Date: Mon, 11 Oct 2004 23:35:20 -0400
Subject: Re: Roots of Prejudice
From: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr.
On Sun, 10 Oct 2004 13:20:57 +0200, ###### wrote:
I came to your sites via working on Laws of Form and over the links here to Robert M. Tufty's Pages of Formal Formulations and from there to visit the other xenodochy-sites you propose.
I want to comment on your article about prejudice /1999
The purpose of my article is to illustrate and explain the biological basis mechanism underlying and predisposing us toward prejudice. We are predisposed toward being prejudiced against those who differ from us by unconscious and automatic biological response mechanisms. My paper is simply to explain those mechanisms.
I can follow your very precise arguments in every respect so far, but one :
You offer many comments that are not germane to the purpose or presentation of my article; however, I will endeavor to respond to some of those comments, as it would appear that you believe that prejudice is a "good" thing rather than a "bad" thing.
[How] do you really cope with Prejudice?
Personally, I seek to recognize when I find myself in the presence of individuals with a perspective different from mine, and to especially be aware if I begin to feel any kind of anxiety or discomfort. Then I use my organismic self-awareness to identify the source of the anxiety, evaluate whether it corresponds to a "real" possible threat or is apparently due to unfamiliarity, and, if the later, consciously act as if I would were such anxiety not present. After subsequent exposures, the anxiety is normally gone.
Prejudice is a protective instinct with a deeper meaning, than just to be an atavistic behavior, that should be "combated" and "overridden".
I disagree with your characterization of prejudice. Prejudice is a behavior mechanism which has had survival value throughout the phylogenetic scale, however, in advanced social contexts, it encourages and fosters behavior that is anti-social.
Prejudice is a Distinction, we have drawn in order to keep up Distinctions.
Prejudice is not a distinction. It is a bias toward one side or the other of a distinction already noticed consciously or unconsciously. Prejudice means "pre-judging" - that is, judging without basis in actual experience.
Drawing distinctions for the sake of keeping up distinctions is a meaningless tautology. We do not make distinctions for the purpose of keeping them up.
If you are suggesting that we distinguish on one level in order to support a pre-existing judgment about a distinction on another level, then you are allowing a pre-existing value judgement to influence the process of discovery. This is, as general semanticists put it, intensional orientation, more often said by the parody, "Don't confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up.". Any newly discovered distinctions needs to be independently evaluated as to whether they agree with or contradict the value judgements associated with a related distinction. Your suggestion that we look for (draw) distinctions in order to "keep up (pre-existing) distinctions becomes reasoning of the "self-fulfilling prophesy" nature. People who already exhibit prejudice are likely to commit this logical blunder to preserve their prejudices by avoiding the cognitive dissonance associated with conflicting information.
We, as different sentient beings, draw distinctions, otherwise there would be no World at all.
Distinguishing and responding to differences is not a behavior limited to sentient entities. See The Philosophy of Mobile Life. Distinguishing and responding to differences is also not prejudice per se. Prejudice is responding to a distinction contrary to legally (and/or morally) allowed responses to the distinction.
We construct a World of Differences by Indication, otherwise there would be absolute no thing.
We do not construct a world of differences by indication; we notice differences, evaluate consciously or unconsciously some value judgment about the distinction, and we subsequently may indicate the distinction, possibly seeking to promulgate our value judgment to others.
So we are distinguishing different Individuals, different Races, different Cultures, different Countrysides, different Nations a.s.o.
Distinguishing is not prejudice. Prejudice is assigning negative and positive value judgements to a distinction and acting accordingly when the actions should be irrelevant to the distinction. And we, by default, associate the word 'prejudice' with the negative aspect more than with the positive. "Prejudice" is a negative orientation/behavior/attitude in a society whose primary value is equal rights and fairness. It is proper to distinguish between a predator and prey and to judge the predator "to be avoided ('bad')" and the prey "to be pursued ('good')", but it is not proper to distinguish between a black person and a yellow person when that distinction is to be used to deny work to one and give it to the other. There is no intrinsic value in a person's color that is relevant to a right to work.
