Stop Demonizing People
By Leo Gura - February 2, 2015 | 69 Comments
Why you are wrong for calling terrorists evil
Hey, this is Leo for Actualized.org, and in this video I want to talk about why you really need to stop demonizing others.
We are going to start off this video with an exercise. You’re going to do the exercise now. I am then going to talk and at the end of the video, I am going to actually tell you how to use this exercise and get a lot of value out of it.
Here is the exercise. In a second, I’m going to pause the video. I will have a blank screen for you. You are going to pause the video and then you’re going to do this.
Get a piece of paper. Then, write “The three people I despise most are…” at the top of the paper. You’re going to write down 1, 2 and 3. Then, you’re going write the names of the people who you despise the most in your life.
By despise, I mean you really don’t like them. They gall you. Maybe you don’t openly despise them. Maybe you secretly despise them and you don’t really admit to yourself you despise this person. Maybe you tell yourself you’re a person who doesn’t think other people are despicable.
Maybe you like everybody. Well, I’m going to tell you that you should be really self-honest in this exercise. Really dig deep and see who the people out there in your life who really gall you are. You’re going to pick three people.
Often, when I say this, people will pick the most obvious and evil examples of people, like Hitler and Osama Bin Laden. That’s people who they despise. I would say to stay away from those, for now. Instead, focus on people who you know a little bit more intimately.
These can be people who you know personally, from your family life, friends or colleagues at work. It might be your boss or a celebrity that you kind of follow but really despise, or someone on TV. Maybe it could be a person from history, just don’t go with the really obvious examples.
I want you to be really accurate here. After you write down these three names, you’re also going to write down one quality for each of these people, which is the despicable quality you really don’t like about them. Each name – one quality!
That’s the exercise. Go ahead and do it right now. Pull out a piece of paper. Pause the video now.
Alright, welcome back! If you’ve done the exercise, then good, put it on the side. You’re going to pull it out at the end of this video and I’m going to tell you what to do with it. Now I’m going to talk about demonizing other people.
This is something that I see and find to be extremely ugly. It’s people demonizing other people. This is something you see a lot more often than you think you would see it. You do this too, which is the relevance of this video to you.
It’s not that other people do it. You do it. It’s interesting. In 10th grade, I had one of the hardest classes that I ever took in my entire schooling career. It was AP European History. There, I had a teacher who was really a hard-assed and hard-nosed and who expected a lot from us.
We worked really hard throughout the entire year just preparing for the AP exam. I struggled in that class the most. I also learned the most in that class. One of the things I really learned in that class is my love for knowledge and philosophy.
That’s what I developed there. At the end of the class, after we would finish with all the tests and stuff, we would get a little time to relax. We would just sit in a circle and the teacher would ask us questions, going around the circle of 30 students or so. We would answer one by one.
We would go around, asking different questions. In this way, we would get to know everybody a little bit better. He asked a very profound question, which I can remember to this day. He asked – “What’s the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen?”
We went around the circle. When it got to me, I said – “Conformity.” At that point, I kind of recognized the evils and dangers of conformity. When I think about that question now, I would have to say that the demonization of other people is even uglier than conformity.
To me, this is one of the ugliest things about human beings, society and the way human beings behave when they are in a group. Fundamentally, this happens because of closed mindedness and lack of self-honesty.
In this video, we are going to go in and talk about where the self-dishonesty is exactly. We’re going to try and open your mind. Open mindedness might sound like an abstract and “woo—woo” concept, but I think that open mindedness is one of the most important things that people are missing.
This is preventing them from doing the higher levels of personal development work that they need to do. This is very important to you. Take this abstract notion and say – “Oh, this is actually important to my life. This actually affects the results I get in my life.”
Why Do We Demonize?
People love to demonize people. The question is, why? Why do people love to demonize other people so much?
Before I answer that, let’s give a little taste of what we mean by demonization and who demonizes who. It’s very common to demonize dictators and bad leaders throughout history, politicians and such. Some examples would be Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, George Bush, Barack Obama or whatever country you are living in.
