The Natural Wisdom of Children
I often reflect upon the humorous and pithy schoolyard sayings of my childhood. Many of them were brilliant one-liners that could pack a punch in an argument, and yet also could make you laugh. And they were tough comebacks, which gave your assailant little to say in response. In addition, they often rhymed and were also a lot of fun to say. For example, try saying this one: “I’m rubber and you’re glue, what you say bounces off me and sticks to you!”
It provides a funny visual image, of your attacker’s words flying through the air, bouncing off your forehead or belly, or whatever piece of anatomy you choose, and then twirling back and smacking your accuser right between the eyes. But it also expresses a powerful truth about accusations in general; that very often the person who is making the accusation is actually guiltier of what they are saying, than you are. It is a simple child’s statement that reveals the deeper psychological phenomena of ‘projection’, which most of us today have heard of and know a bit about.
Projection is a common human tendency to ascribe to other people the things within ourselves that cause us discomfort or shame. It is a defense mechanism, which people employ to shift the blame they feel, outward, to make themselves feel better, to shift attention away from themselves towards others, in order to find peace and freedom from the uncomfortable feelings they have inside themselves, which they aren’t able to deal with in a healthy way.
Another great saying we often used as kids, which also expresses an understanding of human projection was: “It takes one to know one!” This little statement could stop bullies in their tracks, back in the day. It immediately put them on the defensive, and I remember the joy I felt as I watched them struggle to come up with their next line of attack, after I threw that little gem at them. Sure, it was a bit childish, but we were children!
In today’s world, accusation, slander, and shaming are rampant, and they are all practiced with dizzying regularity, in order to stop debate and make people stay silent. And of course, to make the ones lobbing the accusations feel better about themselves, in classic projectionist fashion. And these accusations are made with such regularity and such predictability that they are losing all meaning, and are themselves very childish. Take for example a recent accusation by a sitting Prime Minister, that a member of the Canadian Parliament was a Nazi sympathizer, however, she herself is a Jewish woman. So a Jew is accused of being a Nazi. Yes, this is the level of intellect that we have sunk to. Or another example, which actually happens quite often now: a black person is accused of being a ‘white supremacist’. That actually defies logic, and is laughable; but then, most of these things do, and are, nowadays.
So what can an intelligent, rational person do to defend themselves against these rampant childish attacks? What can we say in our defense, when they inevitably will call us a ‘racist’! The favorite accusation du jour. It makes no difference to these folks that we have been friends with people of other skin colors since we were kids together on the playground, and we are still friends with them now, and we work together, and we eat together, and we confide in one another, because we love one another. Nevertheless, we are still ‘racists’!—if we don’t say what our accusers want us to say, or do what they want us to do.
First, we must remember that they are most likely projecting their own racism upon us. They are the actual racists, and not us. Keeping that always in mind, the next thing to do is to pull out a time-tested, tried and true response. It will be difficult at first to use it, because we are nice people, and we don’t want to hurt anyone, but it is necessary. These crazy, immature accusations must be stopped! We must fight fire with fire! So, the next time somebody calls you a racist, this is your response: “I know you are, but what am I?!”