But from the very beginning we cope with our natural anxiety, by crossing borders, studying strangers, being guests, welcoming guests, making hospitality, making wars, making diplomatic interventions and so on.
Some of the above are not response/actions of individuals. My article does not attempt to deal with groups - only individuals.
The point is, one doesnšt really want to get mixed up with the Whole World.
I don't believe I have advocated that we go out and seek out others throughout the world, I advocate, that, when the world come to us, we then immerse ourselves in the differences to promote familiarity and reduce anxiety. If you want to be a world traveler, then you go to the world. If you want to be comfortable in your local niche, then you accept the differences that come to you. Moreover, you may not want to get mixed up with the "whole world", but some may. You must speak only for yourself, not for the rest of the world. Use the pronoun 'I' in such cases; don't project your own personal desires as somehow appropriate for everyone else.
We want to be different and being differentiated we are not only individuals, but belong to Towns, Villages, Landscapes, Regions, Nations and draw distinctions between us and Others. Between black an white, yellow and brown. Between cultural backgrounds and religions.
You have the cart before the horse. We can't want to be different until we have been made aware, on an intimate personal level, of differences and distinctions. Without the personal involvement, one is simply parroting and mouthing the words of others. This is the worst kind of prejudice - prejudice based on indoctrination without direct experience. In fact, my paper does not discuss the propagation of prejudice without direct experience, as it's main purpose is to expose the underlying physiological basis of primary sources predisposing us toward prejudice.
All of a sudden this has become "political incorrect" so one has to say yes to Crowds of different Cultures living together in to them strange Countries and call it happily a globalized world.
It is not "politically correct (PC)" to advocate inequality of rights and opportunities. It is "PC" to speak or act in a way that does not support a pejorative distinction by going to the source, and simply not acknowledging the distinction in the first place. It is PC to not notice that a person is of a different race when the fact of race is not germane to the activity, rights, or behavior at the moment. Of course, the "PC movement" has taken on a life of its own, and it has gone "overboard" in this regard - advocating not noticing differences period. It is OK to notice the differences in a way that does not detract from one or the other side in circumstances where the difference is not legally relevant.
How did this happen? It happened by our overcoming prejudices!
Political Correctness was not a result of overcoming prejudice; it is a prescription for changing behavior in order to prevent certain kinds of prejudice. Political Correctness has as its heart the ideal of not discriminating against any group for any legal purposes. The "method" of Political Correctness is to speak and act strictly correctly with respect to differences one is not legally allowed to act on. One must use neutral terms vis-ŕ-vis any distinction one is not legally allowed to act on. We cannot discriminate on the basis of gender, so we must use gender neutral terms. We cannot discriminate on the basis of race, so we cannot use racially specific language. The idea is that if we do not use the language of discrimination, then we won't act in a discriminatory manner.
We overcome them quite easily especially as young people.
But what happens then, not respecting the differences as the distinctions we originally made? Not following our prejudices (=judgements of our ancestors), which warn us to be cautious?
It is a big leap, and a fallacious argument, to move from "not noticing the differences (when they are not to be a factor)" to "not respecting the differences". The PC movement, in principle, demands that we do not distinguish on the basis of legally irrelevant distinctions (and to not even notice the distinctions in such cases). It does not demand that we do not respect differences. It is, in fact, a mark of respect of the differences to make sure that we do not discriminate on the basis of the difference. It is not, however, celebrating the differences.
Prejudices that are handed down from generation to generation are examples of the worst kind of discrimination - those parroted words that are without personal basis in experience. It's the prejudices of our ancestors that we must work hardest to overcome. You call them "judgements ... which warn us to be cautious". This kind of prejudice is exactly the kind that teaches the young to discriminate against others before they have any opportunity to experience and learn for themselves. Any judgements made a generation or more ago should not be the basis of personal action today.
