News August 2013

Pride and Prejudice

Controlled peer-group pressure is a very powerful weapon. Jane Elliott, an American schoolteacher, created the famous ‘blue-eyed/brown-eyed’ exercise, originally carried out with primary school children in the 1960’s. In the exercise, those children, whose eye colour was deemed ‘superior’, became arrogant, bossy and unpleasant to their ‘inferior’ classmates, and their grades improved. The ‘inferior’ classmates also transformed – into timid and subservient children, including those who before had been dominant in the class. Their academic performance suffered.

It seems to be essential to our existence to put people groups into boxes, label them and judge them, irrespective of their intellect, talent, or individual belief. As seen in the exercise the group as a whole changed, was labelled and pre-judged. Why do we type cast? Does it put our own world at peace because in our opinion everyone is put in their rightful place?

Worldwide people are put into boxes according to their place of origin, their skin colour, their belief, and so on. Prejudice being universal, there is not one group that is unaffected. Depending on our point of view we are either full of ‘superiority’, or – when looked at by others – may find ourselves in a contrary position. One day belonging to the ‘blue-eyed’ group, the next day to the other.

Yet the true and real meaning of life is ever sought by the youth of all cultures as young men transition from boyhood to man and young girls mature into women. This transition within the indigenous culture is steeped in tradition; the rite of passage earned rather than chronologically bestowed; learning from the stories handed down through the generations; tradition that underpins the very fabric of their society. Irrespective of the culture, origins are important for all and give us parameters within which we can live our lives. Type casting does not have to be an essential prerequisite for this. Controlled peer-group pressure is a very powerful weapon. Either way.

‘I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.’¬† (Frederick Douglass, 1818 – 1895, African-American social reformer)


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