Impulsive prejudices

I’ve constantly made myself deconstruct the structures that live in me, though I often say that I would never change, I actually do, all the time. May be I’m too proud to admit at times or may be it’s just a revelation for me, a revelation which may not actually change my final approach on something.

I got back home (my room) after visiting a very good of friend mine. He/she had burnt a couple of dvds for me, both containing songs/compositions from various artists; this probably is his/her favourite collection. It had a concert performed by a few Indian artists and one white person (there goes an arrogant assumption, while all countrymen who are white are just white, all brown people are Indian). On the Indian side, I could identify Shankar Mahadevan, Sivamani, Zakir Hussain, 'Mandolin' Sirinivas, the rest I wasn’t sure. I’ve seen them perform in other similar concerts in TV, but don’t know anything more. But I Google this guy’s name (John Mclaughlin) to know his background, before anyone else. Though it seems like a simple curiosity on my part to know about him, in retrospect, I realize it wasn’t. I’m more interested in knowing about the ‘odd’ one out, to see why he’s playing Indian classical music in his electric guitar. To read his interviews praising Indian musical giants like Ravi Shankar. I read more of his interviews, ctrl+f “India” – read the paragraph – ‘Find next’ – read the paragraph. After a while I think about classical music, to verbalize my thoughts..
“hmm let’s download few compositions of Ravi Shankar’s…”
“Ravi Shakar – Search – limewire results - …..”
“Ravi Shankar and Philips… - click download”
“Ravi shankar and Yehudi Menuhi – click download”
“Peter Gabriel ft Ravi Shankar – click download… - what? Music for the last temptation of Christ? – don’t download it – cancel download”
--after a few puzzled moments--
“what? why not? Download it you damn bigot!” (And started writing this post)
That’s how ingrained our prejudices are. It might be fitting to explain why I cancelled the download the first instance.
Because I hate Christianity? – Not really
Because I hate Christians – no! That’s not even true
Is it because the first thing that comes to my mind when I read the words Christianity, Christian, Christ, Jesus, Savior etc., is religious conversion, followed by
->All those sections of books and articles that talk about religious conversions made by Christian missionaries in India.
->The fact that Columbus and his entire murderous cohort were Christian.
->My own experiences with evangelism.
Yes, all these things put together backed my seemingly insignificant reflex that stopped me from downloading a soothing piece of music; just because it had the words “last temptation of Christ”. As I realize now, there is no good relation between evangelism and a piece of music that has the name “last temptation of Christ”, my mind made a choice that was based on this non-exsistent relation. It acts like a reflexive action itself, eye-brain-brain-spine-nerves (even more complex if we go deeper). Each of our trivial little choices have complex thoughts and prejudices that go unquestioned for years. And before you realize, your prejudices are so old that you cannot even think of the thought about changing it (Ex: trying to convince my parents that exogamy is just as good/bad as endogamy).
It also happened during my visit to my friend’s place. He/she suggested that we could eat in “Lahore Biryani house”, I said “what? Lahore? Heck no….” then after a pause “well am not in the mood to have rice…”. Why did I say “No” in the first instance?
Because I hate Pakistan? – I don’t know, probably
Do I hate Pakistan? – May be…! It’s hard to answer, I don’t have good things to say about Pakistan even though am sure there are. I enjoy reading articles which blame Pakistan for every other terrorist act in India (which may or may not be true, I don’t try to do more research, I’m much comfortable accepting it). But I don’t seem to have a problem mingling with Pakistanis, now.
I don’t have to give reasons for my hidden hatred for Pakistan, because almost all Indians would find it obvious. Regardless of the rationale behind that hatred, to avoid eating in a Pakistani restaurant [in my opinion] is plainly prejudiced or hatred misplaced.
I don’t know how many such prejudices lie buried in me, in fact I’m afraid there are too many of them which I might never discover (like I did with the above two incidents) in my life. How often do we actually try to set a ‘neutral’ tone to our actions? Whether it’s always possible or necessary to do so is irrelevant to the number attempts we make.

Earlier in this post I’ve referred to my friend as he/she, not to conceal his/her identity but to avoid the prejudice that you as a reader might hold toward this post if you were to know my friend’s sex. But the irony is that, just because I’ve used a gender neutral tone you’d assume a particular sex in your mind, you would have made that choice reflexively. In fact as you are reading this line, the part of your mind which made that choice is seeking some kind of approval.


Priya said...

Yes, my mind did want to seek some evidences in your passage to find out whether it's a guy or a girl. And our mind unconsciously associates things/events and so on with gender, race and other categories.

I was thinking of what toy to buy for my nephew. The first think that came to my mind was a car toy or a train toy or something that little boys like to play with. I never really jumped to think about soft toys like teddy bears or anything that is always associated with little girls. I thought, why not?

I've always thought about this and i wrote an entry about the kind of stereotypes that we have in our minds, most of them permenantly embedded. I just addressed one or two only in that post. Although stereotype and prejudice might have different meanings, they sometimes overlap.

I'm sorry to have commmented here, in this quite an old post. But i wanted to share my two cents' worth.

Suresh said...

Yeah stereotypes and prejudices do overlap. What's funny is that you nephew, though he is young, might have already been socilaized to "like" those "manly toys" you thought of buying him. As I had said in my podcast they are not as innocent after all. So by buying a stuffed animal you are very likely to make him "wtf?" It's hard to circumvent these things, alone.

Thanks for the comment. I was quite disappointed initially when nobody chose to say anything. After I started this blog this post was the first relatively sensible one that I made. It also set the tone for what I primarily wanted to do here (deconstruction). But there was no comment...whatever. People become popular, people become notorious. I became neither, yet both.

Priya said...

"I don’t know how many such prejudices lie buried in me, in fact I’m afraid there are too many of them which I might never discover" Yes it's true that these prejudices and stereotypes are embedded in us since young by our parents, relatives, the mass media, government and so on. And furthermore, we were all in a very impressionable age when we were exposed to all this socialization. Children's brains are like sponges, they'll absorb anything and everything without questioning. It must be the parents who should teach the children to question such things and teach them to identify such stereotypes.

I read a newspaper article recently, written by a reader in the comments section. She taught her 12-year-old daughter to identify sexist comments/phrases/thoughts, when her daughter asked her something about why her class boys were behaving like this or like that. I think that this is a good way to start deconstructing (as you say) everything. One should start this as young as possible.

For me, only now i'm starting to question such things. And the above statement applies to me too. But i think that it's not too difficult to erase away our prejudices. But it's difficult to identify them in the first place.

Yes, my nephew might have already been constructed in such a way. So i have to buy him something that is "gender neutral"? Like a school bag, school shoes or so and so? Stuffed toys are not bad, you know? They have also become gender specified nowadays. I can buy him a big stuffed tiger:) haha...

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