The United states [were] generated on the Ground of a so called "empty" country, by brutally eliminating misfits,
The USA has the best record in the world for supporting and assisting "misfits" - physically and mentally handicapped people. People injured or born with defects. This country was NEVER founded on "eliminating misfits"; the best example of that was the Third Reich's program of eliminating all but the "master race". Israel's act of expelling the Palestinians when the country was formed is another example. Many of the founding peoples of the USA were, in fact, the self-same "misfits" who had been forced out of their parent countries. The Pilgrims came here to escape religious persecution. Many others came to avoid other kinds of persecution. It is elsewhere in the world where cultures advocate "preserving the purity" by preventing differences and eliminating "misfits" - those not uniformly of the same belief system as the "fatherland". The USA is the most tolerant of religious and cultural differences of any country in the world. We are not free of prejudiced individuals, but we have much less than anywhere else in the world.
and on the Ground that every "civilized" human could come, work, make money and live there. Therefore in
the US one probably should act as you propose, to overcome prejudice opposite strangers ,races, people of different nationalities. I therefore think you are very much right in respect to the USA.
As long and the laws of the country guarantee equal rights, prejudice must be dealt with. I'm offering information to help individuals overcome prejudice.
Living in Europe, with very distinct Nations, Languages and a distinct but common History, we are confronted with Migration from all over the "first", "second" and "third" World. This is a completely different situation than in US-America.
Not at all. The USA has as many "differences" and nationalities, with migration from all over the world, including the second and third. The situation is essentially the same here as in Europe, aside from our single common language. We have a heterogeneous society with many nationalities represented in small enclaves in every large city - speaking a different language and exhibiting a different culture. They mingle or not as they choose with the surrounding culture. Their right to exist and to behave differently is, for the most part, respected and supported under the law, provided they do not violate the laws of the country and state. Immigrants and migrants are supposed to have the same rights in European countries, but in some cases they are legally discriminated against as well as by the general population. In this regard the United Nations universal declaration of human rights, accepted by all member nations, including European countries, specifies:
"Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty."
These rights are to hold in all member nations, including yours, who have ratified the treaty to join the United Nations. Such treaties are the supreme law of the land, and you personally, as well as your countrymen, are honor bound to abide by and support those treaties.
One lives in his/her European country, which is still Mother and Fatherland, even if some of Grandparents [were] former strangers, as it always happens, that people move to another Country. But the thing is, you move there and become an integrated and assimilated member of the Nation you moved in to.
Just like the USA, but integration and assimilation does not mean denying and discriminating against cultural heritage and ancestral values.
More and more and more foreign and strange people live in European Countries now in between the original inhabitants, sometimes up to the extend, that every second person you talk to, is a person not speaking the language of the country. They often form large groups
The same is true in America - visit Chinatown, little Italy, or the French quarter, etc., etc., and see.
and want to build up their own country in your country.
Country? or Culture? Aside from the Kurds, Palestinians, and the Chechnyans, who do seek a country of their own, most of the rest of the violence has been based on prejudice handed down from generation to generation. Getting a new country is seen as the way to get out from under the prejudice. Take away the prejudice, the discrimination, and the denial of rights and resources, and the desire for a separate country would go away.
And often crime is the way, some of the asyled unrooted people without any orientation deal with you.
Crime has many causes. Poverty, prejudice, and discrimination are major factors.
Here boredom is overcome, by thieving, threat, cramped conditions, loss or bothering of life-quality, annoyance and uncertainty about being overrun and to feel not at home anymore in your own motherland, own country. town or place. You feel being encased, you feel not to be entre nous anymore.
This is the first time I have heard of "boredom" as a cause of crime. You are mixing things very badly here. The idea is not even coherent. Feeling alienated from existing in poverty conditions and being exposed to the prejudice of those around you applies to the sub- cultures who exist in poverty and who are discriminated against by members of the host country traditional culture. Members of the host culture won't be subject to such conditions, except for the impoverished. You are painting a picture of the unfortunate nomads and immigrants and then trying to suggest that the parent culture members of the European countries are experiencing this. It's fallacious, illogical, and invalid.
You donšt want to be mingled up and mixed up with such a mass of strangers, who just came to take part in your life most of the time without taking part, just being there! Without any respect.
You seem to be saying that you, as a member of a parent culture of an European country are unhappy with some of the immigrants and refugees you have been exposed to.
