Demystification Guru

Just because we don't understand something, doesn't mean it isn't understandable.

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Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Thursday, October 06, 2005

on prejudice

In case you haven’t heard, a city council in Britain is banning all representations of pigs due to the complaint of a Muslim worker that she was offended by pigs. The story is here,,2-2005450600,00.html
and Mark Steyn commented about it at somewhere but the URL went crazy so you'll have to find it yourself.

A key quote is: “Councillor Mahbubur Rahman, a practising Muslim, backed the ban. He said: “It’s a tolerance of people’s beliefs.””
Steyn said this about that: “And isn't an ability to turn a blind eye to animated piglets the very least the West is entitled to expect from its Muslim citizens? If Islam cannot "co-exist" even with Pooh or the abstract swirl on a Burger King ice-cream, how likely is it that it can co-exist with the more basic principles of a pluralist society?”

I would be interested to know what the reaction would be if I said I worshipped pigs and I had to have a representation of a pig around me at all times. What about tolerating my beliefs?
And then I thought I’d post what I wrote about prejudice back in 1996, just because I read it again recently and I still think it’s good.

On prejudice (1996)
I have always asked "WHY" when I read about "man's inhumanity to man" and I think the answer is POWER. Because to me, the prime motivator for humans is FEAR. People will of course do things motivated by love and beauty and goodness. But the reason people will do things against their nature, and therefore the reason that is strongest, is fear. It is very primal and comes from being an ignorant, bicameral savage lost in the wilderness where everything was a mystery. One person in the group who had a little more savvy than the rest AND a desire for power would offer an explanation for the mysteries and provide "escape routes" for the ignorant which were really behaviour modifications designed to provide that one person with the power craved. It also comes from the way our brain works, on patterns and models (stereotypes). If we are faced with three different ways to proceed and we try one and it is a failure, we don't try it again. However, if we try the second method and it's a moderate success, it is not in our nature to try the third, even if it might prove to be a greater success. We stick with the tried and true model. The same goes with making judgments about things and other people. We like what is familiar, to the exclusion and even hatred of anything that is different. When we have grown up with the people in our tribe, they are familiar to us. When we meet someone different, BECAUSE they are different, we don't like them. It's simple fear of the unknown. There are new things that come into our lives from time to time and we just have to cope with them. However, this doesn't mean we're going to like them. Furthermore, we base our judgment of these new things on how familiar we are with them. If we once met a person of a race different from ours, and we liked that person because of some social reasons that made them attractive to us (i.e. made us not fear them or something that made them seem similar to another thing we knew already), then the next person of that race we meet, we are going to be predisposed to like. The vice is the versa. Thus prejudice (pro and con) is born.


Blogger Cal the Wonderdog said...

Very well put! As a dog I base my judgement on many things. I trust my instinct first and then if that feeling is negative, the one who made me feel that has to show kindness and acceptance and then I will warm up to them. Sometimes I wonder why humans add a layer on to that one? Is it really as simple as you say? I have a feeling that each human I meet is a complex 4-dimensional entity whose existence and understanding (and prejudices)are constantly unravelling and winding around them again. There is so much to learn. I always fear that making too basic of a pattern for things gives a false sense of comfort that we really understand these things. When, in actuality, we may be just unravelling and winding back up differently within the dimensions we percieve to be in.

I love your blog.


2:11 a.m., October 07, 2005  
Blogger JuliaR said...

Thanks for the compliment on this blog! As far as being simple goes, "I like simple" as Murtagh said to Riggs. I find you can simplify most things down to their basics so you can understand them better, and then start adding the layers again. But the layers don't negate the original simple explanation, I think.

BTW, how did you discover my blogs? Just curious. I am guessing you came in through puppywalking but how did you get there to begin with?

9:37 a.m., October 07, 2005  

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