Now that I have your attention, if you’re here looking for erotic fiction, you’ll have to look elsewhere. If you arrived under false pretenses, I apologize. As interesting as that could be, this blog post is instead going to tackle the dangers of black-or-white thinking.
In today’s culture, you could easily forgive a person for developing the tendency to lump everything into two categories. Our earliest word books are based on “opposites” (short and tall, good and bad) and our earliest stories depend on the most basic of binary classifications (Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, Harry Potter and Voldemort). But don’t make the mistake of thinking that this simplicity falls away after childhood. Binary thinking is prevalent in the way we classify many things as adults. It’s in the way we make health choices (Health food vs Junk food), the way we vote (Liberal vs. Conservative) and in certain religious teachings (Sheep go to heaven, and goats go to hell, right?).
Black or White thinking is probably most obvious in political spheres. Using this kind of classification on people is perhaps one of the most dangerous applications. Some politicians claim that we have to “look after our ‘own,’ before helping immigrants.” Putting people in boxes like this lacks basic empathy and ignores the fact that we are all fundamentally the same and stuck on this planet together.
This type of thinking is also rampant on university campuses, where there is an extreme “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” attitude when it comes to disagreements about speakers on campuses. You can either be a “liberal snowflake” or a “right-wing nut-job.”
The “Us” vs. “Them” mentality is the source for so much hate in this world.
What happened to nuance? What happened to the billion shades of grey in every scenario?
If you have studied logic, you might have heard of the “Black-or-White Logical Fallacy.” Despite our insistence on categorizing everything into tidy little boxes, basic logic defies the simplicity of this strategy. Similarly, if you’ve read up on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, you may be familiar with the cognitive distortion “Black-or-White Thinking.” This distortion reveals our tendency to classify situations in a binary manner, and it is recognized as detrimental to mental health.
Today’s political and social climate is very difficult to explain to children. Heck, I find it difficult to explain to myself. In fact, after the 2016 American election, everything looked extremely black and white to me. It can be incredibly tempting to fall into the trap of framing things in terms of good and evil.
But, if we do see an issue as black or white, right or wrong, an opinion doesn’t define a person’s entire being. When opposing an idea, we can dig deeper. We can try to understand where this challenging idea is coming from, why someone believes what they do, why we believe what we do, and how to find common ground. It’s arguably the best strategy for making the world a more peaceful place.
Voldemort did, after all, have a convoluted back story, and Red Riding Hood’s wolf is a carnivore in the food chain and relies on meat to survive.
I want to figure out how to teach my children about the billion shades of grey. Better yet, I want to teach them about the beautiful, rich, colourful tapestry that makes up this fascinating world.