The Deep Roots of Human Prejudice



The roots of human prejudice are so deep, and it is so pervasive, that it almost feels like second nature to man.

While it is widely believed that men are born free of prejudices, you would find it hard to believe just how naturally they come to us. It almost is the best, most suitable reasoning shortcut.

What if prejudice were an inseparable trait of an intelligent species? And if it isn’t. Why do people continue to indoctrinate their children with prejudiced ideas and undoubtedly have been doing so for centuries? And does prejudice go beyond nationalistic, ethnic, and religious boundaries? Apparently, it does.

What if prejudice is a problem that possibly cannot be separated from the act of thinking?

We are surely the only prejudiced species, or so we believe.


Is liberal education enough to get rid of prejudice?

Liberal education may or may not cure someone hellbent on antisemitism give up support for Nazism, for instance, but it certainly does improve the odds of minimizing that.

One way or the other, you would be shocked and surprised at how deep the roots of human prejudice go. It’s a huge challenge.

And is training for critical reasoning enough to get rid of our intrinsic, deeply embedded prejudice and biases? Even despite learning about all the logical fallacies, biases, and flaws?


Are we really free of prejudice when helping others escape it?

And do we really when we think that we have escaped it? Judging others for it?


So how deep are the roots of human prejudice?

Guess we’ll never know.

Malice, Morality & Malala: or Adding Insult to Injury

Source: AP/The Hindu

I write this with a heavy heart, with disgust and with a sense of insecurity and fear.

As you all know, teenage education activist Malala Yousafzai had been shot by the Taliban in her native Swat on October 9, 2012 to the shock of not only the entire nation, but the whole world. Right now she is struggling her way back to life and hopefully making good progress. However, I am seriously concerned for her well being in the future as she is feared to have suffered brain damage, but that’s not confirmed. Hopefully not.

After this sad incident, amid spontaneous sympathy and genuine grief, all kinds of genuine heartlessness, cruelty and the usual idiocy emerged. I am talking about the organized campaign and the spontaneous reactions aimed at undermining the tragedy of the shooting of Malala Yousafzai and maligning her character as an activist.

You can find all kinds of people coming up and linking the event with their political agenda and trying to prove something completely unrelated.

So, you’re upset about Malala, right? How come you don’t make the same kind of fuss about hundreds of little children who have died in the drone attacks?

I am so sorry for not outraging as much about the hundreds of little children who have died in the drone attacks, but what in the world drone attacks have to do with Malala and what does grieving for her have to do with grieving for the children dying in drone attacks? Why is grieving for a girl that you knew as a public figure wrong and how that negates the feelings you have for the people dying in drone attacks?

So is speaking out for the attack on her wrong just because you think people are not condemning drone attacks? What kind of morality is that, by any of the twisted standards we have in this world of ours? Maybe just because the whole world is sympathizing with her, she must be an evil person, right? The ever-obnoxiously-eloquent Ayaz Amir puts it like this.

I mean what in the world are people trying to prove over here. Yes, drone attacks (which are, mind you, bombings, which are bombings and are lethal, let them be by manned aircraft or not) are atrocious for both innocent and terrorists alike, but those events are completely irrelevant to the point that Malala Yousafzai was an innocent little child who was brutally shot. I literally felt as if someone had shot my own daughter, but you don’t have to feel the pain to imagine if the girl was your “daughter” really. I regret even mentioning that word here. Though I cannot see it or put it any other way.

Actually the reaction from many of the hyper-nationalist and self-proclaimed exclusively-patriotic and religious right and center-right (with sincere apologies to the sane center-rightists) of the country, and especially the religious leaders and “scholars”, is nothing more than a dirty display of Groupthink, with hurt pride turning into venomous damnation of Malala and of all the sympathy for her. It is certainly not without a reason.

They do actually consider Malala and everything she represents as a threat. A threat to their religious-nationalist identity. A threat to the Pakhtun Islamism, a threat to the Islamic clergy, a threat to the Taliban and a threat to their cult of oppressing women into oblivion, ignorance and obscurantism, depriving them a right to education and a happy and free life.

Islamists like the Taliban are more aware than your average moderate Pakistani Muslim what great a threat secular education can possibly be to the religious dogma and faith. The reason is that education on scientific basis can help children grow to become freethinkers and use reason and scientific method, which could possibly eliminate the superstition and the supernatural from their lives.

Oh yes, was she really innocent of all her charges? The razor-sharp wit of Wus’atullah Khan so sarcastically puts why she was not. Even Nicholas Kristof sees it this way.

I agree that she is not innocent of her charges. I am proud that she is not. She was doing something even the most outspoken of liberal and secular public figures were and are afraid to do. She was propagating, supporting, endorsing and practically ensuring secular education to the children of her land, especially girls. This is something remarkable considering how the Taliban love to blow up girls’ schools and how they consider education to women an evil.

