This will happen to you. You will be on one side of a conflict that does not feel like a conflict to you, because that is the conflict. Trust me, there's a great chance you'll be oblivious to it until it's too late. Entire governments have fallen this way.
Let me use myself as an example again, so it doesn't come off like I'm accusing anyone:
That's me on the left.
After being raised as an evangelical Christian, I for years assumed that Christianity was the default -- there were Christians, and then there were weirdos. I was shocked when in college I found that some people get offended when you tell them, for instance, that their recovery from surgery was a "miracle." "No," they'd say, "it was actually the result of three months of excruciating rehab, incredibly expensive doctors, and a loving and supportive family who worked extra jobs to pay for it all." I sneered and thought of them as overly sensitive PC hippie atheists, because I never considered how I would feel if, say, a Scientologist insisted that the ghost of L. Ron Hubbard wrote my books for me and that I owed all of my success to him. Enjoy your eternal hellfire, Zooey!
Now check the headlines -- any controversy having to do with gay marriage, or school prayer, or any social hot-button issue involves the group who's in control acting just like I did -- baffled that any other groups are dissatisfied with the "normal" way of doing things ("Oh, so now we can't keep the TEN COMMANDMENTS monument in the COURTHOUSE? But it's ALWAYS BEEN THERE!"). And in many cases, the baffled people don't feel any more malice than the guy did when he left the toilet seat up. My favorite blog in the world gives some great examples where opponents of desegregation or gay marriage have always insisted that they don't hate the group whose rights they're opposing. In many cases, they mean it honestly -- "I'm not angry at anyone, I just want to leave things the way they are. Which incidentally involves me having all of the power."
"I don't know what they're bitching about. Our taxes and health care are just fine."
So Keep in Mind ...
It's easier than you think to find yourself on the wrong side of this in your everyday life. You like to stay in on weekends, your girlfriend/boyfriend likes to go out. After a year or so, they give up and stop trying to get you off the sofa every Saturday. You interpret this as the relationship settling in just how you like it; meanwhile, they're so miserable that they're rehearsing their breakup speech. "But, but ... everything was going great!"
Sure it was. For you. You didn't perceive yourself as being in a position of power because that is the main advantage of power -- that you don't have to think about it. You don't think about money when you're eating at a restaurant. But you sure as fuck think about it when you're too poor to eat.
That's not a cupcake.
And out of all of the pitfalls on this list, this is by far the worst, because it means that you can absolutely make other people hate you without lifting a finger. Hell, you can do it without even knowing it. Which means that, unfortunately, avoiding it requires constant vigilance.
It's exhausting, I know. But hey, at least you'll have fewer people screaming at you.
David Wong is the Executive Editor of Cracked.com and a NYT bestselling author, his long-awaited new novel is about cybernetic criminals and other futuristic shit like that. Pre-order it at Amazon, B&N, BAM!, Indiebound, iTunes, or Powell's. You can read the first seven chapters for free by clicking below:
For more from David, check out 5 Ways Powerful People Trick You Into Hating Protesters and 5 Helpful Answers To Society's Most Uncomfortable Questions.