Defense Against Dismissivism

I have not done an exhaustive study on the subject, but it seems to be human nature to simply dismiss people that are not like us. The first lesson in my [almost] adult life was when I was working a summer job between my freshman and sophomore years in college. Looking back, I can see the wisdom in my father’s push to get me a job in a factory environment as a place to learn about human nature and also as an incentive to go back to school in the fall. My task was to simply and repetitively drill holes in cast iron castings and then tap threads in those holes. The best way to describe this dirty job was that it was one of the ones where a man has to wash his hands before using the toilet. I learned that sweating while surrounded by cast iron dust turned to rust on my skin and clothing… and that my mother would not tolerate either in her kitchen. I also learned more about myself that summer than I thought possible.

Being the smart college kid being told what to do by high school dropouts was not something I saw as dismissivism, but after befriending these workers and learning of their lives and families I became ashamed at my original attitude. I also saw them looking at me in a dismissive way. This was their work and they were proud. I was a short timer that would leave at the end of the summer with a little extra cash to piss away when I went back to school. I remember my father’s advice as I went into this situation and it still holds true today. You can do anything you put your mind to doing. You can learn something from everybody. You can put up with any amount of crap for a short period of time if you don’t settle on staying there. Self confidence, listening, and persistence is the enemy of dismissivism.

Later in life those words came back to guide me. One of the worst bosses I ever had gave me one of the most important lessons I ever learned. My youth and arrogance could have blinded me to this message if my father’s guidance had not been parked in my short term memory. I was leading a multi-million dollar project and thought I was attacking the problem from every conceivable angle. I gathered data, accumulated research, and consulted with experts in preparation for the outstanding work that would be the epitome of my life’s work to date… until the boss asked to see what I had written. Disjointed notes and accumulated knowledge was not what he was looking for. I learned that he was not as much interested in seeing the final project as he was seeing a series of drafts leading up to that conclusion. He was so right! All of my research was only bringing me up to speed and he had forgotten more than I would ever learn doing it my way. Lessons learned: You can do anything if you share what you learn and add the knowledge of others. You don’t know it all and never will. Always write something and then edit, because perfection comes in the 67th rewrite or later. The catalyst of dismissivism is trying to be something you aren’t or professing to have knowledge that you don’t have.

Like other forms of prejudice, dismissivism stems from an elevated concept of self or a lesser respect for someone not like us. Maybe sometimes we are right and they are wrong… but how will we ever know for sure if we simply dismiss their thoughts?

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