You may not like the leaders there, or the opposition party. That’s extremely common. Also common to demonize, and this is a little bit closer to home, are parents, siblings, spouses, girlfriends and boyfriends. It’s very common to demonize the other person in this kind of relationship, especially when you aren’t able to get along with them.
Another popular category is to demonize thinkers, philosophers and religious leaders. You could be demonizing the persons themselves, or you could be demonizing their ideas. You can demonize a whole school of thought. You can demonize an entire religion.
This is really common. If you’re a student of history, you know this goes all the way back. Basically, all of history is kind of like an objectiveless demonization, as far as thinkers, philosophers, religions and ideas go.
Also, a little bit closer to home and me, is demonization that happens on the internet. This is super common. People demonize each other in YouTube comments, but that’s just a specific case of the more general problem. People are demonizing each other through network forums or discussions that are happening online.
This is extremely common. What happens with demonization is that you fundamentally create this separation between you and the other person. Basically, when you’re demonizing someone, you’re making a judgment, pointing at that person and saying – “That person is evil!”
For a true demonization to happen, not only are you pointing your finger at that person and saying they’re evil, but you’re also denying the fact that this is a personal judgment of yours. When you really believe someone is evil and you don’t even want to entertain the possibility that it’s false, then that’s what demonization is.
That’s my definition of it. Here is a truth that I want to tell you. If you ever demonize anyone ever in your life and you find yourself doing this, then you’re definitely in the wrong. You, not the other person, but you are in the wrong.
The evil is actually within you, and not that other person. That person might have done something despicable. I’m not saying anything about that. What’s more important is that what you’re doing is despicable.
You might say – “But, no! That person did something really despicable. That’s what the argument is about.” No, the problem is not the other person. The problem is you. You’re the one doing the despicable thing.
What you’re not recognizing there is that you are actually behaving like that person, if they are, in fact, despicable. What you do in these situations is very subtle. This is a very subtle thing that you do because you’re acting to preserve your own ego.
The very fundamental problem with demonization is this. We have this reality that we live in. you might call it a physical reality. We live in this. This reality is very neutral, devoid of meaning and any kind of human additions that we make to it. However, what we do is that we go around and slap labels on things.
We slap labels on objects, people and situations. We do this even to ourselves. We’re always slapping labels on things and we do this with thoughts – with thinking. We slap these labels on with thoughts, and what we are doing is that we’re augmenting reality. We’re going around and augmenting reality.
We’re living in an augmented reality, which is happening in our minds. It’s not happening in some computer science fiction, but in your mind. We’re doing this. The problem is that you forget that you do this. You don’t admit that you do this.
Then, you take these augmentations to be the reality itself. You take them very seriously. This creates a lot of problems for you down the road. Why does this create problems? You end up living in a fantasy of your own creation, without understanding that you’re living in a fantasy.
You confuse this fantasy with the reality. This creates a lot of your emotional suffering in life. People who demonize other people, you might notice that these people aren’t generally happy. It’s not possible for them to be happy because they’re living a falsehood.
This one particular person who they demonize is just one manifestation of how they approach life. In order to demonize someone successfully, you have to augment reality with your own labels. Then, you have to convince yourself that these labels are actually true when, in fact, they are not.
This can only happen when you’re behaving unconsciously. You aren’t really aware of what is going on. You aren’t aware of the manipulation that is happening on the inside – you, manipulating yourself. It’s you, lying to yourself.
You’re kind of cheating yourself. This creates a really fundamental problem in the way that you interact with all of reality. You might think – “Oh, it doesn’t really matter in this case. I think that Hitler is evil. What’s wrong with that?”
Actually and like I said, this is just one symptom of the much deeper problem. The other thing is this. When you separate yourself from the other person you are demonizing, you aren’t able to learn from that other person.
Usually, the reason you demonize someone in the first place is because you actually want to keep from looking at what is there in reality. It’s like a corner of reality that you don’t want to face.
This is what you say to yourself and others. You point that finger and say – “That person is evil.” In so doing, you create this wall and basically say to yourself – “I don’t have to really examine that person, their actions or that corner of reality.”
You basically block it out, ignore it and say to yourself – “That’s purely evil. There is nothing to be learned there. There is no reason in there. There are no valid arguments or points there. It’s just pure evil.”
