I think I was born judgemental, coming out of the womb in horsehair wig and red robes, a tiny gavel to hand. I imagine I had view on the quality of the placenta, my mother’s milk. I certainly had views on codliver oil and National Milk powder that came in blue and white tins. A Catholic education fed the urge to judge even more. The nuns were ferocious and unbending, and we learned the script quickly. Marxism was another layer, another script, another worldview. Then there was teaching and the never-ending supply of weird and wonderful minds.Unfortunately teaching involved grading, making judgements based on attendance records, ‘personal qualities’ and academic achievement. The judging continued via staffroom gossip and the subliminal drive for consensus.
I think it was teaching—not the fabled summer of ‘peace and love’ that passed me by in a blip—which undermined certainty and the desire to judge others. After ten years of ‘judging’ I’d had enough, and I had another twenty or so years to go.
The habit though is hard to resist and I still cringe at how I once judged a middle aged Dutch couple who invited me to dinner in Queens. I found them boring and failed to appreciate their generosity—certainly with sufficient warmth—though now of course I’m judging myself. Judgmentalism is indiscriminate. It strikes where it can.
Judging has a more benign twin: ‘sizing up.’ In fact ‘sizing up’ the stranger is an essential life skill, especially in Liverpool where it’s taught in the womb.
Explaining the difference between ‘sizing up’ and ‘judging’ is relatively easy. A few days ago I passed a man, well into his middle age, walking arm in arm with an attractive Filipino woman. ‘Sizing up’ conjured up various scenarios/explanations—a habit with me. I do it everyday on the keyboard. Sizing up possibilities is relatively neutral. It becomes judgmental when you focus on one and vent an opinion—whether it be ‘Good on you, mate’ or ‘you should be ashamed of yourself.’
I have yet to achieve the serenity of Buddha or the kindness of Christ. Politicians remain fair game along with celebrities and pundits pissed on ego juice. There are times when I spit with rage. I try to be alone on such occasions. It’s not a pretty sight.