Sunday, March 24, 2013

Feeling Right to be Wrong

                             Prejudice is as natural as sewage – Boris Johnson

It’s disconcerting to realize that years of first world existence, education, experience and travel to exotic destinations often do very little to open up minds. Once you decide what you think is right, is right, you will never be short of excuses to deride beliefs that are different from yours. Different is a concept that most of us are not comfortable with. We baulk at men dressed as women, find the sight of gay men holding hands hilarious, crack jokes at the eating habits of people from certain regions…In our little universe inside the well, we are perfect. So, when it’s someone else who ridicules our skin colour, customs and rituals, we bristle with indignation.

I grew up having to put up with “ami tomake bhalobashi” and “roshogulla” jokes. I took pains to explain that our cuisine is beyond “machh-bhaath”. But that didn’t stop me from making fun of my butter chicken loving Punjabi friends. In our limited perceptions – all Punjabis are crass, anybody living in the south of the Vindhyas is a brainy South Indian who licks sambhar off his elbows, North Easterners are Chinkies and Nepalis, watchmen.

We colour our opinions with many shades of prejudice.

We waste no time in forming opinions, castigating our fallen heroes, shaking our heads with disgust at the falling morals while safely assuming that there’s nothing wrong with us. It is as if we have never lied, been unfair, hurt our loved ones and been insincere.

The thing is, we expect very little from us and too much from others. We are never short of excuses to justify our failures but quick to condemn other’s failings.

So, if an employee gets chastised by his employer for not delivering – it is the boss who is nasty. If someone decides to be truthful rather than pretend to be nice, that person is hurtful. If someone’s opinion clashed with yours, she is dismissed as a troll. The girl, who’d rather immerse herself in her thoughts than indulge in inanities, has attitude problems. The guy driving faster than you is a show off and the guy driving slower is an idiot.

Everyone in this world is an asshole but you.


It is easier to pronounce someone guilty, make him the villain because it makes us feel like the hero and absolve ourselves of guilt. But you should know, a victim can victimize, the prey can predate in different contexts, from different points of view. There are no absolute rights and wrongs, truth is but a perception. There exists a duality in all of us. We are constantly battling thoughts of envy, revenge, lust and greed! Yet, when it’s someone else who succumbs we are quick to pronounce him guilty in our court of judgment.

It is so much simpler to indulge in hypocrisy, make sweeping generalizations than try and comprehend diversity. Stereotyping people on basis of their gender, attire, religion, preferences is intellectual laziness. Remember, judging a person does not define who they are. It defines who you are.

In my opinion, basing half-baked opinions on little or no information is a crime worse than hate.

We are all different as chalk and cheese, but if we can’t accept someone’s sexual preference, waist size, philosophy or opinions we might as well keep our mouths shut.

What if, in your endeavour to make someone else appear foolish, it is you who might end up looking like one!

Maybe it’s not as bad as it sounds. According to Psychology Today, racism, sexism and ageism come naturally to us. We are merely mirroring what we have been hearing and reading our whole life. We pick up the patterns that culture happily spoon feeds us, and we haplessly store it all in our thirsty memory banks, gladly retrieving the connection and filling in the blanks. For most of us, the racist/sexist/ageist inside us may not be a monster of our own making; s/he is not a reflection of who we are, but a reflection of where we've been. At times, it appears we are still stuck in medieval times.

Can we now all sigh in relief, now that we know we can blame our prejudices on social belief passed down the ages?

Beliefs are not facts. These are but interpretations that we have made in our minds and have nothing to do with reality. Not all old people are stuck in the past, not all politicians are corrupt, light skin is not a virtue, women are not weak, fat doesn’t equate to sloth and not every Muslim is a fanatic!

Accepting that we have preconceived notions is half the battle won.

So, look at your prejudices straight in the eye and either shake them away or tame them. But please, take a good look in the mirror, before you make someone the object of your derision, ridicule and loathing.