You can see politicians doing this sometimes. It helps them to avoid from actually having an intelligent and rational argument about a particular situation. If someone wants to ram a policy issue down your throat, the best way to do it is to just say – “Oh, the other opposition party is totally evil. What I’m saying is just correct.”
It avoids having a debate. It avoids from having to make nuanced distinctions. It basically relieves you of the burden of having to seriously consider some other position. Why do people do this? When you have to take into account corners of reality that you haven’t taken into account before, it can be a strenuous and emotionally challenging thing to wrestle with in your mind.
You have cognitive dissonance. In my own life, I personally love the feeling of cognitive dissonance. In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the term when your model of reality comes into contact with actual facts in reality or some other model of it. The two are contradictory, and you can’t figure out how the two can fit together.
In your mind, you suddenly start to question your own model of reality. When this happens, you usually become afraid, angry or feel hurt. This doesn’t happen consciously. It happens subconsciously. You don’t tell yourself you’re angry because your model of reality isn’t accurate in this case.
What happens is that you shut down. You turn your head the other way and you don’t want to look. I’ve always loved the feeling of cognitive dissonance. One of the powers that I have is the ability to go in there, look at something and say – “This isn’t in match with what I’ve got! That’s cool! I like that!”
Then, I can go in and say to myself – “How can I retool my model of reality to match the facts a little bit better?” How can I retune my model so that it may fit with that model? Maybe I can throw my entire model out and take on the other model.
What I see is people not wanting to do this in general. I would say that 99% of people in society do not like this. They always stick their head in the sand, like an ostrich, when it comes to this cognitive dissonance. They are not learning from examples from other people.
This keeps them from honestly and really looking inside themselves. This keeps their ego alive. It keeps their ego going, and this creates more and more problems for them down the road. These problems are so subtle that you don’t recognize these problems are stemming from this lack of open mindedness and demonization that you are doing.
By the way, let’s make a distinction. It’s different to demonize someone and to disagree with them. I’m not saying that you can’t disagree with people. It’s okay to say to someone they’re wrong. Someone can be factually wrong.
Someone can say that when you drop an apple, gravity is going to pull it up instead of down. That would be factually wrong and we can disagree with them on that. That’s fine. The difference is that when you demonize someone, you call that person evil and their ideas evil. Let’s make that distinction clear.
Let’s also make a distinction here. I want to draw a spectrum for you between different levels of judgment and acceptance.
Judgment And Acceptance
On the very far end of the spectrum, the spectrum that you don’t want to be at, is demonization. This is when you do full on and proper demonization. That’s when you’re calling someone evil and you believe that they are actually evil in reality.
You can then move a little closer to the better side of the spectrum, somewhere towards the middle of it. This is what I call judgment and the judgment area. The previous was the demonization area. This is the judgment area.
In the judgment area, this is where you make everyday judgments. Most of us do this a hundred times a day. We might see a person and think they’re ugly. We might read an idea in a book and say it’s a stupid idea. We’re making judgments there and that’s also an augmentation.
They aren’t as strong as demonization because when you’re usually making a judgment, you kind of recognize that your judgment isn’t set in stone. You kind of understand this. “Well, it’s my opinion in this case. I don’t like this idea. Maybe someone else does. I think that person is ugly. Maybe someone else thinks that person is beautiful.”
You make these judgments and make no mistake; these judgments also create lots of problems in your life. I’ve got other videos that talk about that. You can see my judgment video on that. It’s still much better.
Why is it much better? You’re a little bit more open minded. Judgments change. You might say – “I’ve got this judgment here. Maybe I’ll change that. Maybe, a couple of years later, I’ll think that this belief or theory I read in a book might actually be true.”
Your judgment is a little bit more flexible. Then, you move to the very end of this spectrum. When you do that, you come to acceptance. Acceptance is the accepting of reality, exactly as it is, without augmenting it with your labels in any way and without deluding yourself that these labels are real.
This is what you do, even when you judge stuff. When you judge stuff, you still tell yourself that the thing you’re judging and this judgment is actually a part of reality. That’s why you feel bad when you see something ugly or something in your life that you don’t like.
