Elizabeth (greyautumnrain) wrote,

There are two types of people in this world...

The funniest joke I ever heard was, "There are two types of people in this world, those who divide everyone into two types of people and those who don't."

Maybe you had to be there. Or maybe you had to be me. My point in relaying the gem is how natural it seems to be for people to split everyone into two types on just about everything. Of course we know the truth is much more complex, but it seems like the need to simplify to two types is irresistible. I find it irritating.

This was triggered by the discussion to harrock's post, but it's fairly tangential.

The whole liberal/conservative labeling system really irritates me. I don't consider myself to be either. It's just too simplistic. Basically, I believe some stuff. I have good reasons for believing the stuff I believe. I have no problems with the stuff I believe, but it seems to cause the labelers great confusion. Ask me about my views on abortion, gay rights, or religion and the "liberals" will be firmly convinced that I am one of them while the "conservatives" will either shake their head in sorrow or go out in search of firewood depending on their inclination. Ask me about my views on most things military, economic, or having to do with social programs and the "conservatives" will probably be nodding in agreement while the "liberals" will wonder what rock I crawled out from under. That is one of the reasons I abstain for any sort of politics. Every election is a choice between two candidates, both of whom are dead wrong (as I see it) on at least half the issues. There is also the fact that I wouldn't trust any of them any further than I could comfortably throw them in my current not-allowed-to-lift-heavy-objects-like-fat-politicians condition, but that's getting a bit off topic.

I think most of my friends actually identify themselves as liberals. I'm sure they don't think that they are just blindly going along with the whole liberal set of views. They mostly believe the things "liberals" believe, maybe differing on some stuff. Then human nature comes into it. Because they believe mostly liberal stuff, the two-types-of-people sorting puts them in the liberal bucket, and my impression has been that for the most part they accept the bucket. Of course people tend to gravitate towards like-minded people, so they end up mostly listening to other people in that bucket. The other people they know in the bucket tend to be reasonable, intelligent, well-educated people, so it's easy to believe that reasonable, intelligent, well-educated people just think that way, and the people who don't think that way probably don't have those characteristics. And then there's me. I'm intelligent and well-educated. I also think I'm reasonable, mostly. My friends know that I'm a pro-choice heathen, and I get the feeling that based on these things they assume that I am largely in the same bucket too. Sure, if they talk to me, they might get hints that I have some pretty abnormal views on a few issues compared to the rest of my social crowd, but my impression is that those differences are subconsciously dismissed. I'm just like them, but with a few quirks in my world-view that make me a tad odd.

The thing is, I am not in their bucket. I am not in the other bucket either. I am no where near either bucket. I'm sure that some of my friends will protest that they aren't really in the bucket either, but I wonder if they see the side effects of being not in the bucket as much as I do.

I run a pen and paper roleplaying campaign set in a fantasy world of my own devising. It occasionally provides some rather frustrating examples of how my basic assumptions about things are radically different than those of my players, or at least most of my players. Now obviously, the players are free to roleplay their characters as being more liberal than the rest of society, especially when they have a good excuse like playing a character from a more liberal culture, but there are still numerous incidents where the players seem to completely not understand the default assumptions of the culture their characters have supposedly been living in for the past N years because those assumptions more closely match mine than they do those of the players. A couple of months ago there was a situation where a player character found out some hints about a covert military operation that they king was conducting through a prophecy affliction she picked up through a rather badly botched magic ritual. She then goes and gets an audience with the king, explains a bit about her odd prophecy tick, and then proceeds to spend a lot of time fishing for information about the covert military operation, basically hinting heavily that the king really should tell her about it. I had the king be pretty tolerant of this, partly because I see him as a reasonable guy who knows the player characters are useful people, and partly because I do cut my players some slack (probably too much) because they are operating in a culture that is not what the players are used to. On the other hand, the king of course refused to give any information about an ongoing covert military operation to the player character. Afterwards there was much talk about how unreasonable the king was. It wasn't clear how much of the talk was in character, but I was definitely left with the impression that most of the players (not just their characters) thought the king's point of view was unreasonable. By extension this meant that they thought my point of view was unreasonable. I think this is because they have this basic assumption that sharing information is always good, and people generally have a right to know things. It's not an assumption that I share. My point of view is that military secrecy has value, and there are definite limits to the details that people have the right to know. This whole thing was magnified for me personally because the run this happened in occurred just after the story about Prince Harry being in Afghanistan broke, and I was rather irritated by that situation. Reporting the whereabouts of an individual soldier is not OK in my book, no matter who he is, but the people doing so just assume that the 'right to know' trumps all, or at least covers them while they make money off it. I don't think the parallel occurred to any of the players. I also don't think it occurs to my players sometimes when they are discussing (often at the player level, not the character level) how unreasonable this or that NPC may be that I think the NPCs position is more reasonable than their own. I don't think it occurs to them that sometimes the logical conclusion from the meta-level discussion is that my players think my point of view on things is entirely unreasonable, and it's frustrating because having come up in the context of the game it's tough to have a discussion about it without sounding like I'm telling they how they ought to play their characters, when instead I'd like them to realize that perhaps they have certain assumptions not necessarily shared by everybody and that are a minority view among the inhabitants of my little fantasy world. It happens in the real world two, people make assumptions that they aren't even aware of, but seeing it in the fantasy setting makes it all the clearer to me.
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