Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hope in the struggle against prejudice

In my previous post I argued that one of the biggest obstacles in the struggle against prejudice is that most of us are not aware of what is going on in our brains. Our cognitive functions believe that they are in control, and we are not aware that most of our decisions are taken by our affective and automatic functions. Empirical social psychologists have difficulties in ascertaining what works and what does not work in policy efforts to reduce prejudice and stereotypes. The history of countries and communities that have descended from prejudice to violence or even genocide is not encouraging. But there are also stories that testify of the victory of tolerance and solidarity. In Canada for example, after decades of political debate dominated by nationalism and intolerance between communities in Quebec, today the province is dominated by federalists that have promoted inclusive policies that accept diversity and cooperative solutions. In another field, I am reading the book by David Winner on the history of Dutch soccer, "The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer". One of the most interesting aspects of this essay, and to me one of the most unknown, is how after the defeat of the Dutch against the German in the final of the World Cup in 1974, The Netherlands were increasingly dominated by a biased interpretation of history that exaggerated the acrimony between Dutch and German, starting from the occupation in the Second World War and finishing with the fact that Germany had won that World Cup final in an unfair way. However, in the late 1990s many Dutch rectified that point of view, and many of them were able to practice self-criticism and realize that the Germans are also able to play excellent football, and that their players had no responsibility at all in the Holocaust, a responsibility that many Germans of the 1940s share with many Dutch, since there was a high level of collaborationism in The Netherlands, where the Jewish community was one of those that most suffered in those horrible times.

1 comment:

  1. Bias is a natural phenomenon, a product of evolution. Bias is a daily staple and a great survival tool.

    If you were completely unbiased, you might see yourself as a cancerous growth on Planet Earth to be eradicated, and you'd want to go extinct. Except that even this is a biased view, we can't help being biased.

    Is to biased to see colours as opposed to diffent wavelengths of reflected light? It is. Is it a problem? No, it's immensely pleasurable, an opportunity for us to enjoy the beauty of life.

    The bias you write about is simply a rejection of the principle of 'do unto others as you would be done by'. Observe the principle, and what some people call 'bias' will not be a problem at all.