You judge that you don’t like it. You judge a certain situation as being bad for you. You resist it all of the time. The acceptance part of this spectrum is when you accept everything exactly as it is. As you can probably tell, very few people have the psychology that can allow them to do this.
This allows complete openness of mind. You have to be able to accept all of reality, not just the parts of reality that you like personally. That’s really what’s happening here when you’re creating these separations between you and other people or things, through judgments and demonization.
Fundamentally, you’re carving out aspects of reality that you really like. You’re separating them and putting them against aspects of reality that you don’t like. This is personal. You’re just this one organism in the Universe. Just because you don’t like a particular thing doesn’t really say much about reality itself.
Just because you don’t like something, it doesn’t mean that someone else has to agree with you on that. Just because you don’t like something, or you think something is good, bad or evil, it doesn’t make it actually so. This is a distinction that you have to draw in your mind.
It takes a lot of intellectual honesty and self—honesty to admit this. It already requires a lot of open mindedness to admit this. Many people don’t want to go there. Let’s take Hitler as an example.
You might say – “But Leo, what about someone like Hitler? Isn’t this person truly evil? I understand that we sometimes go overboard. We judge people. I do it to. Sure, I’ll admit that. Leo, you just have to admit that some people are just truly evil.”
What I’m telling you in this video is no. I’m not going to admit that. In fact, what you need to do is come around and see that it’s not the case at all. The people who you think are truly evil are not really that. That’s a judgment you make.
That’s a judgment you make based on certain beliefs and preference you have. Even your position in this world, as a life form and human being, already predisposes you to think that certain things are evil and certain things are not. You tend to automatically label as evil anything that threatens your life.
If you think about it more objectively, what does that have to do with reality itself? What does reality care? What does the Universe care about your life? It doesn’t really care about it at all. Something that threatens your life on a social level, you will say that it’s evil.
If it’s on a personal level, you’ll say you definitely don’t want that in your life. You don’t want to get killed. That would be a bad thing. You have to recognize that this is a subjective judgment. Even the most heinous crime you can imagine, like you would say Hitler is a heinous criminal, you still have to see the larger picture of it.
There Is No Good And Evil
In the big picture of it, in the ultimate and objective picture, actions are never good or evil. Actions are simply actions. They are exactly what they are without your addition of judgment on top of them. You can see that the addition of judgment happens in your mind.
You can actually sit down and notice the judgment happening. It’s a story that’s being told in your mind. It’s a story! A lot of people get offended by this. “Hitler is evil! How can you say he isn’t evil?” It takes a big and open mind to be able to reason about these things objectively.
One little clue that you can use, and you can use this as a rule of thumb as you go through life and develop yourself, is that in any situation where you get easily offended, that’s weakness of mind on your part. That’s a smallness of mind on your part.
That’s not the situation’s problem. That’s not my problem. If you get offended, that’s your problem. Getting offended means this. You’re upset because the reality is something other than what you want it to be. You want to live in a fantasy, but then you come into contact with reality and reality is different than a fantasy.
You tell yourself Hitler is truly evil. No, Hitler is a part of reality. You want to deny that this part of reality exists and you want this part of reality to not exist. You want it to not have existed. It exists. It existed in the past.
You can say it shouldn’t have existed. We can have a long debate about that. I would agree with you. I would probably say it’s a good idea that it didn’t exist. Nevertheless, it existed. It doesn’t really matter what you think about reality. Reality could go the opposite to everything you want it to be like.
You can live a life where everything is against you. Everything is against you. Everything wrong happens to you. That wrongness is still happening from your point of view. In a larger point of view, there is no wrongness being done.
It’s just life, living itself. Who are you to say how life is supposed to run? It’s very arrogant of you to presume that you know the right way for life to run. Isn’t it interesting that when you have ideas about how life should run, it’s always about you?
It’s always about you. It’s always about how your life can be a little bit sweeter or a little bit richer, more secure, comfortable or nicer. How convenient of you, to expect that reality should form itself to what you desire and what feels nice to you. We have to get very real about this stuff.
When you’re demonizing other people, what you’re really doing is that you’re blocking off parts of reality. This is a deep mistake, because reality is actually neutral. Your mind creates a separation because at the very bottom and root of it, you need to feel like an entity and like a self.
