Sunday, October 7, 2012

Let's Talk About Prejudice a Minute

I recently wrote a blog about the violence coming from the Muslim world. Within hours I received a nicely worded comment that took me to task for being prejudice. If that were true it would, of course, effectively make all of my points mute because, as we all know, anything we say that is motivated by prejudice is automatically wrong and perhaps even evil. 

That, my friends, is a false premise, but it is a very effective debate tool. One which we see used over and over. Whenever one side of an issue runs out of logical arguments, they simply say or imply the other side is saying things out of prejudice.

You see we have been conditioned to  think prejudice is wrong, evil and must be stomped out. But is it really? Sure, prejudice which is based upon the color of one's skin, the place of one's birth, one's age, or one's sex, those are surely bad forms of prejudice because they fail to take the quality of the individual character into consideration and they tend to believe false stereo types and sometimes blatant lies about the target group. That kind of prejudice is certainly evil and should be combated whenever discovered.

But what about other prejudices? Are they all that bad? If you have a group of people, say a motorcycle gang, which is known for violence and robbery, isn't a prejudice against them a sort of self defense mechanism? It makes you avoid contact, even going out of your way to avoid contact. And if contact can not be avoided, it makes you act more carefully, perhaps even taking precautions to protect yourself. Is being prejudice in that case a bad thing?

Now, can't that be applied to any group which is dangerous and violent? So, if a certain religion teaches that violence is justified, and even a duty, in defense of that religion.... well, isn't a prejudice somewhat justified, perhaps even a good thing, because it helps keep you on guard in dealings with representatives of that religion?

My point here is that not all prejudice is automatically bad and needs to be suppressed. Prejudices based on falsehoods should be recognized and overcome. For example, I once saw a World War I poster which said that Germans kill babies with their bayonets and were coming to kill our babies. If that poster became a basis for my becoming prejudice against Germans, that prejudice would be bad because it is based on a lie. The only way to combat it would be to identify it as the basis for my prejudice and then to show me that it is a lie. If, on the other hand, I had a prejudice against chili peppers because they give me heartburn, that prejudice is a good thing because it is a defense mechanism (now watch, I will undoubtedly be getting email's from the Chili Pepper Anti-defamation League for saying that).

Anyway, when someone calls another person "prejudice" stop and consider if that's even true -and if it is, where does that prejudice come from. It may be motivated by evil or it may be something else... either way, it's important that we figure it out.

Live Long and Prosper...

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