Friday, May 17, 2013

Seeing Things as They Are, NOT as We Are

Yesterday on Twitter, I was reading through tweets about Kenya's new cabinet, following the swearing-in of the recently appointed cabinet secretaries.
At some point, one tweet caught my attention. Someone was loudly wondering why women were put in the periphery when they took a joint photo (below) with the President. See more photos here.

My response to that tweet has inspired today's post.

Inasmuch as I stand to be corrected, I often see many responses to many of life's situations as merely a reflection of what we are, with very little said or done about the particular situation at hand.
In short, one person will purposely decide to fault-find and point out wrongs where none exist, while another will see the good in things and in people given the exact same situation.

It is the classic glass half-full vs half-empty situation.

Seeing things as we are can be dangerous. Following are two examples to support my assertion:

1) A Life was Lost

In the CSI season 1 episode 9 titled 'Unfriendly Skies,' a passenger was mistaken killed by fellow passengers when they mistook the manifestation of his ailment as an "annoying threat."

When the murder is eventually resolved, the CSI team discuss that particular case, placing themselves in the shoes of the affected passengers to find out if they'd have committed the murder or not, given the same circumstances. Eventually, Gil Grissom gives the following thought-provoking opinion:

Gil Grissom: It's not about that. You all have different opinions but you've taken the same point of view. You've put yourself in the shoes of the passengers, but nobody's put themselves in the shoes of the victim. That's the point.
Sara Sidle: I'm sorry. What are you saying?
Gil Grissom: Nobody stopped to ask Candlewell if he was all right. They just assumed, because he was kicking the back of Nate's seat, that he was a jerk - because he was pushing his call button that he was bothering the Flight Attendant - because he was trying to get into the lavatory he was making a scene - because he was going back and forth up and down the aisles, he was posing a threat.
Catherine Willows: He was a threat.
Gil Grissom: No. He turned into a threat. It didn't have to be that way. People make assumptions. That's the problem. You just did. And I think these passengers made the wrong assumption and now this guy's dead.
Warrick Brown: Well, if that's your stance how could it have been prevented?
Gil Grissom: If just one person had stopped and taken the time to look at the guy, to listen to him, to figure out what was wrong with him it might not have happened. It took five people to kill him. It would've only taken one person to save his life.
See the full quote here.

2) An election was Lost

When Mutahi Ngunyi posted his 'Tyranny of Numbers' hypothesis on YouTube, he was called names. Many condemned him as tribal and misinformed, and others dismissed him as a hired propaganda hand.
When the official election results were announced however, Mutahi was vindicated.

I have to admit that I try as much as I can to not discuss politics and soccer on this blog, their popularity notwithstanding.
The above hypothesis merits mention however. In the video above, please take note of the reminder that "we often see things as we are and not as they are."
That, my friends, is the core reason we invariably ignore advice, dismiss facts and arrogantly refuse to accept the existence of opinions that differ from our own.

Be Objective

How then, do we change our perceptions? How do we overcome the irrational and often unfounded bias that so often harms our relations with others who may not necessarily agree with us?
We need to be objective in life. We have to stop making assumptions, take time and realize that there is much good in people and in things, if only we can pause and see it amid all the distractions that blur our vision as we try to see what's good and right.

Have a great, open-minded and positive day.


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