Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Of opinions and biases!!!

If you are active on any of the social media avenues, you would have heard of the event that is doing the rounds lately. This event has all the trademarks of something that can keep you hooked. There is drama, beautiful people, a lot of anticipation and excitement attached to it and most important, there is love and the underlying notions of humanity. It is supposed to be one of the first Indian lesbian weddings and everybody seems to have an opinion. The official photographer who is friends with the couple was touched to be part of the celebration and in turn created a photo montage. He is the one who made the pictures public and tried to carve a story through his pictures for friends and family. (For more on that, click here).

What is normal and what is not?
What he and the couple entering wedded bliss might not have realized is that this little venture turned out to be the staging area for many debates and opinions. As with every social issue, people tend to have an opinion and with SNS so easily accessible, it has become increasingly simple to lend a voice to your thoughts. Every person is entitled to his/her opinion. With respect to sexual orientation, there are people who get uncomfortable, others that vehemently support the issue, some others who detest people out of the usual (whatever usual might mean), and others who would rather just ignore the issue altogether. There is a wide spectrum of reactions elicited from people and especially when it comes to laws being framed around the issue, the voices become louder and clearer. Questions like whether it is legal or acceptable in society start arising. My concern is that we as liberals favor democracies, but want to curb the rights of some people. How does that support the principles of democracy? 

Yet again, there are people who liken implementing gun control to a violation of rights. It is not that I am comparing the right to love someone with the right to own a firearm. It would be like comparing apples to oranges. There are multiple dimensions to these issues and that is a completely different debate. But in both cases, the commonality is the fact that there are people with opposing views, numerous opinions and strong reactions. What I am unsure of is whether these opinions transform to biases somewhere along the line. Currently, sexual orientation is the flavor of the decade. But, all through human civilization, there have been issues with people on different sides of it. As the intelligent animal we are touted to be, it is thoroughly acceptable for us to have opinions and choices. But, is it fair to justify our opinion and use that to discriminate against someone with an opposing opinion?

A week ago, me and my husband were having a conversation over our weekend brunch (which is fertile ground for many of our debates), and got into a heated argument over some issue. And that is when I realized that is is very difficult to have a bias-free opinion. Bias necessarily does not mean exposing someone to insult, or inflicting physical or mental abuse. Just the fact that we consider people to be out of the normal and form certain impressions about them could lead us to compartmentalize them and establish notions,which might not always be true. We don't realize many times, but even thoughts can be discriminating; it does not always have to translate into action. Even though discrimination in its truest form might have been rendered inactive, there are always subtle discriminatory phenomena. Associating people with a certain habit and trying to avoid them, because they belong to a certain nationality or ethnicity is in a way discriminatory. Assuming that one person represents the whole group is being biased. Assuming women can't work in physically strenuous jobs because their physical make-up is different from men would mean harboring a prejudice. And even though, it might not feel wrong to the person doing it, the person at the receiving end knows that he/she is being looked at differently. 

So does all this mean that you are not supposed to have an opinion at all? I am not so sure I can answer that. After all my pondering, all I know is that it is very difficult not to let your opinion affect your judgement. And the best practice that I have been trying to implement is to judge as less as possible. There is no way I can stop myself from having an opinion, let alone stopping someone else. So, the best I can do is not to let my opinions interfere with my interactions with people. Yes, I may not like smoking; but that does not mean that there is something wrong with smokers. Just like I have an opinion, they have a choice. It is their free will they are exerting and there is no reason to judge them for that. They may be perfectly good people, excellent at work, kind at heart; and their habit should not stop me from recognizing them for who they are. But like they say, easier said than done.

What do you think, could you keep opinion and bias separate?

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