Just with the idea to take, what they can get, to use the democratic law. Wanting to stay completely themselves, without assimilation and respect to the Country that gives them hospitality
How many of these people have you come to personally know and understand? Are you accepting the words of others who prejudge them? If you do meet a "bad apple", are you going to form a stereotype and pre-judge all the rest?
You sound like you are unwilling to respect or give equal rights or opportunities to these individuals, most of whom are unfortunate, have been subject to propagandizing prejudice, and who are responding to individuals who don't want to mix with them, understand them, or help them. Are you contributing to the problem on a personal basis?
I love and admire people from other Nations, Cultures and Origins, I love and admire the Difference. I have great respect of people who stay in their own countries, work for their own countries, fight for their own countries and fight for making a good and meaningful living in their own Countries
You have just stated the classical self-justifying perspective of cultural prejudice. You, in fact, do not respect them if you want to avoid all contact, and you want them to be anywhere but where you are. It would seem that your comments and arguments are simply to try to justify your own prejudice.
I respect people who make a meaningful difference!.
It would appear not. People who bring something new from outside to a culture always bring a meaningful difference. You appear unwilling to allow that in your own private case. Did you come to this idea by your self, through reason and analysis? Or are you simply parroting your friends, associates, and ancestors?
What you are talking about seems to me to be the Voice of The Globalized Capital, the Voice of the "Global Village" and the Voice of "Globalizing the World" - where you have to override prejudice.
You are confusing prejudice with differences. I do not advocate making your neighbors over into your own image, I advocate respecting other peoples beliefs, so long as they will not take mine away. The USA is based on majority rule with minority rights that cannot be taken away. Your perspective seems to want to preserve a homogeneous local culture by denying the minorities the right to be different.
But what for? You have to do it in order to sell everything everywhere cheapest prize.
You are saying global capitalism is driving this? Nonsense. It's unrelated. Trade has existed for millennia, and no one has ever wanted to sell anything at the cheapest price. Quite the opposite - sellers want to get the highest price they can.
No one hast [has] any roots anymore and goes anywhere, just where the money or where the cheapest workmen are, to produce cheap things for cheap, poor and unrooted people, with no real Home-Country anymore.
Who are these "no ones" that you speak of? It doesn't sound like people or that it is relevant to personal prejudice. You seem to be rambling off into unrelated issues that have no logical connection to the biological basis of prejudice that I was writing about.
The definition of a Nation now: all the people who have got a passport from that very Nation.
Not relevant to the biological basis of prejudice.
I think anyhow: to overcome prejudice it does not need strangers to exercise, put just your neighbour, your man or woman, your children, your politicians.
"Strangers" are the people you meet in your community that you did not know before. I do not speak of "generic" strangers. Get to know the people you actually meet.
So you seem to me you take human mobility at its excessive peak. You seem to be a pursuer and promoter of the "Great Mobility" and it farther on seems to me, that you cannot see the catastrophical effects of this "mobility" to the world, a catastrophe similar to the Wars and worse than the wars. I think it very dangerous to pick out scientific "facts" to make an ideology out of them.
This is a wild flight of your fancy. Never in my discussion of the biological basis of prejudice did I advocate travel or mobility. Travel permits the contact that exposes one to differences faster and demands that one develop tolerance. But one does not need to travel to work on rooting out one's own personal tendency to develop prejudice.
Here: The ideology of combating prejudice. Prejudice serves Protection
Mobility of this global form is not really aspired by the Individual or the people. It is aspired by the Capital.
What is "the capital"? Again, you are not discussing anything even remotely included in my article. Moreover, the verb "aspire" requires an animate subject, a person - "the capital" is not a person.
The Individual, wants to be different,
The individual cannot want to be "different" without having first been exposed to information about differences.
The sequence is communicating or being exposed to information, information that includes details that permit discovering differences; distinguishing; forming value judgments; comparing to oneself; and finding oneself inadequate or wanting. Desiring to be different is a result of knowing and judging.
wants to belong to a community of similar individuals, wants to travel and see other countries and get to know to other people, but wants to have traceable roots himself, wants to have a accessible remembrance to his childhood places, parents, grandparents, friends, and the constant surroundings of ones own cultural and religious roots.
Are you speaking for yourself?
