Thursday, August 25, 2005

Discrimination and Prejudice

I had an interesting discussion the other day about ‘discrimination’ and ‘prejudice,’ and how we have destroyed the usefulness of the words by stripping them of meaning, recasting them with a thin veneer of explosive impressions. I strive to discriminate everyday, in every waking moment.

Discrimination is one of the abilities that make us most human. It is the ability to tell things apart, to see what is the same and what is not—“to perceive the distinguishing features of; recognize as distinct.” If you cannot discriminate, you have no business walking around unaccompanied, because you will certainly run afoul of something sooner or later, whether it is traffic, a hole in the sidewalk or a pack of wolves cruising the boulevard in a ragtop Cadillac. Discrimination is the exquisite gift to see the world, to savor creation, to drink in everything around you; without discrimination, isn’t everything just a big gray blur?

On the other hand (OTOH, for those of you not comfortable with complete phrases) prejudice is the exact, diametric, polar opposite of discrimination. It is anti-discrimination. It means “to judge before the facts are available.” How different could ‘prejudice’ be from ‘discrimination’? Prejudice shuts off discrimination, operates in a vacuum, a void where facts are not in evidence. Prejudice is a crime against yourself—it denies your very perceptions, your ability to see the world around you. It is the last refuge of the weak-minded, the feebleminded, the lazy-minded.

We need to accept the burden that comes with discrimination. It is incumbent on each of us to use the faculties we possess to see what is really there—not what we have always been told to expect. Not what our parents expected to see. Not what our teachers and preachers told us to expect to see. Not what our politicians tell us to expect to see. We are surrounded—every single waking minute of every single day—by countless Emperors who are wearing no clothes, clamoring for our attention and admiration, who are being praised lavishly by those around them.

Stop. Look. Listen. Discriminate.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

the difficulty lies in teaching oneself (because you cannot teach others IMHO) to ignore the ingrained expectations and actually open one's eyes to allow true perception. When one's opinions are based on a pre-assumed view of the world, one must first find and recognize that presumption(?), learn how it colors perception and THEN re-analyse the situation making adjustments for the mispercieved viewpoint. (phew). frankly most people are either too stupid, too self-involved, or just don't give a rats-ass... I think it requires an incredible amount of not only personal insight, but also a whole lot of desire....