Global Analysis from the European Perspective. Preparing for the world of tomorrow

Err on the safe side

It is very often that we come across a statement, a remark, that someone somewhere at a time expressed an anti- (here comes the name of an ethnic group or biological sex) bias or prejudice. Such a statement or remark evaluates the person who has prejudices against a group, a class, a nation, a race, a category of people.

The evaluators of people expressing biased opinions obviously follow this train of thought. You wake up in the morning, you start thinking about a group of people, a nation, a social class and for want of a useful occupation, out of boredom or stupidity or God knows what, you develop a negative opinion about that group, that nation or that class that you have never come into contact with. You formulate your opinion out of thin air and then stubbornly stick to it against the evidence of your senses, even if you mingle with many representatives of the said group, nation or class and are positively impressed. In a word, you create a world of your own and this invented world is more real to you than the one accessible through your senses.

Good heavens! Isn’t it the other way around? Clearly, we do not form opinions about anything and anybody until and unless we come into contact with this thing or that person. Imagine a child who first learns about the existence of Eskimos in a very simple way: he sees a drawing in a children book of a man or maybe a family against the backdrop of an igloo. Do you really think the child will start developing bias or prejudice? What if the drawing is complete with a nice-looking polar bear and a seal emerging from a hole in the ice? Do you really think the child will start forming bias and prejudice?

True, we may take over the opinion of something or somebody, of a collective, from our relatives, friends, acquaintances, from books or films, but then those relatives, friends, acquaintances, the authors of those books and the scriptwriters of those films must have come into contact with the thing, or individual or group of individuals, or they themselves have inherited the opinion from their relatives, friends and acquaintances, but then the same chain of causes and results applies until we reach those who did come into contact with a group of people, an ethnic group and by mingling with them have gathered experience which led them to formulate positive or negative evaluations.

Which of the two explanations sounds plausible?

It is a truism that generalized opinions about groups may be unfair to individuals making up those groups, but then generalizations cannot be bypassed: they constitute one of the foundations of our life, they become one of the defensive mechanisms that we are fitted with in order to survive, in order to safely navigate through life. You know from your parents or you have learnt it from experience that dogs can attack and bite you, while cats do not. That being so, you do not pay attention to a cat or a group of cats, while you are on your guard when you see a stray dog and especially a group of dogs. Does it mean that every dog will necessarily attack you? No, not by any means. Most of the dogs that you are passing by will leave you alone, but the small fraction of those that will attack and bite you might cause so much trouble and pain that it pays to always avoid close contact with unknown, unleashed dogs. It is as simple as that.

Do we have a bias against dogs? Hell, no. Do we pursue favoritism towards cats? Not either. It is our experience or the experience of others that we have internalized that guides us through life. Are these two different attitudes towards dogs and cats generalizations? Sure they are! Do you want to do away with them and approach each and every dog with a confidence of not being harmed, a confidence that you have towards cats? Or the other way around: do you want to rid yourself of this positive bias towards cats and approach each and every representative of the species cautiously, constantly keeping it at the back of your mind that you may be harmed?

Prejudice or bias is a generalization but a useful one. Prejudice and bias are grounded in the collective experience of millions of individuals and are passed down through generations. Yes, prejudice and bias are unfair to many, many individuals, but then nothing can be done about it. Though particular individuals are not to blame, they are by default – and rightly so – viewed as members of their respective groups and treated accordingly. We do not have time and resources to always check someone’s individual character. Most of the time we act on natural and conditioned – conditioned! – reflexes. Accusations of bias or prejudice are, therefore, scientifically and practically groundless. Even worse, accusations of bias or prejudice take the form of a war on nature.

The post-Western world is engaged in war on nature up to the hilt. The post-West’s ideological representatives have forgotten about the lore accumulated by generations through millennia and expressed in many sayings and proverbs like: boys will be boys; what’s bred in the bone will come out in the flesh; it runs in the family; like father, like son; and so on. The very idea that race or biological sex may be viewed as social constructs has no parallel throughout recorded history when it comes to absurdity. This idea implies that we – humans – create the biological differences, that we, humans, have absolute power over nature!

This idea’s advocates and proponents clearly have preconceived, groundless opinions of the world, that is, they have something that they accuse others of. They refuse to trust their senses; rather, they think they can dictate to their senses how to perceive and interpret reality. For instance, they can see all-white chess champions and all-black sprinters and marathon champion runners for decades and still obstinately drum it into our heads that there are no innate differences, that all this is caused by society and all these differences are constructs of the collective – prejudiced and biased – mind.

Why is the collective mind prejudiced and biased? Because it is evil? Intellectually impotent?

Theoretically, there are two contradictory processes at play. Either the brain receives information through the senses, processes it and formulates opinions about reality; or the brain conceives ideas and makes the senses perceive reality according to those ideas, that is to say, violates the perception of the senses and misinterprets the information transmitted by them. We have seen this latter attitude in history again and again. There was a time when thinkers – if this is the proper word for them – would say that crime was only possible in a society structured by antagonistic classes and, consequently, once those classes – and especially the dominant class – were removed, there would be no crime. We have had socialist states, with some of them claiming to be constructing communism, i.e. a classless society. Did that mean that crime became a thing of the past? No? Did that at least mean that crime was significantly reduced? Not either? Hm…

The same thinkers taught their political apostles and followers that once private property was abolished, everybody would have everything and, consequently, everybody would take great care of the things possessed by the collective, because everybody would feel to be the owner of everything. Of course, it turned out – as the old saying goes – that everybody’s business is nobody’s business. That’s what generations have experienced, and that’s precisely what teachers and saviours of humanity always fail to accept: reality.

Where does this thought that the brain can shape reality – which is nothing short of wishful thinking – stem from? Where does it come from in a world that is so scientifically and technologically advanced? Heck, people in the Middle Ages, the period so often ridiculed, derided and mocked for its intellectual backwardness, were not puffed up with such self-pride. They may have tried to heal their wounds or burns, to cure themselves of disease by touching the relics of saints, but for all that they never thought they could change nature as such. The construction of cathedrals and castles that they completed was only possible because they would gather experience – the evidence of their senses – and apply it rather than come up with ideas of their own. Reversely, those who sought to turn lead into gold by magic or cabala – by the vagaries of their brains – failed miserably.

Bias and prejudice – just like instinct – are all terms to denote the experience accumulated throughout millennia by millions of people and passed down orally or – in the case of instinct – inherited genetically from generation to generation. There is nothing wrong with them, even if they are unfair to particular individuals. Medicines while helping our organisms to fight a disease are “unfair” to many organs and tissues through the undesired side-effects, and still we use them. Bias and prejudice are the default settings. We may decide not to obey them now and again, but most of the time we follow their dictates because if we err in doing so, we err on the safe side.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

GEFIRA provides in-depth and comprehensive analysis of and valuable insight into current events that investors, financial planners and politicians need to know to anticipate the world of tomorrow; it is intended for professional and non-professional readers.

Yearly subscription: 10 issues for €225/$250
Renewal: €160/$175

The Gefira bulletin is available in ENGLISH, GERMAN and SPANISH.