preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.
“English prejudice against foreigners”
synonyms: preconceived idea, preconception, preconceived notion; prejudgement
“male prejudices about women”
Well that appears to be an entirely unpleasant thing, doesn’t it?
Prejudice against…I was going to start a list there, but I think it’s important to keep this blog to a little under 5 million words…
The word itself seems to be split into 2 components – pre and judge.
We seem to be somehow hard wired to create some manner of perception about a person when presented with a vacuum of knowledge.
If we meet someone from a group, area, philosophy…you get the idea, that we don’t understand, or have no prior personal knowledge of, we’ll fill that gap in knowledge with…
Well, we’ll often fill it with a pile of old bollocks – usually hoovered up on our way through life from the media, social and otherwise, friends, family and anyone else who knows me…er, sorry, knows you…
Does that have to be a bad thing? Do we have to do lengthy research on each and every person we ever meet before finally, some 23 years later, we can give them out stamp of approval?
Just recently, I got in touch with Donna, a friend who I’ve known for maybe a little over a year, to invite myself to stay at her house so I could get along to the latest Walkamile event in Strathaven.
Imagine my happy surprise that after welcoming me into her home that she shares with her delightful husband Alan, and 2 little people, she proceeded to tell everyone we met that she was putting me up for the night, and that she had only met me 4 times.
Hmmm…when you put it like that..
And yet…before I knew it, I was whisked away to a fundraising ball for Chris’s House with some of her close friends, enjoying great conversation and hospitality at a most splendid hoolie.
A night that finished with setting the world to rights whilst drinking her dad’s very fine home made beer.
The hospitality continued the following morning with square sausage & tattie scone rolls and more of that friendly chatty stuff.
A hug, and I was off on my way to our let’s walk a mile event in Strathaven, being supported by the lovely Rachel…who I’ve known for about a year and Kathleen, who I’d met once.
I approach these wonderful events – yesterday’s ramble in Strathaven was our 13th – with a number of closely held prejudices.
The first being, the weather is going to be lovely. At the vey worst it won’t rain…and no, that foggy drizzle we had in Inverness all those months ago does not count as precipitation.
My second prejudice, and, for my sins, I’m finding this a bugger to shift, is that people are fabulous.
Crazy, I know. But let’s look at the increasingly growing body of evidence to support my pre judgements.
I’ve walked around the coast of Scotland – with no money – telling anyone who is willing to listen about my mental health problem – receiving nothing but hospitality, friendship and wonderful stories in return.
We’ve had 13 events in and around Scotland, where strangers – STRANGERS – from different walks (see what I did there?) of life, have walked a mile in each other’s shoes and felt better for the experience.
I now find myself at the pre walk talk, inciting prejudice amongst the gathered hordes – but prejudice, this time, as a force for all that is good and rather lovely.
I ask people to pre judge the person, the stranger they have yet to find, but with whom they are about to walk a mile.
‘Imagine that this person is going to be one of the loveliest folk you’ve ever met – and you won’t be disappointed… ‘
Is, more or less, what I tell the walkamilers.
And it’s working.
But why have prejudice at all?
Why can’t we assess each and every person we meet on their own merits and formulate our opinion of them over time?
Well, dear reader, it’s my assertion that we’re hard wired to pre judge – love it or hate it, it’s a human superpower we all seem to have.
Yes, even you, the Dalai Lama…look, I don’t criticise your blogs, so why don’t you just…
Prejudice has a self fulfilling prophecy component that comes free with it.
You meet someone. You have a negative prejudice about their group/ their philosophy/ order/ race/ religion/ party/ team/ class/ country/ eye colour…and so on.
If you do engage with them at all, you’ll be waiting…poised for them to say or do something that confirms your prejudice.
You’ll be waiting for them to slip up so that little part of your mind will light up and scream,
‘See – I told you they were…’ add your own insult here…
Imagine then, going into that same meeting, interaction, whatever…but this time you believe this person is going to be fabulous…
Well, for a start, you’re more likely to have that conversation.
Secondly, and most importantly, you won’t be set to trigger that internal booby-trap that declares they’re a….(see above)
When they say or do something you don’t entirely agree with, you’ll be more inclined to think, ‘Maybe that’s out of character for them…’
Or maybe even, ‘I don’t agree with what they say/ do – but just because they’re different from me doesn’t make them a…(see above)’
After all, you’ve already decided they’re fabulous.
And that, my friends, is the Walkamile way. It’ll find you in all kinds of fabulous situations – perhaps even blagging a sleepover at someone’s house..
I’m so sorry, Donna, I can’t believe we’ve only met 4 times…I don’t normally try to blag hospitality without at least meeting folk at least, er…once…
I refer you to ‘The Ferguson Effect’
Walk a mile