To feel more like a self, you construct enemies around you in the environment. You construct problems. You do this not only with people, but you do this with situations too. You construct these enemies, problems and challenges because you feel like there is something here that needs to be protected. This is what we call the ego or the self.
That’s you, right now. We can point your finger at you. Go ahead and nod your head right now. That’s you. That is what I’m talking about. That entity that you think is experiencing this life and that owns this life of yours, it feels like it needs to be protecting itself all of the time.
It needs to feel real. It needs to feel solid. You might say – “Leo, it feels solid already. Why would it need to feel solid?” This is another deep point that I’m going to cover in other videos, especially my spiritual enlightenment videos. Actually, it’s very hollow at the center of it.
The Ego Is A Hollow Illusion
It’s an illusion. It feels extremely real and solid, but it’s actually a hollow illusion. To keep this hollow illusion from unraveling itself, more and more layers of ego get layered on top. These layers are extremely tricky and self-deceptive.
In practice, this means you go through your life creating separations so that you can feel like you’re in a fight to survive life. You’re in survival mode. When you’re in survival mode, it makes the ego feel alive and real, even if it’s a negative situation or you’re scared, threatened or angry.
You might say – “But Leo, I don’t want that in my life!” Actually, you do want that in your life on some level. This is because it creates a stronger sense of self. You feel alive when you do that. You feel significant. You feel like a somebody.
It builds up your story of self that you’ve been building up your entire life. What would happen if we removed that story entirely and shattered it to pieces? You don’t want to consider that possibility. If you actually sit down and seriously consider that possibility, it’s going to scare you shitless.
You don’t know what life would be like without you. You don’t imagine this is possible or desirable. You cling to your ego. You attach yourself to certain situations in life and you deny other situations in life. You demonize people. That’s where the demonization comes from.
You create enemies. You point your finger at people and situations out in life and you make enemies of them. It actually allows you to create a partition this way, because of the evil you sense in people. If you think Hitler is evil, that’s actually the evil within you.
Do you understand that? That’s an evil within you because you’re feeling it, right? It’s in your mind. What you do to deny that is you point your finger at him and you externalize it. You project it to something out there and say – “Me, I’m here and Hitler’s over there. There is a separation between us so what he is, isn’t a part of me.”
Actually, he is you. You’re denying this and you aren’t accepting this. You’re not allowing this. This is intolerable because your world view doesn’t allow for this possibility. Your world view is based on your entire ego.
Your world view is based around the idea that you are a separate entity from the rest of reality. This turns out to be a complete falsehood. You’re living in falsehood all the time. At this point, you might wonder – “Well Leo, this is getting very deep and profound, but how does this connect to my everyday existence?”
Well, you’re living this falsehood all the time. You’re not accepting reality as it is. You can’t even sit down right now and be happy in the moment. If I tell you to sit right now, close your eyes and just sit in silence for 10 minutes, you won’t be able to do it.
You’re not going to be happy. You’re going to be frustrated and agitated. Why is it the case? The ego needs to be in motion all of the time. It’s like a shark. If it’s not swimming through water, it’s going to suffocate and die. It needs to be swimming to oxygenize itself.
Motion needs to be created. Separation and enemies need to be created. Problems need to be created. Because of this, you can’t just sit and be inside of reality, as it is. Reality is exactly the way it is right now, no matter what you think about it, what you like or don’t like about it, whether it’s favorable or not favorable to you and whether your life is in danger or not. It doesn’t matter.
This doesn’t matter on the grand scale of things, because that’s reality. We live in a reality where life can be in danger. We live in a reality where you can die tomorrow. That’s just reality. We live in a reality where there are murderers and rapists.
We live in a reality where there is charity being done and acts of kindness. We live in a reality where there is hatred. We live in a reality where we have acts of terrorism. We live in a reality where we have ignorance, bigotry and racism. We live in a reality where we have scientific enhancements.
We live in a reality where we have lies and falsehoods. We live in a reality where we have countries like the United States and the European Western countries, which are advanced. We live in a reality where we have undeveloped countries and countries that are kind of still stuck in the Dark Ages, like North Korea or certain countries in the Middle East and that part of the world.
