(prejudging) prejudice as part of the human condition

Nigel Farage apparently claims we are unconcerned about using racist vocabulary, at least as far as the Telegraph reports in this article today.  The paper then digs out a 2013 study, which says the following things:

The headline result from the study was that 30 per cent of respondents described themselves as racially prejudiced. Here is a breakdown of the results, showing which groups are most likely to admit to some sort of racism.

And there follow three graphs which make for interesting viewing.  Before we continue, I suggest you view!

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I’m more interested in the fact that these people admit to racial prejudice than that they are racially prejudiced.  In truth, I’d prefer to drill down a bit more and, of those who openly admitted to racial prejudice, find out which think this is bad or not.

I’ve always had this feeling we are all inevitably prejudiced.  To assert this is not the case is to compound the negatives of the situation.  That people with degrees should claim to be least prejudiced is, to my mind, neither a virtue nor a vice but a cloak made of shame which serves to hide deep-rooted realities.

If this train of thought is fair, the more educated you become, the more capable of hiding your rough and unready edges you are.

It’s not just that prejudice is a part of the human condition; prejudging prejudice is too.  In a sense, prejudice has two faces: one, the reductionist and purely negative one people like Farage love to smother around; the other, a necessary prejudging of our environment – a shorthand, if you like – which allows us to get by in a fast-changing, often confusing, world.

When does prejudging become prejudice?  It’s a good question.  There are a lot of them about.

When does localism become nationalism?  When does privacy become secrecy?  When does dissent become treason?

All of them good questions, with highly challenging answers.

What’s undeniable, at least to my mind, is that if we cloak, degree-like, our attitudes with fine words, then we shall never come to understand those others who are unable to speak so cogently.

And this is unfair.

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One final train of thought I stumbled across today – this time from the Spectator.  Giving examples of where this has not taken place, the article’s author concludes by saying:

[…] It is surely not unreasonable to expect internet companies to be as vigilant against terrorism as they are against paedophilia.

My immediate response is to assume that whilst paedophilia may be considered a crime against individuals (though the Savile case and other recent revelations seem to suggest that perhaps a war of sorts was being waged at a far more societal level), terrorism is always a crime against a civilisation.  Not only that: paedophilia is far easier to define, whatever the nation-state you occupy; terrorism, meanwhile, does sadly, even today, find its definition inflected by history, ideology and point of view.

A private corporation which depends on individuals for its income will always choose to rid itself of paedophilia before it does of terrorist verbiage, precisely because the latter depends on the history, ideology and point of view I mentioned – and, in so depending, is therefore more difficult to cover in the online legalese of webby terms and conditions.

Paedophilia, meanwhile, is (I assume) equally revolting to all civilisations, wherever they find themselves – and so simpler for an Internet company to typify and reach the decision to exclude.

Are the above two cases further examples of the slippery and uncertain dividing line between prejudgement on the one hand and prejudice on the other?  I think they may be.

In the case of paedophilia, it’s prejudice that necessarily operates – especially as for most people conclusions are reached in the absence of personal experience.  The situation is so grave as to make us react with our emotions full-on, even though all our knowledge is second- or third-hand.  We cannot think in a measured way about such situations: they are too awful to imagine.  Yet such prejudice allows us to reach logical positions: this mustn’t happen now; it mustn’t happen again; it shouldn’t have happened in the past.  Let’s stop it.

In the case of terrorism, the situation is far more complex.  Those of us who find it impossible not to support the state of Israel will never find it possible to describe Palestinian terrorism as freedom-fighting.  And with the positions reversed, the quandary is equal.

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So we see that the people who work for the state on our behalf, and whose job it is to take ultimate decisions over the lives of others, must in some way strive to step away not only from prejudice but also from prejudgement.

Even the latter’s not enough to take decisions with the necessary objectivity.

From prejudice to prejudgement to simply, flatly, judging, the line of progression isn’t an easy one to pursue.

A progression which no one can really achieve unless they fully admit first their instincts to prejudgement at the very least, and more than likely prejudice too.

As I say, a part of the human condition.

You don’t need to be educated to recognise your permanent faults, either.

You just need to be humble; which ain’t an easy task for anyone.

And maybe least of all for the educated.

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