While at a grocery store yesterday, I struck up a conversation with a stoic but spunky elderly baker behind the counter. She had a strong accent that I couldn’t quite make out. Because all of my blood relatives came from Europe and also had strong accents, I asked her where she was from. With a stiff upper lip she told me that she was from England. I replied that most of my relatives were from Hungary and all of them also had strong accents. That’s when the violence started.
Right after I said that they were from Hungary and she said that the Hungarians were considered crazy, I immediately dove across the counter, jumped on top of her and started giving her kidney shots! Ha . . . had you going for a second, didn’t I? Nah, I didn’t do any of that stuff but I did zap back at her right away saying, “Ya know . . . the English don’t have the best reputations either. They’re said to be stoic, uptight and pretty much humorless.” She immediately retorted, “Only until you get to know them.” She said it with a smile and I too smiled back. We became quick “chums” while she decorated a personalized birthday cake for me.
I told her that my mother was Viennese who grew up in Hungary but that my father was a full blooded Hungarian Transylvanian. Yeah, Transylvanian, the place where Dracula was from. Seriously. Anyway, I told my new chum that my mom used to tell me often that Hungarians ARE crazy and every now and then I notice my own tendency to bite of my nose to spite my face but then my pastry loving Viennese self takes over and I go searching for a cream puff.
But our conversation opened up an interesting topic. Different peoples. Are most Hungarians wild/crazy? Most Viennese fun loving and nice as my mom remembered them from her childhood? Are all Jews only out for money and grand success? All African Americans less than lily-white colored peoples? Are all Irish boozers and fist-fighters and are all Polish less than stellar in the brain department?
Well, first, my mom who had a great caring heart often told me that Viennese were happy go-lucky and friendly people . . . but how about Hitler; the scourge of the twentieth century! He was Viennese. How about African Americans? I’ve personally competed scholastically against African Americans and have been bested. How about the Polish. My cousin, a nurse from Transylvania visited us a few years ago in the States and I asked her if the Polish were considered dim witted in Europe. She told me that on the contrary that they were considered some of the brightest and most resourceful people in Europe.
How about Jews? Are they all out only for money, or grand success? Are they all smarter than non-Jews because they ALL have so much money and great occupations? I have friends and many associates whom are Jewish. And many of them are quite successful and have lots of money. But every one of them educated themselves to the hilt and worked their fingers to the bone and expect their children to do the same. But I have Jewish friends and acquaintances who are laborers; not doctors or wealthy businessman.
And the Irish. Boozers and fighters? I have a friend who I tease about being ready to throw down the gauntlet anytime he’s wronged but he is a moderate drinker and can’t be lumped in that view of the Irish. I also know people who are not Irish who are ready to fight at the drop of an inconsiderate word.
So, are there truths regarding people’s perceptions and labels of others? Are the labels that I started thinking about after talking with my new English chum, factual? I suppose there are genetics that come into play for certain “tribes” of people and there are certain traits that they have which distinguish themselves from others, but I think that is about all.
To completely label people because of perhaps a few traits is unfair and negates the way we look at them. Labeling anyone does negate them to us, even if we don’t realize it. It’s called prejudice. It does not have to regard color or ethnicity. It can happen with political party affiliations as well.
I say label people as just that, people—human beings. We may have some unique traits but the key word to remember here is “some”. We are all really the same. The same desires, fears, hopes, abilities; but essentially . . . the same.
Steve's a three-time survivor of violence in his youth and was an award winning police officer.
For several years, Steve also did radio political and current event commentary and taught college Criminal Justice. He is the former host of the long running 'The Kovacs Perspective' Internet radio talk show.
Presently, Steve is the owner and Managing Director of one of the oldest martial art schools in Ohio, 'The Mayfield Academy of Self-Defense'.
Latest posts by Steve Kovacs (see all)
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