Here comes the judge!
seen on a button in the 1960’s.
Being the second half of a speech I gave at Toastmasters, with the first half, Part One, archived in July of 2017. (Yes, you can “judge” me as being “slow” in getting around to posting this, but hey, nobody said they wanted a part two, so there!)
Like meeting “the people?”
I’ve heard of tourists who say, “I get off the beaten path, and meet the people.”
In Part One I pointed out that if you want to “meet the locals” when you travel, and strike up a conversation with complete strangers, then it is good to first learn how to do so here at home, before you travel. Incidentally, this is a skill the new recruits for a certain secret service all have to learn, but I don’t think they are explicitly taught: I gather for them it’s “sink or swim.”
Today you’re in luck, no need to drown, because I had think through how to explain this at Toastmasters. Having dealt in Part One with faith (in people and yourself) and the first half of awareness, (of self and others) today we can do the other half of awareness, and then cover willingness.
I try to be aware of my eyes. As in Part One, I like Miranda’s findings that people will talk to you if your eyes are loose and roaming around. I would add that your eyes should ideally be soft and kind. Things are unlikely to work out for you if your eyes are remote or fixed, and you won’t ever strike up a conversation if people see your eyes as dry little coals—too scary!
I suppose there’s a Zen to it: If you are smiling inside and loose inside, then your face will be loose too, and easily prone to smiles, and surely people will respond. It is especially easy for strangers to talk to you if you have excited eyes, thinking: “Wow, I’m a tourist in Britain! Here from exotic Edmonton!” …The question then, for having conversations, is: Are you willing?
Not if you’re in a hurry… or a snob, or an Ugly American. If American tourists seem crabby about how the “little natives” are not as good and sensible as Americans, well, I think I know the reason. Americans will tend to seem ugly, or at least “not safe and supportive,” when they have a very rigid view of the world. If people are know-it-alls, thinking, “My way or the highway,” then they tend to be threatened by anyone different. Like wearing a Here comes the judge button. Better for them to avoid strangers. They may seem crabby not just abroad, but even in their own hometown. Of course I am using “American” as a metaphor for you and me. As I said in Part One, I have my bad days, but on my good days I try to be willing to listen and talk as I come across new people.
Perhaps willingness is like art or literature. Someone told me the best way to read is to do so without judging, just accept it all as you are reading, then turn on the judgment and reflection after you put the page down: You are less likely to miss out that way. As an old grandmother said: “Live and let live.” A variation: “Accept others, and have self-acceptance.” In a way, strange adults are a bit like children and dogs: They know when you can’t accept them—you reveal yourself when you can’t listen well.
For my toastmasters speech it amused me to wear my Doctor Who T-shirt, and present this scenario: Suppose, on the Royal Mile, I am conversing with a stranger who says, “You Americans, on your TV, you have way too much crazy science fiction.” I could get defensive and say, “I’m Canadian.” I could, if I lacked boundaries, misinterpret that my ego was being attacked, and then counter-attack: “Oh ya? Well, see this T-shirt? Doctor Who is British!” Or maybe I could be accepting, point a friendly thumb at my T-shirt and laugh, “Ya, we keep showing a man who flies through space in a crazy blue box, no bigger than a phone booth…” … or, my final scenario, I could at least wait until I walk away, and only then switch on my judgment, bending forward to mumble with comical resentment. (Fun to act out on stage at Toastmasters)
Are you willing to be interested in the world? Then the world will be interested in you. Are you bored? Then let’s face it, you are a bore. It never hurts to store up a few lively factoids to share. Earlier I mentioned faith. My belief? People want the same human contact I do. But maybe not factoids. To me, a good life-style choice is: Always leave strangers and acquaintances feeling better for having met me, never worse. And lastly, if I am momentarily feeling too afraid, one day, to act loving towards an innocent stranger, then I may take heart from the New Testament: Perfect love casts out all fear.
There you have it: You may strike up a conversation using your Faith, awareness, willingness, and spiritual faith too.
Farewell: May the wind always be at your back, may the road go ever onwards, and maybe we’ll meet one day on the Royal Mile.
~The Ugly American civilians, in South Vietnam, nearly all hung around with the urban elite in Saigon. Hence they were so useless at understanding how to converse with the vast majority of Vietnamese, ordinary rice farmers, to “win their hearts and minds” for teaching them to choose democracy over communism. In Iraq the Americans repeated their history by clumping together in the isolated Green Zone, which had the payoff for them: They didn’t have to understand or respect Iraqis.
As I see it, for success meeting people overseas, before you travel, try to at least practise being less rigid and more respectful at home. As for the fiasco of Iraq: Because of inappropriate screening, which kept out democrats with years of experience nation building in Yugoslavia, many of the Americans working in Iraq were republican-party members who couldn’t even bring themselves to respect democrats, their own fellow Americans.
~Speaking of (Doctor Who T-shirt) boundaries, I’ll be glad when American Muslims go into social work and then teach other Muslims about “boundaries.” And teach them about “victim role” too. Every time I hear “Islam is under attack” I see a flashing neon sign: victim-victim-victim. A healthy democracy, of course, requires citizens to feel a sense of “agency.”
When Muslims in, say, Pakistan bomb to, as they say, make their country “more unstable” what they mean is to make their fellow Pakistanis feel “less agency” …because then people are less likely to resist a new dictator. History shows us that every dictator, —Nazi, communist, militarist, Islamist—without exception, always turns his country towards having fewer human rights and more fundamentalism. As in, “more Islamist.”Yes, the ignorant Islamist suicide bombers do at least know this much.
~Of course, sometimes immaturity, such as Sunnis hating Shiites, has a payoff, so we cling to it. At breakfast some of us were telling writer Lois McMaster Bujold how folks from the cities of Edmonton and Calgary, here in Alberta, in their broad inter-city competition, would rather the national Grey Cup was won by “a team from Mars!” than by their fellow Albertan city. Lois burst out, “It sounds like sibling rivalry to me!”
“(Blushing) Yes, well (cough).”