Sunday, April 27, 2014

How to Overcome Petty Prejudices

"The Golden Man is without colour;
He knows that racism is ignorance and doesn’t bother
With petty prejudices, seeing humanity as one."
- Alexander Nderitu (The Golden Man)

Your Name Betrays You

This past week, former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka made a tactless remark when, during a CORD press conference, a journalist asked a question that Kalonzo opted to dismiss. Other than simply saying "No comment," Kalonzo deemed it wise to say the following:

Within minutes, there was uproar across social media, with varying commentary on Twitter, on Facebook and elsewhere across the web.

Later in the day, I chanced upon this post on my Facebook Newsfeed:

I did comment on the above, and someone swiftly asked me if it doesn't bother me that all the names listed are from a certain 'tribe'.
My answer? No it doesn't bother me. What would bother me is if other qualified Kenyans, upon willfully applying for said position, were denied the opportunity of an interview. It would also bother me if whoever is eventually appointed does not head CAK competently and according to the law.

After all, there can be no shortage of ways to fault the above list. One can say there is only one woman. Another can say there is no Asian. Another angle would be to ask if there's a disabled person in that list. And so on and so on. Truth is, we cannot all be represented in every single position in this country.

I however stand to be corrected.

As always, many are of varying opinions..

The Problem with the Majority and Groups

"You laugh at me because I'm different, I laugh at you because you're all the same." 
- Jonathan Davis.

I must at this point confess that I have serious issues with democracy. It is a great way of realizing social order, but popularity does not always mean right.

Jonathan Haidt in his March 2008 TED Talk about the moral mind, gives some reasons why groups are formed. He says:
It's only among humans that you find very large groups of people who are able to cooperate, join together into groups, but in this case, groups that are united to fight other groups. This probably comes from our long history of tribal living, of tribal psychology. And this tribal psychology is so deeply pleasurable that even when we don't have tribes, we go ahead and make them, because it's fun.

Elsewhere, it is a globally accepted fact that whatever is different will invariably stand out. 

That is why it is so easy to pick on those who look different. Worse, as it often happens in Kenya, we resent those who are unlike us, those whose numbers exceed ours or those who are better than we are. In psychological circles, that is called the Tall Poppy Syndrome.

Decades ago while reading Gifted Hands by Dr Ben Carson, I realized that people, even those who have succumbed to prejudice, still want the best. That is how the good doctor was able to operate on white patients who in ordinary circumstances would've preferred a white doctor. 
A similar theme was explored in Grey's Anatomy season 4 episode 9 titled Crash Into Me, where a white, racist patient (who interestingly, is a paramedic) refused to be attended by Dr Miranda Bailey. This patient agrees to be operated only if there is another white doctor in the surgery room. Dr Bailey however, removes his swastika...

For those who derive pleasure in judging others and resenting their merits, just change and see others for what they really are, not what you'd rather they are. Especially on matters of tribe, race and other aspects one has no voluntary control over. It is a shame to despise someone for being different, or for merely belonging to a tribe or race that you have issues with.

For those who are victims of this malaise, I say take heart. Just keep your head up and continue giving your best at whatever it is you do. Others may be prejudiced, but they'll still engage you or your services since they need them. While they waste their time and effort hating, just focus on the right things that add value.

All in all, I'll end this post with words that Dr Ben Carson kept hearing from his mum Sonya.

''If you walk into an auditorium full of racist, bigoted people … you don't have a problem, they have a problem."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Accepting Ourselves Unconditionally

"We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you."
- Marianne Williamson (Our Deepest Fear).

Less than a week ago, I engaged in lengthy discourse with a most interesting friend. Much later, I realized that one of the salient takeaways from our discussion was the pressing issue of unconditional acceptance, vulnerability and human frailty.

You see, we live in a very demanding world that continually seeks the best of us. We feel that we need to look our best, make the best impressions and continually project perfection in how we look, talk and do things.

Interestingly, we are not perfect. Human beings make errors, have frailties and fall short in many ways. I've often wondered why some people wear make up, subject themselves to painful and costly plastic surgery, and mask scars in a vain effort to portray themselves as something they are not. This, I believe, is due to a vanity that makes us feel unworthy as we are and unacceptable to both ourselves and others unless we present ourselves as something different and much better than we already are.

For a long time, I have always held the view that any person who cannot accept me as I am, anyone who fails to judge me on the basis of my knowledge and skills, such a person doesn't deserve my attention. Since I made a decision to no longer seek other people's approval in pursuing my goals, finding purpose and in the way I lead my own life, I have deliberately stayed away from persons who dismiss me on the basis of a myopic understanding of my current circumstances.

We need to accept ourselves as we are. We should understand that we are enough. True, we may feel vulnerable and exposed as our true selves. But that is what and who we are. Sugar-coating, pretenses and embellishment makes us more acceptable, but vastly undermines our true worth.

Following is a TED Talk on Vulnerability that Brene Brown delivered back in 2010.

In the video above, Brene talks about the power of vulnerability.
She ends her talk in a most profound way:
I'll leave you with this. This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there's no guarantee -- and that's really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that's excruciatingly difficult -- to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we're wondering, "Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?" just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, "I'm just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I'm alive." And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we're enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, "I'm enough," then we stop screaming and start listening, we're kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we're kinder and gentler to ourselves.

Here's the transcript to Brene Brown's TED Talk.


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