Sunday 11 April 2021

We are experts in our prejudices

Weeds in the garden of the mind

In times of reflection and introspection, I allow myself some searching scrutiny of my views, my opinions, my beliefs, my principles, and most importantly my prejudices. The blind spots that limit the range of vision in areas where ideally, I should normally be able to see, but I do not.

Like a gardener, it is a process of planting, trimming, weeding, pruning, grafting, uprooting, cleaning and much else that allows the garden to appear first well looked after and hopefully beautiful as a projection of what is aesthetically pleasing to myself and then to others. This is necessary for the mind too, things we have learnt that we need to relearn, unlearn, or have mislearnt through ignorant, incomplete, or bad education that needs jettisoning before it becomes the foundation for bad choices and decisions.

Arrogance is disabling

It brings to mind something Peter Drucker, the management guru said some decades ago, “discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and overcome it.” Discovery is always a process of searching and curiosity, that one has acquired some set views left without reassessing and questioning to ascertain their validity and application for the context, the time, the situation, or the circumstance will leave one prone to error.

The Merriam-Webster defines arrogance as an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions. When reading Peter Drucker’s quote, I tend to drop the ‘intellectual’ qualifier of arrogance.

Arrogance is bad and sometimes it is difficult to notice it in ourselves, the sense of superiority, that makes us think we are better than others, the overbearing manner that prevents us from being accommodating of alternative and different situations, the presumptuousness that denies us the benefit of knowing the limits of our understanding, expertise, abilities, competence, and even open-mindedness.

We are prejudice experts

It is strange is it not that arrogance does cause disabling ignorance, the lack of knowledge, information, insight, context, premise, understanding, the list in synonyms and similar inferences can be limitless. However, the point is arrogance disables you and when you are disabled, you are unable to perform like those who are able can. This construct can be applied to anything, what we do to compensate, mitigate, or eliminate that disability can make all the difference.

Nowhere is the issue of arrogance more evident than in our prejudices, the quickness with which we rush to the judgement of others, castigating, excoriating, and condemning them, based on our limited worldview contextualised within the constraints of knowledge and the mistake of assuming we are all-seeing when we have many blind spots.

We are experts in our prejudices, qualified and lettered to the point of being unchallengeable and unassailable, it is dangerous for ourselves first and then others. It is easy to be unaware of it because we are comfortable and secure in what we know.

The open mind like parachutes

This brings me to another quote, part of which is popular, but the provenance and the context in which it is used differs, depending on who it attributed to, the one attributed to Lord Dewar, Thomas Robert goes, “I have an open mind. Minds are like parachutes—they function only when they are open. I believe in collecting information on every important topic and verifying it. That is why I am here tonight—in the spirit of enquiry.” [StackExchange: A mind is like a parachute]

There is no better way to learn, to unlearn, to relearn and create scope for new knowledge that changes perspectives, perceptions, or prejudices, than to have an open mind, it is for our development and our safety, it allows us to acknowledge our blind spots and adjust our line of vision, it enables us to see better, it addresses deep-seated arrogance and brings us to the realisation of new possibilities.

You wonder why I have written a treatise on open-mindedness, simple, someone published a picture of themselves in interesting attire, adornments and makeup, the commentary that followed whilst a few celebrated and commended the bold difference in embracing the alternative and sometimes misunderstood, too many from the Nigerian opinion pool could not see the aesthetic blinded by their prejudices and leading to outright condemnation.

Open all windows to light and air

You have to be openminded you cannot be selective of where you are open-minded, streams of knowledge and enlightenment come from unexpected places when we are ready to explore the unfamiliar and sometimes threatening. We cannot access new knowledge pools when we have closed our minds to the avenue or route to that new experience. Like in the daytime, any window closed is closed to letting light and fresh air into the room.

To that, I wrote two tweets, “I would suggest that a little open-mindedness to the alternative, the different, the unusual, the atypical, the unconventional, or the chimeral can open up areas of creativity and genius closed to sight just because we can't countenance the radical. Nigerians should let go.” [Twitter]

“I just saw an interesting fashion statement of difference, the commentary that followed showed how people are limited in vision, bound by the myopia of conformity, that despite their talents and academic achievements, they never reach their potential by judging others.” [Twitter]

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