Thursday, June 29, 2006

Of people and perceptions...

I will begin with an experiment.

Let us say you overheard a person say, "all north indians are arrogant"

What would your reactions be?

The reasonable answer to that question is, "it depends..."


My reaction to this would depend on different factors, namely -

1. whether that person is a north indian or a south indian
2. whether I am north indian
3. whether the person making the statement is a stranger to you or not
4. if s/he is not a stranger, whether you have heard his/her previous statements on north indians
5. if s/he is not a stranger and if you never heard that person talk about north indians; whether that person is given to making such bigoted statement.
6. what your own views on north indians are
7. whether you are short tempered, reactive, etc.

Of course, we do not do all these analysis and we directly jump to a reaction. But we cannot deny the influence of these factors in our minds.

For example, if you know that the person who makes this statement is not a bigoted fathead, you would be confused and would try to find out what made that person make such a statement. But if you did not know that person at all, and if you are a north indian, you might just get defensive/annoyed/angry, which would be perfectly legitimate.

So, the reaction to such a statement would be quite contextual. What I am trying to say is that just because you are north indian does not mean that you would not become angry on hearing this statement. right?

There could be several reasons why that person made that statement. It may be because someone said some north indian said something disparaging about his/her ethnic group. Maybe s/he geniunely thinks so. Maybe by saying something as insensitive like that, that person is trying to hold a mirror the insensitivity of someone's statements (by holding up a mirror to that other person, s/he might be trying to show their fallacy in making statements based on stereotypes).

There has been a furore over this post by Annie. She makes certain statements that are pretty ridiculous. People have taken this opportunity to bash her and her statements. On the surface, when taken separately, these statements sound pretty insane and it would be reasonable for one who reads it to assume that whoever said that is a nutjob.

But is Annie really a nutjob?

If one has read Annie's blog regularly, these statements would seem pretty uncharacteristic of her.* She is a feminist, no doubt but not a separatist. Knowledge of her previous posts should ensure that your reaction to such statements to not be indignant. The only reason that you can think of with this pre-knowledge of Annie's writings is that she is attempting to satire someone else's statements. Considering that this post is written as a response to a sexist post by another person, it seems to me that this hypothesis is quite likely.

For a person for whom this is the first post of Annie being encountered, it is quite plausible for that person to think ill of the post and of Annie. But for a regular reader of her blog, is it a reasonable reaction? I do not think so. Which is why I am disappointed with Dilip and others who, though think the post was a good one, denounce these controversial statements.

* Of course, if one reads the whole post properly, one would see that she writes a lot of very sensible and thought provoking that are very characteristic of her.

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