Why should one override prejudice, when he/she feels to be overrun and overridden in his homeland, in his place?
Ah... you want to preserve your prejudices, so you don't like arguments against it.
So please tell me, what is the deeper purpose and aim of overcoming prejudice if you, for once, took an European point of view?
How did we get from yours to an "European" point of view? How is it that you speak for all European nations, cities, towns, families, and people?
My aim for overcoming prejudice is to contribute in some small way to
stopping all the holy wars on this planet, as each major religion teaches
its disciples to abhor those who are different, and many of them actually
advocate exterminating, either by conversion, or by elimination, of anyone
who believes differently. I want to plant a seed of knowledge that can be used
by the motivated individual to overcome prejudice in him or her self.
Religions are a major social cause of prejudice, and our biological nature makes
it easier to be prejudice than to not be.
A sort of boring peace? A sort of multicultural or melting pot of Cultures? A sort of an uninteresting single "World-Tree" which grows all thinkable fruits tohuwabohu together with all thinkable sorts of leafs on this one single Tree, which now has neither Differentiation nor Form, nor Beauty, nor Taste, nor Character?
Rubbish. You seem to have a tendency to move through higher and higher biased
levels of abstraction to ridiculous unrelated heights. Nowhere does my
paper nor my perspective advocate any kind of elimination of differences nor
does it desire a homogeneous results. I advocate tolerance of differences
and peaceful coexistence of contrasting cultures. I advocate respecting
differences through tolerance and acceptance. Try to think of a stew-pot
where all the ingredients retain their own flavorings, but the combined effect
is something greater and more delicious.
Just because the prejudice is gone since a long time, people are visiting each other, talking to one another, being guests of one another, and traveling strange Countries since ages. And because prejudices have been overridden, and have gone, people have lost their instinct of caution, response and responsibility!
Overcoming prejudice does not equate to not being caution, nor does it preclude responding appropriately to negativity, nor does it mean a loss of responsibility. You are making broad sweeping abstractions that go far beyond any reasonable conclusions.
What about prejudice, when the masses are seeming to override your own culture? Or press their culture in between your Culture, without any respect or interest for the guest-country, just to make a better living, taking advantage of European welfare, which had to be [fought] for in each country for centuries?
It sounds like you have seen poor immigrants who were unable to get work because of prejudice against them, and who were forced to accept state benefits just to survive, and that you have pejoratively judged that they had no respect for your society. This is prejudice talking - prejudice seeing everything through it own negative filter. My experience is that immigrants use the welfare system to get started, but they seek to be independent as soon as they can, and they are harder workers and more motivated than most of the host culture members! In some cases some host culture members resent the success of hard working immigrants. This is prejudice based on envy, but this prejudice would not occur to individual who took the time to get to know and become familiar with these hard-working immigrants.
What about prejudices, when ethnic groups are seeming to want to take over your country by the peaceful means of migration?
"Seeming to?" What are the laws? Does the majority rule? Do minorities have rights?
My prejudice is not that migrating people are "bad", my idea is, that they have no roots, feel no loyalty, no ideals, no empathy, no revolting spirit, no real love for their own countries and people only greed for money that is not bad, but silly.
I think this is a meaningless distinction with very meaningful consequences for you, me and the World.
You really show the poorest view of humanity I have seen in a really long time. You claim these people are motivated only by greed. Look in a mirror. Are you projecting? The only real function that prejudice and discrimination serve is to allow one group to deny resources to another. You seek to justify your view that prejudice is not bad, because you seem to be seeing the poor unfortunate immigrants and refugees as a threat to your own riches.
I hope I could have made my view clear to you. It might seems politically and/or capitally incorrect to you. With respect to the World we have constructed and the Globe we live on it seems more than correct to me.
But maybe youšll have an answer to the puzzle?
Kind regards from Europe
The best advice I can give you is to quote our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln. When he was asked what the best way to defeat an enemy was, Lincoln responded, "Make him a friend".
Go forth and make these immigrants you are complaining about your friends. Your fears will be gone. You might even overcome your prejudice. You will be setting a good example for your children, and you will be contributing to world peace in a small personal way.
Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr.
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