OPINION

What is Prejudice?

May 29, 2008
Kiran Dhanwada
Waves of optimism and pessimism might make a man disbelieve in time-tested principles but no matter what happens, he would never waver from his prejudiced thought process - Benjamin Graham

Prejudice - The word itself leads me to two different conclusions: one, that this is the right way of looking and interpreting things and two, it is a wrong way of looking at things. Various words have originated out of this one base word of Prejudice - Feminism, Sexism, Racism, Religious intolerance etc. How do we actually define prejudice? Is it some judgement we come to by means of an experience in the past? If so, then, why would we call Experience as our Best teacher! Is prejudice something learnt in childhood or do we get prejudiced every day? Is manipulation by gross commercialists and politicians by way of slogans and advertisements contributing to our way of looking at things?

What does the dictionary have to say about the word ‘prejudice’? Prejudice is defined as: an adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts. Simply stated, it is a preconceived judgement, in a negative fashion. Going by the definition, is it right for me to say that various religious views thrust upon me since childhood which have held the test of time prejudiced me the way I look at the world? This particular word, usually used to accuse someone else - saying, so and so was prejudiced against me. By uttering that mere statement, aren’t you prejudicing your conclusion?

Lots of questions! Further food for thought - People are prejudiced because they lack sufficient experience, is a common argument we hear. However my question is, how much experience do you need to satisfactorily say that his point of view is not prejudiced? If no amount of experience entitles a person to a point of view, then the word ‘objectivity’ loses its meaning and charm. Fallacious extensions of one’s own experiences will lead to a horribly colored view of the scenario. We had had innumerable number of such examples - Anti-Semitism, Nazism, Racism to name a few, which have led to destruction of human life.

Taking the discussion a bit further, I take pride in the fact that the decisions I make or the suggestions I give to others are entirely objective - based on proper analytical facts, weighing pros and cons. But isn’t the analysis itself flawed if the basis of my assumptions is itself prejudiced? Analytical that I am, I wanted to have an answer to this complex conundrum. The answer being - There is a continuum between decisions based on prejudice and decisions based on experience. Most of our decisions fall under this continuum - at least that is what I think.
A business consultant by profession and a blogger by passion. Other interests include Handwriting analysis and Quizzing. I blog on a variey of different topics - Humor, Finance, Technology, Politics, Views, Gyaan etc. Do drop a line at http://www.sarvamekam.wordpress.com.
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#1
temporal
URL
May 29, 2008
01:30 AM

kiran:

when i read this i thought this was a satire piece:

Prejudice - The word itself leads me to two different conclusions: one, that this is the right way of looking and interpreting things and two, it is a wrong way of looking at things.

;)

i think you should re visit this in a decade or two and see if your views have undergone any revisions

#2
Sumanth
May 29, 2008
03:11 AM

It is language which creates prejudice.

Any creature using language suffers from prejudice.

All interpretations are meaningless.

It is language which makes interpretations seem real. We all are interpretation making machines. The worse part is that these machines get stuck in interpretations for years unless someone gives a kick on the ass.

Please think of a child's state of mind before "it" acquires language.

#3
smallsquirrel
May 29, 2008
06:56 AM

OH THE IRONY!

(falls out laughing at the above statement)

also, kiran, the simple concepts of right and wrong actually lead to prejudice.

#4
Guido
May 29, 2008
09:55 AM

Prejudice usually keeps company...ignorance, fear, and hate. When you discover one, the others are normally not far away.

Ciao, Guido

#5
Aditi Nadkarni
URL
May 29, 2008
10:06 AM

I personally don't think its prejudice that matters. As humans we all have certain biases. Sometimes lack of information or exposure, misinformation, upbringing or even cultural environment will contribute towards our prejudices. But what I feel truly defines a person is two things: 1) whether they can replace their prejudice with reasoning once they are informed of facts or find out that their bias is unfounded and 2) how their biases or prejudice is manifested: discrimination, violence, closed-mindedness, abuse of power, oppression etc.

Basically, one's prejudice or bias should not hinder one's ability to think and see reason. When prejudice is blind and unreasoning then it trully starts to thrive and propagate.

You said: "I take pride in the fact that the decisions I make or the suggestions I give to others are entirely objective"

I take pride in the fact that the minute I recognize my biases I evaluate them and make sure they don't crop up or hinder my perception and behavior when I least expect them to and when I am totally convinced that I am acting objectively based on analytical facts. Most prejudiced people acting on their biases do so when they are completely convinced that their knowledge of the facts and analytical data is absolute. A lot of rioters will tell you in great detail with statistical data why a certain group of people needs to be eliminated and why its their duty to do it.

