“Okay,” I said.
“In this world, you’re going to have to deal with four kinds of people. If you learn to recognize them, and know how to manage them, life will be easier for you.”
“Okay,” I repeated, intrigued.
“First, let me make sure you understand that these four aren’t all the kinds of people there are. There are others that don’t fall in these categories. The categories I’m going to tell you about don’t include children, invalids, the extremely old, those with extreme mental or physical ailments, the homeless, etc. Those are people out there, too, but I’m not talking about them. I’m also largely talking about people in the contemporary industrialized western culture. There are certainly people in non-western cultures, indigenous peoples, tribal people who live and think in very different ways from us in the industrialized west. They are out there, too, of course, but for the most part, we in the west don’t tend to run into them a whole lot. I’m talking about the types of people that you will largely have to deal with in your life. You understand?”
“Okay,” I said. “I got it.”
“So,” he said, “there’s four types of people you’ll run into. First, there’s people who are only out for themselves. They’ll do anything for themselves, and nothing for you. They don’t care about you. What matters to them is that they win. And they’ll run over you if you get in their way. There’s always going to be people like that, and they’ll be present more often than you realize. You can find them on the streets, on the sports field, or in the boardroom. Don’t think you can get them on your side, or that you can change them. All you can do is learn to recognize them, and do what you can to protect yourself.”
“I actually know plenty of people like that,” I said.
“The next type,” he said, “is the people who are committed to following the rules. It doesn’t matter what the rules are, it just matters that they are followed. It could be religious rules, or it could be legal rules, or it could be social rules. There are all sorts of different sets of rules out there, and for each one, you can find these types of people obeying them. They are true believers, unwavering in their devotion to their set of rules. They will not alter their commitment to what they know as the one true path. Anyone who is not on board with their belief is, to them, a heretic who must be corrected. There is nothing you can do to reason with them, or get them to alter their view in any way. All you can do is learn to work with them, in their unvarying, unyielding beliefs.”
“Huh. I know many people exactly like this, too,” I said, impressed with what he was spinning for me.
“Then,” he said, “there are the people who believe in progress and improvement and achievement. These people see the story of mankind as an upward trajectory, continually improving, getting better. They believe in scientific progress, that man has applied logic and reason to the world and has improved the lot of humanity, and will continue to do so. They will tell you that science and technology are boons to humanity, economic growth is always possible, and that personal achievement and improvement are desirable goals.”
“Hm,” I said, thinking about it. “I do know many people like this, too.”
“And,” he continued, “there are people who are concerned about the health and stability of the systems of the world. From these people we have environmentalism, civil rights, social justice, women’s rights, psychology, animal rights, postmodernism, the new consciousness movements, etc. They are concerned about the health of the systems, and they are putting their efforts toward correcting injustices and practices that cause harm.”
“Yeah,” I said, “I do know people like that, too.”
“These are, for the most part, the people who are out there. It’s in your interests to learn how to recognize them, and how to deal with them when you come across them. A lot of problems come up when we’re trying to get someone to change, or be a different way from what they are. Your life will be a lot easier once you give that up, and work with people as they are.”
The highest result of education is tolerance.
- Helen Keller