Chapter 2: Prejudice as the Foundation of Intolerance

There’s no or little doubt that prejudice is the foundation of intolerance. When we form certain negative opinions about people, such opinions might likely influence us and lead us into withdrawal from such people. When we withdraw from people due to prejudices or negative opinions we had developed over time about them, it would definitely lead us to intolerance because there is no way we could ever come in good terms with people we already condemned in our minds out of our prejudiced assessment of them or their characters.

 

Intolerance as a product of ignorance and prejudice.

On morning of Sunday, 29th day of May 2016 was at Church at out-station of Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Isolo-Oshodi area of Lagos State (named St. Joseph Marello Catholic Church in Ilamose, Oke-Afa). I usually stay in a corner near the central aisle almost at the end of the makeshift building that was still serving as the Church. All these Sundays I always go to Church with my mobile Tablet because I prefer using it to follow readings and the order of the Mass. Sincerely speaking, I never knew that this has been a trouble to someone else. And I had no intention of distracting anyone with my device in as much as I feel it is more convenient to me than any other conventional Church readings aids.

At the end of the Mass, he mustered the final courage to accost me when I was about leaving the Church. And this was how he started:

“Excuse me, I have been watching you for about 3 weeks now always coming into this Church with your phone and continue to use it all through the Mass. I want to tell you to stop it immediately because it is not good. You shouldn’t joke with God. He’s a consuming fire and won’t like to share His glory with either you or your phone.”

At first, I just wanted to just say thank you, ignore him and went home. I wanted to avoid by all means the baseless and imminent arguments that might ensue, but then he hadn’t finished yet. He continued yelling and scolding at me, now attracting unnecessary attentions of others passing by. He repeated this boring sermon on and on, how ‘wrong’ it was for me to use the electronic device inside Church. This undoubtedly created a little scene that I didn’t want. I couldn’t ignore him any longer because that would give many others impression that that I was really doing something desperately wrong.

I tried to explain to him that I had no intention of distracting anyone rather I was using an application that helps me go through the readings of the day.

Note, he thought he was right and I was wrong and therefore he thought he was in a right position to correct me without knowing that he was the ignorant one, and the one who should try to mind his business in the Church next time no matter what people around him might be doing, as long as they were neither noisy nor poking him.

The point in this narration that he was obstinate, uncultured, rude, arrogant and adamant. He believed so religiously that using any electronic devices inside the Church amounts to distraction and the culprit must be reprimanded. This then establishes the fact that ignorance can blind people’s reasoning and move them towards avoidable and unnecessary intolerance.

Intolerance rising out of ignorance and/or prejudice is therefore the most dangerous one to be encountered and very difficult to be contained.

 

Doubt, Skepticism & Prejudice

There is no way we can talk about intolerance without first understanding the roles of prejudice. It is the major factor that breeds intolerance among people. Prejudices are formed in our minds and independently about each and everything we know. It comes in varying forms and degrees infiltrating gradually into various things we know and do.

Prejudice can be good sometimes when we use it as an avenue to understand more about a situation. Many would argue that when prejudice is helping us to understand a situation, it means that our final opinion about that situation has not been formed and therefore it isn’t qualified enough to be called prejudice, but I prefer to assert that prejudice that we formed to help us to understand something better is still at the level of skepticism. Skepticism sometimes might have unalienable elements of prejudice. “Skepticism is generally any questioning attitude towards unempirical knowledge or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere.”[1]

Doubt is a product of skepticism, and skepticism can lead to prejudice if we couldn’t find a better way to understand the matter better than it is revealed. Prejudice can also lead people into doubt, and therefore the three – doubt, skepticism and prejudice seem to be interwoven and sometimes could be confusing.

Sometimes, when we doubt, it might be out of our prejudices. Skepticism is not totally doubt, but rather could be said to be a kind of unconfirmed doubt in our minds. When we are skeptical, it means that we are at a point unable to make valid strong and unshakable decisions about issues we are giving our views about. Doubt simply means we have taken decision about a thing or a situation and therefore have given our verdict which is in negation to the situation at hand. When we doubt, it means that we are opposing the proposition that has been given to us. It means that we can’t affirm the veracity of such proposition and thus give it our doubt.

Prejudice is neither doubt nor skepticism. But then, all doubts and skepticisms we have in our minds are nothing but products of prejudgment we already have in our minds. This prejudgment is exactly what we meant by prejudice. Prejudice therefore can influence our decisions, and our decision about a situation might either be that we should doubt it or that we should sit on the fence (being skeptical) about it.

The prejudice in someone’s mind is the foundation of his intolerance. When prejudice means inability to give proper analysis of a situation before passing a judgment, then it involves that certain judgement has already been formed in our minds about the situation. No judgement passed out of prejudice should be allowed to stand. When in law court, a judge is openly (through his utterances and/or body languages) seems to be favouring a particular side in a case in his court, then verdict from such judgement needs an appeal. Thus, to be a good judge, someone needs to remove every garment of prejudice and enrobe himself with that of impartial and unbiased decision which must have risen from evidences and testimonies available.

[1] Wikipedia,”Skepticism”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skepticism, 20/12/2016

About Author /

Ugonna Johnbosco Ezeomedo (ojombo) is a philosopher, poet, educationist, web developer and social & political analyst. He lives in Awka – Nigeria. He loves working with computer and other creative works.

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