#6
Senthil Kumar
URL
May 29, 2008
01:31 PM


Good writing there Aditi Nadkarni.

My second half of life seems mostly of getting rid of prejudices I acquired in the first half.

#7
temporal
URL
May 29, 2008
02:29 PM

two good responses worth highlighting:)

Prejudice usually keeps company...ignorance, fear, and hate. When you discover one, the others are normally not far away.

Most prejudiced people acting on their biases do so when they are completely convinced that their knowledge of the facts and analytical data is absolute.

#8
commonsense
May 29, 2008
05:18 PM

Aditi:

""Most prejudiced people acting on their biases do so when they are completely convinced that their knowledge of the facts and analytical data is absolute. A lot of rioters will tell you in great detail with statistical data why a certain group of people needs to be eliminated and why its their duty to do it.""

Wow! Precise, pithy and on the mark! (Another example: just think of Sumanth and his ilk, armed with statistics, charts and graphs)

#9
smallsquirrel
May 29, 2008
05:38 PM

prejudice is the bias we have in our though process. we all have biases shaped by where we were raised, our likes/dislikes, what-have-you. in a sense, there is nothing wrong with having prejudices. I am prejudiced against eating certain kinds of fish. I am prejudiced against staying in hotels without air conditioning. I am prejudiced against shitty food that is labeled as "italian" but is nothing but limpid noodles with ungodly bad red sauce. I am prejudiced toward liking high heeled shoes.

irrationally acting on prejudice, thereby taking part in discrimination, is where the issue comes in. when you actively discriminate you create problems. (unless of course you are talking about shoes. or bad food.)

#10
Kiran
URL
May 29, 2008
08:56 PM

Interesting comments one and all -

@temporal - I think I would be constantly re-evaluating this to get rid of my prejudices and at the same time acquiring new ones; two sides of the same coin, aren't they? Btw, satire in itself is negative prejudice :)

@Sumanth - Wish we all were children all the time! :) But don't you think we would have come this far without language - sign or spoken? On the contrary, language forces us to evaluate, read, talk about and not be prejudiced.

@smallsquirrel - Absolutely right! but, how do we live in the world without a right or a wrong? Do you mean to say, everyone is prejudiced all the time throughout their lifetimes? And 'irrationally acting against prejudice' - who defines rational and irrational? Is it the individual or society or religion or...? Rational and irrational is our creation and so are our prejudices.

@Aditi - As temporal said, very valid points and very well thought out. Personally, anything to do with killing/torturing people is not prejudice - it is a crime, period. Prejudice is a notion, but rioting is a crime, according to any written or unwritten law in the book and statisticians, ah...lies, damned lies and statistics!

@Senthil - Just be aware of not picking up any new prejudices in the second half :)

#11
Sumanth
May 30, 2008
08:09 AM

See guys,

So many of you guys seem to have a problem tolerating me and my prejudices. Some consider me prejudiced as I only speak of statistics, charts or data in stead of using making some "delusional claims being influenced by media".

See, I love to be prejudiced, if it means ruthlessly kicking the ass of hypocrites. I am sometimes harsh on "upper-caste" urban spoiled brats.


Kiran:
We are prejudiced in some way or other all the time. We consider something as better that something else all the time. For example, point of views.

By the way, who should be the master?

Is it YOU or the Mind(inside which language creates prejudice)?

It is our mind which gives us career, feelings, emotions. But, is your mind same as "YOU"?

A person can not free oneself till he or she is a slave of the mind(for good or for bad).

#12
commonsense
May 30, 2008
09:27 AM

Sumanth:

""So many of you guys seem to have a problem tolerating me and my prejudices.""

wow! how did you figure this one out?

#13
Aditi Nadkarni
URL
May 30, 2008
07:30 PM

Sumanth: "See guys,So many of you guys seem to have a problem tolerating me and my prejudices"

Believe it or not most of us don't really give you that much thought Sumanth. The online world and the distances it brings about among debaters thankfully ensures that we don't have to "tolerate" or endure anybody much less you. We do extend our sympathies to those that have to though.

:)

#14
commonsense
May 30, 2008
09:01 PM

True Aditi...but Sumanth is an interesting diversion when I know not what to do....

