The other day, on the Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme, I heard a woman (Mona Siddiqui?) talking about prejudices, how we all have them, and how we should acknowledge and confront them. It hit home, because I haven’t really confronted my own. Not far beneath the surface they are manifold. Due to my upbringing they included Catholics, Jews, ‘Blacks’ (African origin), ‘wogs’ (Egyptians?), ‘Ities’ (Italians), Greeks, and Japs- in fact, all races and nationals other than those of English descent. But also the divorced, adulterous, and sexual ‘free expressers’ of all sorts, tattooed men and women, and those with studs in their noses, lips, stomachs and nether regions, and any kind of gaudy make-up. I also disapprove of dishonesty and deceitfulness of all kinds, except white lies if unavoidable, and, of course, anyone with a criminal record (beyond the pale).
Following a life exploring human psychology, I now espouse a no-blame, no-fault philosophy; everyone is how they are because of circumstances beyond their control, and usually as a result of genetic inheritance and life experiences, especially those in childhood. Beneath these various ‘exteriors’ lie basically equivalent persons, who can theoretically communicate with each other on a fundamental level, no matter what their backgrounds and proclivities. I am sure this is easier for parents in relation to their children than between others, but even here (parents-children) in some cases, it can be difficult. The point is: the no-fault philosophy is a mental construct; prejudices are ingrained in our emotional system, and manifest ‘where they listeth’, beyond our control, and usually overpowering any mentally-conceived reasons for responding more worthily.
How can one deal with one’s prejudices? I have found that if I try to ignore them when communicating with people I know well, but who come into any of my categories of prejudices (and others perhaps so deep-seated that I am not aware of them), then what comes across is emotionally insincere and can then be harmful to a relationship. Perhaps one has to be a saint to be able really to ‘love thy neighbour’, irrespective of one’s deep-seated prejudices against the neighbour in question.
I would submit that this plethora of prejudices we surely all have is the basis of all the world’s ills. Is it possible ever to overcome them? The sooner they are recognised, the more chance there is that they will weaken with time in the light of one’s greater understanding of oneself and of others. Certainly it would greatly become a man to try. Is it the highest aim one can have in life?