Courtesy - Google



Source -

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mind-the-gap/201110/prime-and-prejudice-why-we-are-all-little-bit-racist-0

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73 comments:

  1. Very true. Human beings have a strong tendency to generalize their opinion.

    One of your great posts :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's because generalizing is easy.

      And thank you :-)

      Delete
  2. I remember one incident. Few of our friends visited Pune for the first time. They stayed in Pune of few days and our Pune friends took them to a few restaurants. The food was not that great in any of the restaurants and some of my friends generalized their opinion that "In Pune, they don't have good restaurants"

    Regards,
    Jahid
    Flashbacks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sad isn't it - using one stray experience to form a poor opinion!

      Delete
  3. Some of us are highly opinionated and argumentative. So even after the Supreme Court verdict on Junior Dutt, we have people like Katju and Digvijay Singh pronouncing their judgements. Beliefs are indeed not facts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't see anything wrong in having opinions but disregarding others opinions is something I dislike.

      Delete
  4. Isn't it the basis of all hatred,apartheid that we witness in the world! Just because someone or something is different, It is evil, hence must be despised.

    Very well observed and written.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The concept of good and evil keeps changing with time and perspective.

      Delete
  5. " Everyone in this world is an asshole, but you."- well said, Purba. Very true. How far does our prejudice go? Well written!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It will get us nowhere!

      Thank you :-)

      Delete
  6. You have held up the mirror for us. Guilty on some counts.

    ReplyDelete
  7. very much guilty on many counts.. i cant deny it...

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  8. We live in a myopic world full of prejudice. Let's face it!! Brutally honest post. Touche.

    Vishal

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  9. What a brilliant post it is. Its simple, true , on the face.I am also guilty of stereotyping without even knowing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stereotyping stems from ignorance.

      Delete
  10. It is easier to pronounce someone guilty, make him the villain because it makes us feel like the hero and absolve ourselves of guilt. Very rightly said Purba. But again, easier said than done - of course, we have to make a conscious effort to question ourselves on every generalization we make. And some of them might be unconscious ones - you wouldn't even know you're generalizing! But nonetheless, something very much required!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I've taught myself to think twice before judging others :-)

      Delete
  11. Preconcieved notions and beliefs do not take one far! Some of us who are fortunate to have worked in multicultural environment know that rationality is far beyond beliefs and perception. Clouded opinions are a matter of closed minds and less exposure. I kept nodding as I read through this illustrious post, Purba:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But I've seen NRI's display the same level of ignorance. It's as if they have cyrogenically preserved their mindset from the 70's!

      Delete
  12. Look within ourselves before we pass judgement on others. When I was younger I used to easily fall prey to judging others based on their behavior or appearances or whatever, but as I grew older and more matured I learnt to look to look at people and situations differently. Now I am my own watchman and stop my thoughts and nip them in the bud stages itself. We ourselves must change our thought process.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sadly, maturity is a privilege denied to many :-)

      Delete
  13. I believe people were always judgmental. It is more visible now due to social media and blogs. And it is impossible to not be judgmental if one is human. I don't think I know a single person who is unbiased or does not feel that they know better than others.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So, do we take solace from the fact that everyone is a rotten egg and continue being the way we are?

      Delete
    2. No yaar! Some people are prejudiced in one way and some in another. Yes, we must always strive to change. I think exposure is the key. I may have preconceived notions about someone but when I came and lived in the South, I understood the nuances. Same applies to different cities and nations. The more we travel and read, the less judgmental and more tolerant we become.

      Delete
    3. Rachna, I am not claiming to be different either. Unknowingly we all harbour preconceived notions and judge too easily. But like you said, travel and exposure opens up minds. And I personally feel, the younger generation is less biased and more open to change.

