From smack-bang in the middle of the bell curve

Archive for October, 2008|Monthly archive page

Prejudice and Stupidity

In blah, life, rant on October 1, 2008 at 7:08 am

You arrive exactly two minutes to the time your reservation is for and announce yourself at the desk. “4 for Mr. Kapoor”. It is after all the most sought after restaurant in town. As you wait to be seated, you flip through the menu and start to imagine the succulent meal you’re about to have. Just as the hostess is about to lead you in, a person comes up and announces imperiously “Gill for 4”. The hostess doesn’t break stride as she leads Mr. Gill’s party of 4 to the table that was almost yours. So close… you think…but then what do you expect when your name has three of them damned vowels?

The crisp morning air rushing through the windows, the car surges forward on the empty stretch of highway. There is a reason you woke up at 5am, you think! You grin as you feel the horses under the hood begin to warm up to the task. You feel the urge for some good ol’ 70’s rock to complete the feeling. You rummage through your untidy collection for the perfect album. You don’t realize your car drifting to the left…not until you feel the dull thud. You snap out of your reverie in a rush and stop your car checking your rearview mirror fearfully. You go cold when you see the immobile person lying about 25 yards from your car. You hurry to check the damage and as you come up to him you realize he’s bald. You suck in a lungful of air in relief, turn around, and go back to your car and leave, this time, slower.

In my mind, these figments of bizarre logic are not dissimilar to Eddie Gilbert’s story. Imagine having a problem with including a bloke who, with his ability, can rattle the Don?!

How do we explain a broad set of individuals being ok with the idea of discrimination? Sure we label the ones who practice the most traditional forms of it as bigots. There are laws in most developed countries deeming most forms of it as illegal. My fascination is on two counts;
One, with the fact that we even need laws to enforce these ideas that are so blatantly counterproductive (here I’m not referring to the kind that is done to economically benefit one section, those make sense in a convoluted zero-sum school of thought) and two, I can’t even begin to pretend to take a ‘holier than thou’ approach to this subject. Who knows how many of these are so deeply ingrained in my psyche that they don’t even pop up as examples of discriminatory thinking. As a British businessman in colonial India, would I bat an eyelid on reading a sign that said “Dogs and Indians not allowed”? Or as a Middle-class, educated Caucasian in the early 60’s, would I think twice about the idea of racial segregation? Who knows?

It’s like our brains look for reasons to build prejudices, and is supremely creative in coming up with the relevant hooks. Race, religion, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, physical disability, physical ability, geography, language, diction (accent), profession, age, weight, marital status (single/married/separated), the list is long enough to suggest there is something very inherent in our thought processes that manifests in making cursory judgments of other individuals without even considering an individual assessment. Why?

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