Thursday, September 08, 2011

Prejudice...a Friend

I believe in prejudice. It means--literally--"pre-judgement."

An event occurs, a meeting with a stranger, a change in the texture of the sky, a sudden eruption of noise in the next room...and we make a determination--based on our prior experience in the past--with such an event. ..and act accordingly: we shun the stranger, prepare for rain, check to see whether our aged mother fell down.

Pre-judgement is using our knowledge, gathered through our experience (which includes our reading and education) to assess (based on the past) the benefits or dangers inherent in the new event. It would be illogical to do otherwise. The purpose of knowledge and experience is to create a body of prejudices to inform the logic of our future decisions. Refusing to heed our knowledge of the past is counterproductive. The human need for better decisions based on the operation of pre-judgement is essential to the beneficial functioning of the human mechanism. It remains at the core of universal evolution and survival.

Bigotry, on the other hand, as opposed to prejudice, is bad. Bigotry produces bad decision-making. It refuses to heed the logic of new information even when it is incontrovertible.

Bigotry refuses to change its pre-determinations, pre-judgements, when new evidence indicates otherwise. For example, a stranger enters the room; and based on prior (bad) experience with similar strangers, I logically remain wary. But when this particular stranger soon exhibits all the tell-tale signs of a friend and compatriot--and I steadfastly keep him a stranger even though my new information says he is a friend; that is bigotry.

Bigotry is a form of insanity; it is prejudice gone awry. It is a healthy decision-making now diseased and perverted by inflexibility and the rejection on new facts.

Bigotry is bad. But prejudice is good. And we must learn to distinguish between the two--and not let the worry about bigotry over-concern into giving the valuable functioning of prejudice a bad name. We must not become bigots about prejudice.


Blogger America's Kathleen Antonia said...

The illustration using "similar strangers" rubs me the wrong way because it reminds me of "you're an exception", "you're not like those other", but I get the idea and appreciate the effort to inspire reflection. Thank you, Cliff. I hope it works.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Cliff Osmond said...

Kathleen: We are ALL an exception. Whether others outside us like it--our exceptionality--or not is their problem, their challenge, not ours. As the poet would have, should have--and might have--said: F__k 'em! They are missing some really great uniqueness.

4:29 PM  

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