How Does Perception, Stereotyping And Image Affect Today’s Society?
Okay, I’m going to start this on 100. 0 – 100 n**** real quick! What would you think of me if I told you I was a film maker, making crazy visuals for hip-hop artists and the occasional low budget film? Respectable profession within the entertainment business right? Now, what would you think of me if I told you I was a film maker, making crazy porno’s? You’d instantly form a very different opinion as to who I am depending on what type of film maker I am, right? But wait… I’m still a film maker either way, right? No? Okay, fair enough.
What is perception? Well, I understand perception to be the way in which something is regarded, understood or interpreted. The Oxford dictionary definition being: “the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses”.
A few years ago I was studying sociology AS and the teacher was teaching us about feminists, after telling us we were going to learn about feminists he then told us that he was one. Our little naive jaws dropped as we were caught up in the idea that only women were feminists. “But sir, you’re a man!” someone bellowed. He explained the different types of feminists there were and identified himself as someone that wanted equality for women and we finally understood. I suddenly realised how perception has stifled me for years. In that same class I found out that most of England was nothing like London.
“We get to know people by taking a few small clues that we have about them and processing it all through a neuro filter laden with our own personal biases. We rely on our mind to fill the blanks of their identity but who the people in our lives really are, their essence, that’s in their brains not ours. The reality is until the next high school drop out of Silicon Valley invents a way for us to literally plug into the brains of another person, we can never really know who they are. All we can do is arm ourselves with what we know to be true – our feelings: love, anger, longing, happiness, fear. These are the brains guidance system, it’s true North and if we can learn to trust them they can usually help us find what we’re looking for.”
The above is a quote extracted from a programme called Perception – a crime drama about a neuroscientist/lecturer who occasionally works with law enforcement to solve cases. It really grabbed me when one of the lead characters said what I’ve been thinking for a few years now (after reflecting and finding my moments of clarity).
I’ve always felt that it was naive to believe we could know more than what a person shows us, which is why judging or ridiculing another has never sat well with me. After hearing the quote above delivered, I felt goosebumps down my arms. Whenever I say something along these lines I usually receive looks of disbelief as most of us like to believe we can judge each other’s characters and understand one another quite well unless the other person is ‘weird’.
Okay, I wouldn’t consider myself to be a conspiracy theorist (though I do feel we have been conditioned to accept the idea that we can understand and read each other extremely well). My hypothesis is that society’s law enforcement bodies wouldn’t be credible without the consensus that we can know and understand each other based on how we dress, what we do etc. as that’s how we are judged within society.
“For a long while now I’ve suspected that connection with another person, real connection, simply isn’t possible… tell me, is it possible to truly know another person? Is it even a worthwhile pursuit?”
The above quote comes by way of another American crime drama based on a certain legendary British detective called Sherlock Holmes – entitled Elementary.
It is quite similar to the earlier quote and almost identical to the type of thing I would say to people when I’m either intoxicated or just pissed off with recent encounters with other earthlings I don’t understand.
Within western society you and I see what we choose to see, giving things their own meaning where applicable. We begin to find sentimental value in things even when they possess no intrinsic value, interpret what someone’s said or what their intentions are using our own logic when quite a few times we are so far off the mark it seems like we’re in a different world (which is why I hate instant messaging).
Alright, let’s veer off topic again to make another brilliant idiotic point shall we? Now, I can’t say that I’m a firm believer in our nation’s political leaders, though the Labour party’s head politician Ed Miliband recently gave us something to think about, as he ‘bravely’ pointed out his flawed physical appearance, in a reported desperate attempt to discourage voters basing their political opinions on what he looks like rather than his policies. We believe things and people should be a certain way based on out social norms and values. Is it okay to judge politicians on their appearance rather than their policies, or are we judging them on this because we believe his appearance gives us a sense of what he or she is like? A good example would be the common assumption that someone who is overweight is lazy, or someone who does certain things nervously is not fit to make decisions that decide more fates than their own.
Opinions or shared opinions aren’t facts. People that know nothing can only make assumptions. These things are important to remember in a world where we believe we can profile and read each other based on limited information?
Interestingly, the day I started writing this article I was talking to a friend of mine via the dreaded instant messaging format and she asked me a question based on her belief that I would say something ‘different’ than most would. She asked me whether I thought girls that took pictures of themselves in skimpy clothes and then posted them online were “dirty and deserve less respect than the ones who don’t”. I read the question again and laughed for about a minute. Now, because I’m such a positive guy I responded saying “No. Everyone deserves to be treated the same way.” Yes, I’m a cornball, but my truth is that everyone is free to do whatever they like until it’s frowned on by society, in which case you either end up facing legal charges or just get wrongfully judged or ridiculed by your peers.
To conclude, I don’t have all the answers. I think there are more questions asked than answered in the world and I can’t help but ask myself “What do we actually know?”
“Believe only half of what you see and none of what you hear” with that said, ignore everything you’ve read here today (unless you count reading as seeing, in which case it should be okay to believe half of it).