      Delete
  14. You are right to every point. However, this is how we all were raised. In a corporate world, any responsibility is that of others and any shortcoming is their concern. This is the basic ethic of working and most emails have pretty much the same content."The guy driving faster than you is a show off and the guy driving slower is an idiot" was my favorite line and I can swear every man including mine have that attitude. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We crib about the sad state of affairs but refuse to change ourselves.

      Delete
  15. Another point I wanted to say, is that in the Holy Bible , there is a verse which says, that on the Judgement Day ( a Christian belief), everybody will be judged on the standards they set for others. Being a Christian I know this and boy are we all gonna have a tough time when that happens!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We view others shortcomings with a microscope and ours with a telescope.

      Delete
  16. All of this is true. Selfish, uncaring, judgmental hypocrites, everyone. When will people grow up and be like me? Sigh!

    Jokes apart, very well written. This really hits home.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I grow up, I want to be you :p

      Delete
  17. This generalizing should stop. And the worst part is it is not even based on rationality but just random concepts springing out of nowhere!
    Loved reading this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And convincing yourself, what you think is the absolute right!

      Thanks :-)

      Delete
  18. We are all biased and judgemental. It is a part and parcel of society since each one of us is different and has had a different upbringing and social influence.
    However, this does not mean that we cannot tame our prejudices. This I believe should start when we are very young. Some of these biases quickly take place in our head while growing up when we observe our own family and friends and how they react to situations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Prejudice is part of our social conditioning. This is the way we were brought up. Most of us are judgmental without even realizing it!

      Delete
  19. haha I remember when I had first shifted to bombay, people here refused to believe that I was north easterner from assam...they were like 'but you are not chinki' or chinese looking...they kept insisting that i might be punjabi as i didnt have their typical expected looks of a north east person. i wanted to scream at them all north eastern people are not chinki..get a life...lol ..A brilliant post...loved reading it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Most of us can't even distinguish Itanagar from Shillong.

      Delete
  20. "Everyone in this world is an asshole, but you"- true Purba. Actually I used these exact words when I was talking to my friend about my experience as a parent. My mom thinks she knows best to take care of the kid, my MIL thinks the same and is very much vocal about it, I think the same , my husband thinks the same and every one around thinks the same. When the kid is with husband, I say " he is on the edge, take care". When the kid is with me, husband says "he might bang his head on the door, take care"
    Its like 'no one else can do it better than me' syndrome, which I confess even am guilty of.
    Seena

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahahaha! haven't we faced it all. Mom knows best, is the key to inner peace :-)

      Delete
  21. Well written Purba!
    "Beliefs are not facts. These are but interpretations that we have made in our minds and have nothing to do with reality."
    How wonderful it would be if people realized the meaning behind these words! But no, it never works that way! We just love our opinions, beliefs and conclusions no matter how ridiculous and illogical they really are!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. At least some of us have start questioning age old mindsets! Isn't that encouraging?

      Delete
  22. You convey things powerfully. I feel things are changing ever so gradually simply because we are able to communicate with a variety of different types - be it different races, religions, culture, traditions, languages etc etc and we see for ourselves that every person in a particular group isn't identical to the others. Of course, prejudice will never be eliminated as we like our own type far too much. What's important is that we don't hurt or harm individuals of another type and that's where the laws of the land we live in come into the picture.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And you are always so positive. That's so refreshing.

      Delete

  23. Punjabi's are crass!??? :O GRRRRR..... You...you...fish eating, vowel 'O' loving, camera wielding, Monkey cap wearing, Maoist Marxist pseudo-intellectual Bong who can't pronounce F, S and V.
    P.S. A deeply thoughtful post :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sanu kee? Aish kaar, lassi pee!

      P.S Thank you!

      Delete
  24. //There are no absolute rights and wrongs, truth is but a perception. There exists a duality in all of us - so true!

    More difficult is to erase already formed opinions/judgments and start with a new slate!

    Brilliant post. But I would like to know what made you write this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The realization that most of my friends in India have a far more liberal outlook than Indians based outside the country.

