The prisoner and the imprisoner.
Often when we meet people, even people we are familiar with we view them through a mesh of preconceptions.
When it is a new person there are certain judgements attached to the style of clothing they wear, the colour of their skin, their gender and sexual preference.
When it is someone we are already familiar with the mesh is constructed out of our memories of their previous behaviour and beliefs.
These preconceptions or judgements go on to colour and distort our view of the other. In the case of the stranger it distorts our view of who they are now; and – funnily enough – in the case of the person with whom we are familiar it distorts our view of who they are now too.
It can be especially pernicious in the case of the person we are familiar with because it doesn’t allow us to see them change – which they inevitably do – and even if it does the mesh attempts to maintain itself by making out that this change is “bad” or pathological.
Often we say of someone who changes or rather someone who has the courage and is able to express that change that “They are going insane.”
Imagine the case of a stranger. Before I introduce you to this person I tell you “John is a very clever man!”
Now we meet John and John says: “The grass is green!”
Due to the fact that I have told you that “John is a very clever man!” you may interpret this statement as something profound but because you are not a “very clever man” you just can’t understand it.
Now imagine I had instead of telling you “John is a very clever man!” I had told you “John is an incredibly stupid man!”
How would this change your interpretation of John’s statement?
You would think it as something typical for a very stupid person to say. You wouldn’t see or think there were any profundity in the statement. You would just dismiss whatever John had to say without really even listening to it because I – part of the “Them” and considered an authority on John because I know him and you don’t – had told you John was stupid.
The collage at the top of this post was an image that popped into my imagination whilst I was at work pondering the nature of the Them – or in common parlance society, social relations and social norms.
I constructed the hexagonal mesh out of “Y” shapes because I have given that shape the symbolic meaning of the simple sentence. “She is stupid” “She” is the subject and is the left line of the “Y”; “is” is the verb (in this case a copula) and is the downward line of the “Y”; “Stupid” is the adjective and is the right line of the “Y”.
This mesh is a real world phenomena that imprisons us all.
It doesn’t just imprison the person who is looked at through it but it also imprisons the person who looks through the mesh.
We even use it as a prison in which to place ourselves when we attach significance to things we say about ourselves.