We live in a reality where we have poverty, extreme richness and extreme abundance. We have all of these polar opposites and extremes within reality. That’s just a part of reality. What you want to do is say that all this stuff on this side, all the poverty, murder, rape and genocide, is evil.
However, to say that, you are saying that it’s a part of reality that you don’t want. You’re trying to live in a fantasy, and not the real reality. Because of this, you are unable to just literally sit and be happy. There is always something about reality you wish was otherwise.
Do you see that? That is very deep. It doesn’t just apply to extreme situations like genocide, rape and murder. It applies to the things that are happening in your day—to—day existence. Tomorrow, you’re going to wake up and things are going to be happening in your life that you wish they weren’t there.
You wish you didn’t get that email. You wish your boss didn’t yell at you. You wish your wife was a little nicer to you. You wish your husband would kiss you in the morning or at night. You wish all these things. What you are doing there is living in a fantasy.
Because of this, you can’t sit and be happy. There is always something you wish would come in and secure your happiness. Well, that’s never going to happen. It’s never going to happen! You have to start to understand that these enemies you’re creating out of your husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, political figure or whoever and even impersonal situations in life like money problems, business bankruptcy and similar, are internal enemies that you are externalizing to prevent yourself from doing the real work on the inside.
This is why it’s the ugliest thing. Ugly is a judgment. This is why this is the ugliest thing that I have seen. It’s because people demonize and are close minded. It’s because people judge that they keep themselves in an unconscious cycle.
They are never able to develop themselves above all of these problems. If you develop yourself long enough, what you recognize is that these problems were all created in your mind. These problems can dissolve. That’s the positive message here.
It might sound like everything I’m saying is being depressing because I’m forcing you to accept a reality which seems negative to you. Actually, when you accept all of reality, you don’t see it as accepting the negative aspects of reality. What you do is remove the distinction between good and evil entirely.
Contrary to what you think right now, when you remove that distinction, all of reality actually becomes sweet, even what you think right now is evil and despicable to you. You open yourself up to it and it actually isn’t as despicable and sour tasting as you thought it was.
At that point, when you do that and move totally to acceptance, you might think – “Leo, I don’t want to be totally in acceptance.” Well, you don’t want to be because you’re unconscious right now. When you actually develop a little bit of consciousness, you realize you want to be in acceptance.
Why do I want to be in acceptance? I want to because I want to be happy, no matter what life is doing. I can’t really control life. A lot of stuff in life happens outside of my control. What I can do is strengthen myself enough to literally be happy with whatever is going on.
To do that, I need an extreme openness of mind. I need to stop demonizing other people and situations. I need to take responsibility for the inner demons that I have, rather than projecting them all out to the world. What do you think terrorism is about?
Where do you think terrorism comes from? It comes from a demonization. Where do you think the other side is coming from? The American government, the European governments, the wars created there and all of this tension happening with terrorism – where do you think the other side is coming from?
That’s also coming from the demonization. You might say – “Terrorists are really evil!” The people who are against the terrorists are also evil. Why are they also evil? They are projecting their demons out to the terrorists. They are not facing them on the inside.
This is a big problem. This is a big problem for you, personally and in your life, but your personal problems expand out and create all the social problems that we have. All the social problems that we have come from this demonization and closed mindedness that we are talking about here.
Back To The Exercise
In wrapping this up, let’s go back to that exercise you did. This is what I want you to do now. I want you to take out that piece of paper with those three people who you despise. At the top of the paper, you had something written like “These are the three people who I despise the most”.
I want you to cross that whole phrase out, right now. I want you to write “These are the people qualities that I will work to accept and integrate into my life”. Then, your job is to work to integrate this into your worldview because, right now, your world view is disintegrated. Disintegrated!
This means that parts of reality are being denied. Start accepting those parts of reality that you have been denying, even if it doesn’t feel pleasant to you right now to do it.
This is Leo, I’m signing off. I’m going to give a credit to Evan Pagan to this exercise. That’s where I got it from on one of his seminars. I believe he might have gotten it from Nathaniel Brandon who wrote Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, but I’m not quite sure on that one.
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