      But then again I am generalizing :-)

      Delete
  25. Brilliant post! We always think that only we are right. I also wrote something similar on my earlier blog. Generalization is so common. Why every Srivastava is a miser, & every Islamic is cruel. Why every Pakistani wants to conquer India.

    Keep it up! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gujaratis are enterprising. sardars are bad drivers, Bengalis are lazy....It goes on and on and on...

      Delete
  26. You are bang on this one!! Right, we all have pre-conceived notions..including me..I have many..Tambrams (Tam-Brahmins) or Brahmins are born geniuses, core Andhra guys don't help in house hold chores..many..the list goes on. You are right. Everyone in this world is an asshole but you. That's how we have been conditioned for generations together..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, and we know beliefs are not facts. So, we have hope for change :-)

      Delete
  27. The other day, I happened to watch this very famous cartoon show on Pogo where the villain is a Madrasi licking off Sambar and spewing Aiyooooos left right and center. Very sad to see such nasty opinions being thrust upon children.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is worrisome, isn't it? But children imbibe their sense of right and wrong from their parents. So, as long as you are practicing what you are preaching, you needn't worry about the such influences.

      Delete
  28. Hi Purba,

    One of the best posts I have read today. So very true! And the line 'The guy driving faster than you is a show off and the guy driving slower is an idiot. ' brought a smile to my face and it seems to sum it all!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahaha... but it's true, isn't it!

      Delete
  29. Hmm! Problem is that we cannot feel good about ourselves unless by comparison - and comparison invariably means pulling down the other person to make yourself look better to your own self.

    As an aside, is it gauche to be licking sambhar off your elbows? :) I always thought it was the done thing :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahaha! tasty gravies are meant to be licked off fingers.

      Delete
  30. Bingo!

    Some stereotypes are really funny (and true). Some are enjoyed by the receiving side as well. A few may hurt the feelings of really sensitive ones.

    "According to Psychology Today, racism, sexism and ageism come naturally to us." I guess we don't need to read any journals to know that :-)

    Your post reminded me of a forwarded mail I received long ago, and published here: http://indrajit.wordpress.com/?s=divided+we+stand

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Will read it in a bit. Thanks for sharing it :-)

      Delete
  31. Been there done that.
    But yes I am glad that at least I am trying to come out of it. There are times when I have to remind myself that I cannot generalize the situation but sometimes the human factor takes over. It is a constant fight.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's called maturity. With age I have become less judgmental. And like you, it's a constant battle.

      Delete
  32. You write so well! : )

    Well.. I used to have such opinions..Men,sex,life..such generalized ideas..oh my God.. : )

    But now with time.. I have became a lil more wise (?): )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you :-)

      I feel, exposure to world cinema, literature, opinions helps doing away with preconceived notions.
      Most biases stem out of ignorance.

      Delete
  33. Ah human foibles. Can't tame our own prejudices but are ready to indict someone else for theirs.
    I just realized how easy it is to read your post through while some other blogs make such tedious reads despite being quite popular. Your writing flows freely like a gushing stream.
    Miss reading your blog. Will try to keep up with your posts. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And I miss reading your posts!
      You are such a gifted writer, Samadrita. Your stories always manged to touch a chord.

      Delete
  34. Guess I need to fully agree with you and also think the comment from Suresh above explains why it is this way. I used to look down upon people who smoke and drink. So I took up smoking and drinking myself to overcome the prejudice. But the minute I quit the habit, I found the old prejudices creeping back. It is a compulsive need to seek validation for oneself by seeing oneself, smarter or morally superior to every other person.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pity, that we feel good about ourselves only when we hear high praise from others.

      Delete
  35. One of the "gay agenda recent victories was established when homosexual autoworkers were successful in coercing the UAW management to quietly slip their gay and lesbian partners into the autoworkers benefit package...These same-sex gay and lesbian people had nothing to do with the auto industry and didn't work for the companies or earn these benefits.

    ReplyDelete

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