Marie Antoinette didn’t say “Let them eat cake.”
I know the quotation attributed to Marie Antoinette is in error and she almost certainly did not say it or anything like it. (Check out the many Internet references about the infamous non-quote.) However, it has taken its place in history as an example of supreme ignorance about the reality of a situation. It also is an example of thinking that one’s own reality is the only one there is. We can benefit from being careful about expressing opinions and judgments based on our own realities, when we are ignorant of the reality of others.
“Why do they have babies if they can’t feed them?” I recall, with embarrassment, when I was a very young woman and heard a missionary speak about starving children in a war-torn African country. The slides were horrific and then–as now–it was gut-wrenching and heartbreaking to see the despair in the eyes of mothers and children. Later I talked to the speaker and said, (I blush to admit it), “Why do they have babies if they can’t feed them?” He looked at me with disgust and I hope some pity, and said, “Well, very young lady from Kansas, first, they have no way to prevent conception except abstinence and second, they have no choice about abstaining. They don’t ‘get pregnant’ they are impregnated. Your comment shows how far you are from understanding the problem.”
That ignorance on my part, as well as other personal examples, is one of the many reasons I truly work at trying to understand the big picture of almost everything. Often there is some aspect of a situation that I have failed to consider and once I consider it I have a different opinion. Often I can at least see there are multiple issues involved and there are no one-sided solutions. It’s one reason I don’t get involved in political discussions or arguments on topics about which I don’t have a lot of knowledge–that pretty much covers most things.
Closed Minds and Ignorant Remarks
“How dare the government interfere with good parenting? Recently I read an article by a writer who was outraged (a word that is certainly overused on the Internet) about an ad campaign in a major city, encouraging women to not have their babies sleeping with them. Commenters wrote of boycotting the city and writing letters to the mayor. One said she was sick and tired of the government interfering with good parenting and she equated it to government agents going door to door to take away our constitutional rights. One said it made her even more determined to co-sleep with her baby. (Good for her, that will teach the government a lesson they won’t soon forget.)
They are ignorant of the reality that not all mothers and fathers are educated about the dangers of suffocation, not all mothers or fathers are sleeping with a caring partner, and not all parents are capable of protecting an infant sleeping with them in a bed or on a sofa or on a mattress on the floor or in the backseat of a car. There had been several infant suffocation deaths in that city within the previous few months and the ads were an effort to protect babies. There was no law about it, merely an effort to educate. The outrage of the writer and commenters is based on their reality of a clean bed with only one or two sober or conscious people in it–and they think everyone lives like that. They need a bigger picture of reality before they boycott the city.
“Why doesn’t he leave us alone and let us do our jobs?” Recently an acquaintance was complaining about his new supervisor’s requirements for various tasks. The requirements sounded absurd to me so I figured there had to be other perspectives the employee wasn’t considering. Sure enough, there were. After he explained what had been going on before the new supervisor arrived, he said he could see why the new supervisor would need to make changes. He still didn’t like all of the changes but he could understand them and work within them. He also decided to communicate more positively with the supervisor so he could share his own views and opinions.
“How can they justify…..?” “Why don’t they…..? (Said about almost anything the angry or frustrated person doesn’t do, doesn’t agree with or doesn’t understand.) Every topic about which one view holds that other views are evil, crazy, stupid or in error, can often benefit from being examined to find other perspectives. There are a few things in this world that are definitely right and wrong but most are not so certain. Challenge yourself, every time you hear outrage, absolute judgments and angry statements that do not consider other views, to look for those other perspectives and at least consider them and the impact they have on the situation.
Then, challenge yourself to purposely avoid the equivalent of saying someone or some group should eat cake, unless you know for sure and with expertise what you’re talking about.