uzis. Violent words beget violent thoughts which quickly escalate into violent deeds. I dismissed my imaginary soldiers.

Why do some people still perceive entire groups of other people as hateful and bad? How can we get past this limiting and hurtful belief system? What will it take to replace the rampant ugliness with the brotherly love we all subscribe to in theory, but often fail to practice?

One of the men was pushing a double stroller with two infants who are probably doomed to learn his prejudices along with their ABC's. When will it ever end?

My entire observance of Passover consists of buying a box of matzohs and eating them with butter and salt.

Flip noticed me partaking of my annual religious ritual and said, "That Nazi looks like wall board."

"Um, no. Nazi is not exactly what you want to call a matzoh," I said, "but I can see how you got confused since they both have 'z's in them."

So now I have a tiny window into how Alzheimer's works. Maybe. And no, he was not joking but sometimes, you just have to laugh anyway.


thailandchani said...

Too bad you and Flip didn't have a conversation in a stage whisper, talking about your cousins in the Mossad. Oh, my! It would have scared the living hell out of them for the rest of their lives. They'd always be looking behind them.

Sorry.. but ignorant morons like that deserve to have a little paranoia.


meno said...

yes, laughing anyway, while still wishing you could blow those assholes away.

I get it.

the walking man said...

Thoughts and ideation of peace and love do carry us through the days at times but like Bruce Cockburn sometimes ya' just got to think differently.

Here come the helicopter -- second time today
Everybody scatters and hopes it goes away
How many kids they've murdered only God can say
If I had a rocket launcher...I'd make somebody pay.
I don't believe in guarded borders and I don't believe in hate
I don't believe in generals or their stinking torture states
And when I talk with the survivors of things too sickening to relate
If I had a rocket launcher...I would retaliate
On the Rio Lacantun one hundred thousand wait
To fall down from starvation -- or some less humane fate.
Cry for Guatemala, with a corpse in every gate
If I had a rocket launcher...I would not hesitate
I want to raise every voice -- at least I've got to try.
Every time I think about it water rises to my eyes.
Situation desperate echoes of the victims cry
If I had a rocket launcher...some sonofabitch would die...

Bruce Cockburn--1983

Even with butter & salt I don't think I'd like those nazi's...too much like rice cakes.

nick said...

What particularly concerns me is those two innocent kids who're going to be fed this insane prejudice and may very well grow up in the same mould. I don't understand this mindless smearing of whole groups of people either. Why are they unable to see people as individuals?

The Fool said...

Korzybski stated that the map is never the territory.

Similarly, words can never "say all" about anything. The word is never the thing.

Our thoughts are also just mental maps, or reports of territories in the real world.

Now, a map is an abstraction, and an abstraction is the process of considering something independently of its associations, attributes, or concrete accompaniments. It is a process of extraction.

First, there is the territory, the thing itself. Second, there are the maps - the words and thoughts abstracted from the thing itself. And to make things even more complicated, with a further abstraction we create maps of maps - our judgments. These levels of abstraction exist independently of each other, and none are equivalent.

A simple map might look like this:


First level of abstraction: MAPS: THOUGHTS & WORDS

Second level of abstraction: MAPS OF MAPS: JUDGMENTS.

An awareness of this process could be called a state of meta-abstraction. In an ideal world, we would always remain in a state of meta-abstraction, being consciously aware of the differences between these levels of abstraction. Unfortunately, that is not case, and when maps get confused for other maps, or worse yet, when maps get confused for the territories themselves, we have delusion.

Hayakawa & Hayakawa note “that as a result of miseducation, bad training, frightening experiences in childhood, obsolete traditional beliefs, propaganda and other influences in our lives, all of us have what might be termed “areas of insanity” or perhaps better, “areas of infantilism,” in which we are at the mercy of ingrained, inappropriate semantic reactions. There are certain subjects about which we can never, as they say, “think straight,” because we are “blinded by prejudice.” Some people, for example, as the result of a childhood experience, cannot help being frightened by the mere sight of a police officer – any police officer; the terrifying “police officer” inside their heads “is” the existensional police officer outside, who probably has no designs that anyone could regard as terrifying. Some people turn pale at the sight of a spider – any spider – even one safely enclosed in a bottle. Some people automatically become hostile at the words “un-American,” “gun control,” “communist,” “conservative,” “liberal.” Palestinian or Jew.

