Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Without Prejudice?

Well, I'm going to write about a topic I think most people have probably thought about and considered, so its probably not new to you. But I'm a linguist, and one of the things I can't help doing is dissecting words. We don't like prejudice. When someone calls you "prejudiced" you get angry whether the words are true or not because its an insult. When we think of prejudice we think of groups like the KKK or the Nazis. We think of these horrific events in history where some group has oppressed other groups simply for being different and as soon as someone calls another person prejudiced that is what we think of. In today's culture, calling someone prejudiced is tantamount to calling them Hitler. So we end up without convictions and live in realms of double speak and shifting sands. But that is off topic. I want to look at the word itself, prejudice.

I think we can agree that the two basic parts of the word are pre- and judge. Prejudice means to judge someone beforehand (before what is a matter of context and interpretation). Now like any word we can use it in different ways, but I'm just trying to get at where it came from. Most of the time we would mean prejudice is judging someone before really getting to know them, basically assumptions. Only that these are assumptions deemed inappropriate and often evil. But when you really think about it making prejudgements (even character ones) and assumptions is what makes life manageable. We can't wait everytime we meet a new person or situation to fully understand it before we interacting with it, we must engage first and then learn. We make loads of assumptions all the time. I assume the person working at the store down the street speaks English. I assume the person in approaching the stop sign to my right after me obeys the same road rules as me. I assume basic etiquette is shared with all the people that are waiting in line at the bank. Its usually when our assumptions and expectations are violated that we tend to get annoyed or even angry, but we have to make these assumptions to even get by in this world. It is just that some assumptions are bad, and some are good. I wouldn't presume to tell you which are which since society is in a terribly befuddled place these days as concerns that particular notion. However, just be aware that there is no such thing as a person without prejudice or assumptions.

For His Glorious Name,

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