#15
Deepti Lamba
URL
May 30, 2008
11:37 PM

When you know not what to do you write a post for DC;)

#16
commonsense
May 31, 2008
12:24 AM

true, but not true too....i know not what to do when ruvy is quiet....

#17
ushnishas
May 31, 2008
03:13 AM

commonsense,
Come back, ruvy, all is forgiven?

#18
commonsense
May 31, 2008
11:10 AM

[OK this is baiting - you know better]

#19
ushnishas
May 31, 2008
02:08 PM

[EDITED - IRRELEVANT, BAITING]

#20
Morris
May 31, 2008
03:41 PM

Just thinking and writing.

Stastics and charts are very important. Without them our society will have difficulty funnctioning the way we do. I wonder whether they help or hinder in determining our biases and prejudices.

Take for example dogs. If a breed X dog barks furiously. If the same is true about another breed X dog and anothe and so on then most of us will believe that it is likely to happen with any breed X dog. It is possible that it is only true for 70% of those dogs. Is this bias to attribute that to all? The barking we discussed is harmless. Now see what happens if that barking is followed by a violent attack. Now change the numbers. Only about 5% of dogs violently attack. Are we entitled to look at other 95% suspciously? Perhaps! Is this prejudice towards these 95% who are only harmless barkers? Or is this risk management?

We seem to associate individuals with group they belong. The association is made on the basis of race, religion, culture etc.. It is not necessarily logical to do so but we do anyway. That is our failing. Greater the risk an individual presents, more suspciously we look at all members of the group we identify him with. Is this prejudice or just smart thinking? Every single member of the group that is boarding the plane has to go through security check. We have no way to assure our safety. We cannot do that in the open society and hence our prejudice.




#21
ushnishas
May 31, 2008
03:57 PM

sorry, commonsense, couldn't resist!

Morris, what an excellent comparison re security check. Re dogs, they like to mark out their territory and guard it. The leader dog demands compliance from the other dogs. They crawl into the room where he is, they do not run around unless he gives permission. I have seen this so many times.

#22
commonsense
May 31, 2008
04:31 PM

editors, apologies. must keep my baiting tendencies in check!

#23
ushnishas
May 31, 2008
04:42 PM

editors, apologies too, only in fun, didn't mean it.
-"Life is a cabaret, old chum. Come to the cabaret."

#24
commonsense
May 31, 2008
05:21 PM

U,

You are baiting me by inviting me to the cabaret!

#25
ushnishas
May 31, 2008
08:59 PM

sweetheart, we are all part of the cabaret of life. This is a quote from the play "Cabaret" made into a movie once or twice. The singer says, Enjoy life, don't mope, make the best of what you've got.

-What good is sitting alone in your room?
Come hear the music play.
Life is a Cabaret, old chum,
Come to the Cabaret.

Put down the knitting,
The book and the broom.
Time for a holiday.
Life is Cabaret, old chum,
Come to the Cabaret.

Come taste the wine,
Come hear the band.
Come blow your horn,
Start celebrating;
Right this way,
Your table's waiting

No use permitting
some prophet of doom
To wipe every smile away.
Come hear the music play.
Life is a Cabaret, old chum,
Come to the Cabaret!

#26
commonsense
May 31, 2008
09:50 PM

enjoyed the movie!

#27
ushnishas
June 1, 2008
06:00 AM

did you see the play with Alan Cummings?

Mind blowing!

#28
prejudice
June 4, 2008
01:24 AM

Kiran :

In 'beautyfull mind', the main actor used to imaginary character as real person. it was his imagination which became real.

so what is the difference between prejudice and real.

as long as you hold your belief true, it is true, once you think it is false, it is false. maybe it is faminsim or nationalism.

it's all in your mind.

#29
Aditi Nadkarni
URL
June 4, 2008
02:04 AM

prejudice: interestingly the main character in A Beautiful Mind, a scientist was diagnosed with schizophrenia and treated with medication. So one wonders what it is you are suggesting by comparing prejudice with a mental illness (that prejudiced people should be medicated?). If there is no difference between truth and perception then why do we persevere to achieve our dreams and aspirations? Why don't we just on our ass and imagine them to be accomplished?

The one thing you are right about is that it is all in the mind....and thats probably where it should stay. When it translates into human behavior then it poses a problem for other people.

#30
sasas
February 13, 2009
06:34 PM

I hate you

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