How It Manifests:
You're at the store, and you hear an electrical whir behind you. You turn around to find someone with an extreme weight problem waiting for you to sidestep so they can get by and -- shop faster? I don't know, I just always picture them ramping things once they're out of my sight. Depending on your douchebag level, reactions vary. Nice, understanding people won't have any reaction at all. They'll get out of the way and continue their inner debate on ham- or pizza-flavored Hot Pockets. True cocksuckers will film it and put it on YouTube:
And we allow it because fat people are the targets of the last true universally accepted bigotry. They're the one group we can laugh at and not feel like we've done anything wrong.
Why We Do It:
Whether the disabled want it or not, when we see them, most of us feel sympathy. It's a natural reaction, and it can't be helped any more than you can prevent feeling anger and humiliation when you find yourself having to dance in the middle of a fucking Star Wars game. But we only have room for so much sympathy, and when we see someone who's overweight on our precious motorized carts meant for real handicapped people, we get pissed.
Hell yeah, Grandma. You earned that cart. Do a wheelie on that bitch.
In making fun of them, or the opposite of getting mad at them, we're dismissing the fact that they have an actual, real world disability because in our minds their handicap is easily curable. We see their problem solely as one of willpower -- and let's face it, that idea is not totally without merit. The most common cause of obesity is overeating combined with physical inactivity. So when we see them in the store, that assuming side of us is what causes our heart to skip a beat and makes us sprint to the Twinkie section before they get there. And what caused me to write that joke.
We don't see the other factors, like hypothyroidism, Cushing's, depression, poverty ... we just see them as a punchline, because the humor dismisses anything that could make us possibly feel any empathy for them. It's just easier to throw them all into the pot of "lazy, undisciplined eat machines." Hey, if it's their fault, it's not on our conscience.
Look at that piece of shit. Don't you just want to chop off his face?
How It Manifests:
You're at a party, and some genius decides that the best way to entertain a group of people is to start talking about religion or politics. It always starts out the same way: with people explaining their beliefs and ideas in calm, rational voices. But if left unchecked, it quickly devolves into name calling, and before you know it, people are shitting directly into their palms and launching it at each other, screaming, "DIE, INFIDEL!"
Those who resist the urge to join the battle, or simply didn't have enough fiber in their diet, generally end the debate with a condescending "You actually believe that? Huh. That's cute." That one response has successfully blown off every word that anyone has said to them on the subject and lets everyone in the room know "I'm no longer listening to anything you're saying. Right now, while you're speaking, all I hear is the Han Solo song."
Look at him. He's so happy the carbonite is gone.
Why We Do It:
Beliefs aren't just knowledge. They're the software that manages our entire motherboard. Every action, reaction, decision, judgment, plan -- everything we do is determined by that set of rules. It takes decades to program something that complex, and your brain does not like it one bit when someone introduces an idea that tries to rewrite those rules. To your mind, that's like someone trying to hack your operating system to only play videos of Han Solo effeminately dance-battling Lando Calrissian.
I truly think this is how George Lucas originally envisioned Star Wars.
The best defense the human brain has against this is to completely dismiss those external ideas by deeming them too stupid to even allow inside. I am as guilty of this as any person who has ever lived.
It's why we look at powerful or famous people and slap that label on them when they do something we just flat-out don't agree with. George W. Bush is a perfect example of that. Regardless of whether or not you disagree with his politics, just blowing him off as "dumb" is about the worst way to debate his worth. Yep, he couldn't speak in public for shit, but he did something most of us couldn't do: graduate Yale, get a business degree from Harvard and become president. Dismissing him as just stupid closes the door on actual conversation about what made him such a huge disappointment in the eyes of the average American.
We do it with everything that's locked inside that core belief system. My atheist friends constantly insult the intellect of my religious friends and vice versa. Liberals and conservatives. Anti-abortion and pro-choice. Pro gay marriage and people who are all like, "Ew, those people touch each others' matching genitals."
I'm just sayin'.
We've been utilizing these dismissals for so long that I think we've lost sight as to what it actually is and what it does to those we use them on. I'd like to say that we should all stop doing it, but I'm not entirely sure that's possible. But at the very least we can catch ourselves doing it, right? Keep your eyes open and see how many times you do it in a week. I think you'd be surprised.
For more Cheese, check out 5 Ways to Avoid Your Terrible Parents' Mistakes and 5 Ways We Ruined the Occupy Wall Street Generation.