Being aware of our Prejudices

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The roots of prejudice are pre (as in before) and judge (as in to cast judgment). So to have a prejudice is to have made a judgment about someone or something before proper education on the person or topic.

There was a fishing boat slowly cruising along the waters of the Sacramento Delta. I say slowly simply because we were passing it in my commuter train going 75 down the train tracks. It was a Monday and I was on my long commute into the office. Being Monday my mind was working at finding ways to escape my current work, so it was an easy transition to imagine myself on the fishing boat instead of sitting on the train. My mind began to drift into the fantasy of living a life as a fishermain, out on the water. “I could be a fisherman”, I said boldly (and quietly) to myself. “I love fishing and I could figure out all the details and make a go of it!” I could get into that life wandering about on the water in search of fish.

At first I imagined that the fisherman was out on the water for pleasure, that this wasn’t realy his (or her) day job. That somehow I would still have the challenge of how to provide for my family. How would I make money in that world? It didn’t take long to come to the conclusion that I would sell my fish. At this point my mind took a sharp right turn as I abruptly thought to myself, “I don’t want to exploit our natural resources for personal profit. I wouldn’t want to be part of the problem of overfishing of our waters by selling fish for money!”

So there I was, moral high ground reached… But is that really how I feel?

I don’t mind letting others fish for me. I eat fish all the time and love it! If I truly felt that this was exploitation, then all I’ve done is removed myself one or two steps, I still exploit by proxy. If that is truly how I feel, that fishing is an exploitation of our natural resources, then I need to stop eating fish.

But I realized that as I went through this mental exercise of a derailed fantasy, that that is not how I feel.

I had never processed the discrepancies between my core beliefs and my adjunct beliefs. I believe in conservation, I believe in respecting the environment and treating it well. I also believe the materials on this earth are here for us to consume and utilize as needed for survival and thriving. Obviously we need to work at better stewardship than we are currently exhibiting. But we still need to work toward balance and thriving.

My unprocessed thoughts, caught in the gaps between these two ideas (conservation and consumption) had caused me to cast dispersions on the very group that I wanted to be a part of. I had cast judgment on all commercial fisherman as exploiters and people that didn’t care about the environment. And by connection I had even cast the shadow of prejudice over myself.

This whole mental process brought the idea of prejudice to the forefront of my mind. If it was so easy for me to cast judgment on myself in this way, how had I prejudged others?

It’s a lucky thing that I was there to stand up for myself (In my head) when I saw prejudice rear it’s ugly specter. But how many others aren’t so luck, as to be in my head, when I judge them, before I have meet them? What other thought processes suffered from dualism and conflicting ideas that hadn’t been reconciled against one another? How much of the world around me have I judged harshly or wrongly without having evidence?

When dealing with the world around you, it can be crucial to be aware of your prejudices. It’s possible that you’re prejudice will lead to the right conclusion. It’s possible that the mental image and expectations you have of individuals is spot on. It’s also possible that it’s a self fulfilling prophesy. As soon was you meet another and cast the specter of your prejudice over the interaction between you and them, that prejudice will actually inform how they behave around you. You may be bringing out the reaction you get from people because you expect them to behave that way. Allow for the people you meet to pleasantly surprise you. Try to approach the unknown without prejudice.

Namaste,

Kevin

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