The picture of the reality created inside our heads by the lack of consciousness of the abstracting process is not at all a “map” of an existing “territory.” It is a delusional world.”

In such a delusional world, over 62,500 Iraq civilians can be perceived as terrorists, and as responsible for the attacks on the Twin Towers. A war against civilians can be perceived as just.

Hayakawa & Hayakawa call the process of meta-abstraction a “habit of delaying reactions.” This is important, because if we can teach ourselves this habit, this ability to discern the differences between the levels of abstraction, then we might be able to destroy some of the delusions of prejudice that bind us. We might evolve. Meta-abstraction may be a road to freedom.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


No cousins in Mossad, but I muttered "lowlife scums" and Flip hauled me inside the store, saying that they looked as if they liked to fight. I realized that if I mouthed off and they got physical, Flip would have to defend me and that wouldn't really be fair. So I wrote this blog post instead, which I thought was pretty restrained.


And also, there is the gallows humor of laughing at the effects of Alzheimer's because if you didn't, you would cry a lot.


So where's my rocket launcher? Da-ad. You promised. I won't play with it in the house.

Flip dislikes rice cakes, too, but I used to like them until I opened a package and a moth flew out. Now I give them a wide berth at the health food store.


That was my point exactly. Yet another generation will be polluted as the torch of hatred is passed. You would think people would want better for their children.

No Fool,

We badly need evolving, no matter how we accomplish it. Since bigotry is a knee-jerk reaction, delaying our reactions might be the tool we need. The fight-or-flight response is similar, so people whose first impulse is to hate must feel threatened. Therefore, education is also the key to a better understanding of each other.

Ian Lidster said...

The morons shall always be with us, alas.

I always give thanks for your always splendid blog thoughts.

In that regard there is an award for you at my blog.

Maria said...

Once when I was talking to a co-worker, I went to comment to her that "you're a genius!"

Except I said, "You're a penis!"

I still cannot believe I said that...

heartinsanfrancisco said...


You are too kind. Thank you so much.


I would love to respond with a really funny comment, but I think you've set the bar too high.

comfortandjoy said...


I am thinking of Alzheimer's in a sick and twisted way, because I am sick and twisted.

Knowing this about me, and that I never mean any harm, I hope you will give me the benefit of the doubt.

Here goes:

Sometimes I wish we all had a little Alzheimer's. I think I mean, I wish for people freedom from the ordinary meanings of words and the perceptions and prejudices that remain because we choose not to see.

Sometimes I wish for a world turned on its head and people lost and wandering through the wonder of it all. No time for hate.


meggie said...

Growing up, I never heard any prejudice about Jews & was very surprised as an adult when a young man 'confessed' to my BF & I that he was Jewish. We shrugged said "Oh ok" & carried on really liking him.
It wasn't until I was much older that I understood why he had seemed so delighted with our love for him, as a trusted friend.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I wonder if this recession/depression in which people are lost and wandering is serving the same kind of cleansing purpose in that basic survival leaves no time for hate.

I do know absolutely that you never mean harm, and your ideas are always intriguing and often brave.


I understand how your friend felt. I grew up knowing that some would despise me for being a member of a religion my family didn't even practice. It's possible that my ecumenical spirit came from not being trained in any religion, but as a child, I would have liked to identify in a positive way with a particular group. Any one would have done.

Cecilieaux said...

Until your blog, I didn't realize people still said -- let alone thought -- things like that. So discouraging!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I was shocked, too. It's right up there (down there?) with the "n" word.

We are all capable of better.

Anonymous said...