This is also remarkable because not long ago the Taliban and allied Islamist militant groups had taken over the control of Swat and enforced their Shariah there for the time. The Pakistani state had briefly lost control over the territory until a military operation was carried out to regain it. So it takes some courage to take on the Taliban not far from their lair.

This is precisely why the Taliban targeted her and their spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan has vowed to attack her again if she survives this one. Actually, the Taliban specifically mentioned that she was attacked because she was “secular-minded”. This is the reason why many in the rest of the supposedly moderate Pakistan think that attacking her was justified, even though they cannot or could not do it themselves.

So much for those who think that though shooting her is wrong, she does not deserve all this attention and sympathy. There are even those who think that shooting her was completely justified. Those who side with the Taliban. Therefore, I find this incident, not polarizing, but cleansing, in terms of who is who in our society. If we still cannot see who our enemies are as Pakistanis, then we never will.

Source: Amnesty International

While I think about Malala Yousafzai this day, what overwhelms me more than anything else and what really puts me to shame is her bravery and her clarity. Because what she is demanding is so obviously and unmistakably right and worth defending and not worth giving up, even for a second, just like breathing, eating and drinking. And stepping down and giving that up just because your life is under threat is just clearly wrong reasoning, isn’t it? But are we fighting that hard?

Either we are stupid or Malala is.

Don’t Hate People Because They Disagreed

Are you one of those people who reject everything said by the people they don’t like, just because of their opinion about them?

Our emotions, and even more importantly, our prejudices can badly affect our reasoning. In fact, our negative emotions and prejudices themselves become our reasoning while dealing with people or matters which can trigger their appearance. People representing conflicting political viewpoints are a good example of that.

Prejudices are not something to feel guilty about. Everyone has prejudices and nobody is an exception. Prejudice of the race can be the most instinctive of all prejudices, because of the immediate realization of a physical difference.

Although as citizens of the global village, we may have overcome prejudices of race and ethnicity, but they stand as strongly today as they did ever since humans first came to realize it. Everyone has this prejudice even in the modern world, although it largely goes unspoken, showing its face from time to time. Prejudice against gender is also an important factor.

Then come more sophisticated types of prejudices, such as against religion, country and political orientation. Although all three of these factors can easily be integrated into political prejudice. Our civilized minds have given rise to these entities, and have only offered ourselves new reasons to hate each other.

Prejudices have always been there, and they will always remain to be there if the masses of the world continue with the same kind of upbringing that they had been subjected to. But how can we overcome prejudices is the question.

You can overcome prejudices with education and tolerance. And when I say education, it certainly does not just mean academic degrees and several years in college. Some of the most academically decorated people who I knew of were the most prejudiced ones, coincidentally.

This, by no means, suggests that academic or formal education is not important and must not be pursued, but the point to understand is to recognize the difference between being educated and being literate.

Education tells you of the evils of violence and of the advantages of tolerance. Education can make you a tolerant person, and a tolerant person can curb his or her prejudices more easily than an uneducated and violent one.

Therefore, you can suppress your prejudices through education, as you cannot destroy them from your unconscious.

Largely, the way we are brought up is responsible for deep-rooted hatred and prejudices. Only if you are able to educate yourself can you be able to get rid of your childhood prejudices imprinted on your minds by your environment, most importantly, by your parents and teachers.

It is prejudices like these which can be a hindrance to the common understanding of the importance of peace and the willingness towards it between the conflicting parties. Countries like India and Pakistan, Israel and Palestine, USA and Iran and many other examples like these can illustrate how prejudices can easily come into play as a hurdle to peace.

Children of one conflicting party are brought up being taught by their elders to hate the other conflicting party, and when I say hate, I literally mean hate. Just like hatred was used by the Catholic Church as a tool during the Crusades, and as it is used by Islamic extremists for terrorism.

Even if you want to be realistic to teach the young ones of the possible dangers from a potential “enemy”, then you can warn him or her of the possibility, while strictly discouraging any feeling of hatred. History should be learned as objectively and scientifically as possible.

An educated person knows about the importance of life. And as soon as you realize what being alive means and that you have no right to take the life of another, you immediately come to realize that you should abstain from violence and that you should respect every living being, not only your fellow beings, humans.

This realization will help you to understand that there are humans, and more importantly, living beings, with the same feelings as you, on the other side of the conflict. And that they may be having ideas as valid and reasonable as you, if only you chose to consider them for a while, and tolerate them. Believe me, if you do consider them for a while, you will be able to tolerate them.

Abraham Lincoln once said, ” I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”

This is what overcoming a prejudice or hatred is all about.

You  should not change your mind about people just because of political changes.

You should not hate someone just because they disagreed. What if they were right?