Have we all become judges of our fellow man’s actions or has it always been this way? Is today’s instant, in our face world of communication, anything we express or sometimes just think about travels around at lightening speed. I was thinking about this as I was talking to my husband this morning about the grading systems. As he was describing how his compensation depends on surveys sent to his customers, I remembered how a few years back when I returned to school to complete my MA in the Humanities, I continually stressed about grades. Why? For the same reason he does in a way. Maintaining a high grade point average meant scholarship money or in other words a monetary reward for performance. I even had a very animated discussion with one of my professors who consistently gave me high grades then at the end when it mattered, he gave me a B. When I questioned him he told me that he believes a B is ‘excellent’ and he only gives A’s to a very few. He also hinted that he was following certain ‘rules’ and had to ‘spread’ the grades around not to look suspicious. All my complaining and argument about how the grade matters to me because it lowers my overall average and thus it endangers me financially, left him cold. When I checked into going to the department dean to complain, the process was so cumbersome and so weighted in the professor’s favor that I did not pursue it.
So what’s going on here? In TJ’s case, the bar is continuously raised with the claim that outstanding customer service is a corporate goal. But the lack of fairness becomes an excuse not to reward. By being judged on items beyond his control, he’s playing on an uneven field. The fact that the freeway is under construction and will be for another 3-4 years and makes his place of work difficult to get to puts people in a bad mood. Also he shouldn’t be held responsible for the appearance of the showroom or the behavior of other employees, all beyond his control. These impediments to proper compensation are simply excuses not to pay. I’m sure that my professor did not make the connection between his B and my fear of not getting scholarship money, but by following a script which told him how many of each grades he should award, he was complicit in a larger scheme.
Grading or judging starts very early in life. We are measured, weighed and examined, then put into categories which determine everything from how much we should be fed to how tall we should grow. If we don’t fit neatly into the boxes that were arbitrarily drawn by unknown interests, than we get more labels. Our level of intelligence is tested and retested then graded and if acceptable we get to travel the ‘right’ path to success. This system is so ingrained in our psychies that we follow like sheep never stopping to question, only striving to fit in. And those who try to question are considered trouble makers and admonished in short order. Is it any wonder that cheating is rampant even by those who are put in charge to educate. When ‘success’ is dependent on unrealistic judgement, rebellion is not far behind especially when one’s livelihood is at steak.
Fitting into a group or tribe based on judgement by consensus helped us survive and evolve into today’s societies of nations. However, as evidenced by todays worldwide conflicts, our inclination to judge has reached a dangerous level. At the root of all disagreement is a propensity to categorize, to blame, to revenge, and ultimately to possess: the haves against the have nots.
So how can we ease up on being judgmental, on grading everything and everyone? By starting small. We may not be able to stop wars but we can change the grading system. We may not be able to get Republicans and Democrats to love each other, but we can entice businesses to be less greedy by boycotting their products. We may not be able to do away with the boxes we’re all supposed to fit in, but we can support the outliers who want to walk the path of unconformity and who, given the freedom to do so, will save humanity’s future.