In 1968, Pigmeat Markham released the novelty song “Here Comes the Judge.” It is considered by many to be the first rap song. I’ve included a link to it at the bottom of this post. Sammy Davis Jr. used the title line, which also served as the song’s refrain, for a bit he performed on the show Laugh-In. This song and bit came to my mind recently in response to the avalanche of judgment we all seem to be living under.
Judging and being the object of others’ judgment is certainly nothing new. In fact, it’s a natural and vital mechanism of the human species. It just seems to be much more pervasive, rash, harsh, and public than it once was. As consumers, we are constantly asked to rate services rendered and products purchased. Anyone who engages in social media is under subtle, but constant, pressure to judge others’ posts and to determine whether or not to “Like,” “Love,” or simply scroll past them. Many of the sports included in Olympic competition require judges to score the participants and to determine the winners. Surveys to be taken and polls to be completed are ubiquitous. “I’m sorry, but I just don’t have an opinion regarding the best tanning salon in the Firelands!”
An increasing number of reality tv shows ask one or a group of participants to “vote off” another, or they come with a panel of judges who act as vicarious critics for the viewers. Oftentimes, the snarkier and more meanspirited the judges behave on these shows, the more popular they are. And God have mercy on anyone who performs their job/art in public and are vulnerable to the reaction of the Twitterverse, the press, or the multitude of “Armchair Quarterbacks,” who, because they’ve watched a lot of football or played in high school, think they know better than the coaches who’ve spent countless hours evaluating talent, conferring with colleagues, and watching film.
In my never ending quest to be better, I’ve made it a priority not to be so quick to judge others based on superficialities, not to be so dismissive of folks whose opinions and worldviews are radically different from my own, not to judge others — especially young people — for whom they are now but to envision the beautiful and wise people they are capable of becoming, and never to judge someone too harshly in the midst of their worst moments.
I believe that all of this unfettered judgment of one another is contributing to the rifts driving us ever farther apart as a society. Carl Jung, the great Swiss psychanalyst, is noted as saying, “Thinking is difficult. That’s why most people judge.” I think he was correct. My wish is for people, including myself, to thoughtfully corral their impulse to leap to judgment and to learn “to live and let live” in the spirit of tolerance, with the awareness that we are all works in progress, and with the knowledge found in that old Ray Stevens song that “Everything is beautiful in its own way” independent of our judgment.
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