“I was running from them, from any of them who might turn out to be a decent person, who might turn out to be just as special as the people I loved. Who might deserve to live just as much as they did.”
– Galadriel Higgins, The Last Graduate
The Scholomance Series, by Naomi Novik
In every person’s life, there come moments which challenge and change a person in their very core. For Galadriel Higgins, called El for short, that moment is when she realizes that she can no longer easily judge and dismiss people.
The exact context of this quote is long, convoluted, and full of spoilers. Suffice to say that El has grown up in a nightmarish dog-eat-dog world that encourages selfishness for the sake of survival. She has tried to remain apathetic, and it’s easier to not care about people when you can judge them. Thus, she has a particular high horse where from which she spits at the people who were born having more connections, more resources, and more support in the struggle to survive. This is partially because she never had those, and partially because most of them really, truly, genuinely are a bunch of stuck-up, entitled pricks.
But then one of those self-superior bags of hot air saves the life of someone she cares about, one of her very few friends. Despite having nothing to gain from it, the person with whom she does not get along steps up at a critical moment, risking his own life for someone else, one of her few loved ones, when El was unable to do anything herself. She almost had to watch her friend die, but someone she dismissed as selfish did the most selfless thing he could do.
It’s a shock to her, seeing how wrong she was, how there is more to this person than she ever guessed. It’s so jarring that she tries to run away from it, away from the truth that people are all just people, every one of them every bit as precious as anyone else.
There is no higher or lower, no greater or lesser worth, not in death, and not in life. We humans draw those lines ourselves, and they are absolute rubbish.
The person starving on the street and the person sleeping fat and comfortable in an ivory tower have exactly the same worth, in the end. Neither one simply “deserves” cruelty. Neither do they deserve kindness, though each should be given such in their time of need. They might be good people, or bad people, or some combination of the two, but there is no knowing such without knowing them. And even then, though they do not have the same privileges, they still deserve the same protection, and the same justice for those who harm them.
So it is with people of all walks, of every possible race, religions, political affiliation, and more, just as it is with social class.
We need to judge less and love more.
That does not mean we have to let anyone get away with anything bad, with hurting others.
But we need to love everyone, all of our fellows in humankind.
Because the stranger on the street, the entitled jerk in that limo, the teacher and lawyer and fast food worker, each of them is every bit as special and precious as our dearest loved ones.
It can be a hard lesson to learn, as it was for El, and even harder to apply.