As is usual, shortly after I had written down my thoughts on the blog, I figured it out :)
I feel judgemental when I feel threatened.
For example: if a friend is part of a relationship where they are happy for the woman to take care of all the household tasks whilst the man does nothing around the house, it may not be how I would live my life, but I do not feel judgemental about theirs because, frankly, it's none of my business. It's their life and they are free to live it as they see fit.
However, if it's a mysogynistic (ie, strongly prejudiced against women) societal setup where it's a cultural expectation that men are in charge of women - that women do not have the right to make the decisions as to how they live their lives - then, yes, I feel judgemental.
The couple walking through Singapore airport, her head wrapped in a headscarf, she dragging their luggage and watching their two kids, whilst the man just walked ahead, doing not much of anything - I felt judgemental of it because whilst it may have been a voluntary setup on their behalf, I very much doubted it had been. To me it looked like part of the systemic suppression of women's rights so endemic to many societies (I am not going to make references here, but I trust that you understand what countries/societies I am talking about)
It reminded me of a trip to Turkey in 2005. The educational communities were rallying for the girls' rights to have at least primary schooling up to age 9, so they would at least learn to read and write before they were brought back inside the house to learn the skills of their mothers and then get married off (a decision their father usually made) at about age 14 (though they didn't necessarily go off to live in that new household until a couple of years later).
I still remember a conversation with one of them, where I asked, "How do you feel about your dad making such a decision for you? Choosing who you will marry?" and she replied, "My dad is much older than I am, he has the wisdom to know who is a good husband for me." As much as I still try very hard to understand and empathise with her, and to a degree I understand the societal setup in which such cultural practices are the norm... I cannot help but feel judgemental because what I see is a systemic suppression of women's rights on a societal level and I feel threatened by it.
If someone paints their house bright orange - I may not like the colour, but I won't feel judgemental about it because it doesn't affect me. There isn't a big deal over what colour a house is. Functionally, it serves the same purpose.
Gays, transsexuals - I don't feel judgement towards them. I am not threatened by them. It's none of my business and is entirely within their choice who they sleep or share their home with. Why would it matter?
Deforestation - well, that's where I do feel judgement. A forest is not simply owned by the person who owns the land on which it grows - it is a shared resource. Rights over land are custodial rights as far as I am concerned, because what happens on land and on the forest is all of our business. We live on the same planet, and we share the land. The quality of the air I breathe, and the water I drink, and the ecosystem within which I live, is affected by what happens in a forest and on a farm and in a bog and even in my own house's backyard in Invercargill. So when someone comes and clearcuts in a poorly managed manner and without much regard for consequences then, yes, I do feel judgement because it is, actually, part of my business on what happens on that land.
I'm not a hippie. I'm not asking for people to hold hands, sing, pick some berries and let all animals roam free so we could live in some utopian image of... I don't know, "hippiness". I don't even know what the vernacular is for such a topic. But I expect responsible land management and increasingly sustainable management practices which, being part of this planet, it's part of my business whether I own the land on which this stuff happens or not.
A couple of weeks ago I listened to a woman from Auckland argue that Aucklanders shouldn't be required to install double-glazing in their homes because "it never gets cold enough to need it". She was saying that double-glazing should be required only down South because, in Auckland, even in winter "you just put the heatpump on and it's fine".
I listened to her talk and thought, nah. Living in a climate where she even needs a heatpump, whether it's for heating in winter or cooling in summer, double-glazing lessens the amount of energy the windows lose through the building envelope and the energy she requires from the national grid to operate the house. Energy is a shared resource.
Same with the woman who was wanting to update an entirely functional kitchen simply so it would look more modern. And let's be clear here: I'm not talking about an old kitchen with a poor layout and impractical surfaces. It was a reasonably new house, kitchen maybe a decade old. She was talking about wanting to rip the whole thing out and re-do it, with tiles she likes more and a granite top - and whatever else she listed - and I listened and felt judgemental because to me, it was a waste of resource. I listened and hoped they would at least have a good recycling programme in place to salvage materials that could be re-used so that materials wouldn't be dumped just because someone didn't like their countertop and tile and wanted to re-do the entire kitchen.
And that's kind of it - the driving force behind the judgement is fear, and the feeling of being threatened by what's suggested.
Now the choice I do have is what I do with that judgement. In a lot of these examples I gave, I didn't do anything - and I didn't need to, either. I didn't talk to the woman who was re-doing the kitchen, or the couple I saw walking down Singapore airport. The difference I make will come in other forms, for example speaking up in the community processes. In Invercargill's proposed long-term plan I was arguing for the development of the alternative water treatment plant (currently Invercargill has a single source of drinking water), for not putting a new swimming pool in the water centre and, instead, for channelling the funds towards the new Arts Centre. I discussed the use of plastic, the Internet and public nudity with my father-in-law yesterday. I read. I try to listen, and learn.
The choices I make come at a point of what to do, rather than whether I feel judgement towards something or not, and it's a conscious effort to know to tell a difference.