Oh my. I actually don't hear that particular prejuduce here much, probably from people's lack of exposure. Most of the xenophobia is directed at Hispanic people (who are somehow all lumped into "Mexicans.") But it is equally ugly and nonsensical. I find that peopl will talk a good game about being "Christian" and entirely miss the hypocrisy of their own hatred and intolerance.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I remember how much prejudice there was against "The Mexicans" when I lived in the south, along with the usual garden variety other brands. All forms of bigotry are exceedingly ugly and stupid. The world would be so boring if everyone were the same.

Voyager said...

Flip has the right idea, eat all the Nazis. He is brilliant in his own way!

The CEO said...

The more things change, the more bigotry seems to stay with us. I have nothing smart to say, because bigotry is so stupid. Sorry, I have nothing better to say.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


As are you, for this comment!


Yes, I'm kind of DUMBfounded, too.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...


I'd have had to take them down, but you are right, and wise, and it shouldn't be done that way.

It wouldn't have ended well for anyone.


Perhaps fate will turn it around, the two little ones will grow up hating the prejudice that they were around and be the ones to make a huge difference and change it in some wonderful way.

It could happen.
I'm nothing at all like my parents, and that's a God blessed good thing.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Believe me, I wanted to. But Flip would have had to defend me because he is male and bigger, even though I am tougher, and that's not fair.

As you say, it wouldn't have ended well for anyone.

But maybe those babies will disgrace their parents by growing into open-hearted people who judge others on their merits. It could happen.

Warty Mammal said...

I've been pondering this since you first posted it. I wish I knew a tad more about human history and whether, say, chimpanzees also exhibit signs of prejudice. I think that we humans are hardwired to classify and to notice differences, and that at one point it was vitally important to survival. I.E.: is that a stick or a snake? Is that the type of berry that is edible or the type which made Ogg turn green around the gills the other day? And from there, we extended the idea of classification to our fellow humans: good hunters vs. bad hunters. Those who wipe their butts with tissue vs. cleaning with water. Dark-skinned vs. pale-skinned.

Is it necessary, though, to associate differences with negative notions such as inferiority or the other party being a barbarian? I would like to think not, but there seems to be a powerful trend in that direction.

I do think that prejudice is actively nurtured by certain political groups, religious groups, and other organizations. If one can distract the masses from facts and keep them angry against groups - "welfare mothers", for example, a thinly veiled term for "undeserving black/brown person who we shouldn't have to provide services to" - then the masses can be more readily manipulated. In fact, the masses can even be manipulated into voting and advocating for things which aren't in their bests interests. It's like chickens voting for Colonel Sanders.

I would like to think that prejudice isn't or needn't be a necessary part of the human experience and that it will someday end. However, barring an exterior third party we can all gang up on, such as multi-tentacled aliens who come to steal our wimmin, that is probably unlikely.

I'm sorry for your crappy experience with the racist dickheads. Alas, their kids will probably grow up suckling at the teat of racism, and will think nothing of it unless they learn to think.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


While there may indeed be survival-linked hardwiring to distinguish between self and others, I find it most discouraging that in thousands of years, we have not progressed enough to be more discriminating about well, discrimination.

In my opinion, the chickens usually do vote for Colonel Sanders. And it does seem likely that in the absence of a common enemy which is perceived as more different than we humans are from each other, prejudice will remain a part of the human experience forever.

The incident I reported was not aimed at me. The dickheads had no idea that one of "those people" was within earshot, and I would have been as incensed if they had badmouthed any ethnic group; it just happened that their particular target was mine.

I fear for their children, and for all children who are taught to hate before they learn to think.

On a limb with Claudia said...

"In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up."

I've been thinking about this quote a lot lately. It hung by on the wall of a therapist I saw. I think it had more impact on me than the treatment.

I'm sorry you had to deal with that

heartinsanfrancisco said...


That chilling little poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller never fails to have an impact, no matter how many times I encounter it.

As for having to deal with cretins, even from afar, I am more concerned with such attitudes being passed on to impressionable children than offending me as I already know they are stupid.