recognising prejudices – especially my own

We all have unconscious biases – the ways in which we can be prejudiced due to processes that happen outside of our awareness. These prejudices or biases we often tend to dress up as ‘likes and dislikes’, as a nicer way of putting them: but they are prejudices nevertheless.

Beyond the webSince moving to a new place of residence in North London, I have had to use the bus, tube and train more regularly. Among my many resolutions (most of which I falter on keeping) is that of trying not to get fixated on or lost in the screens of any of my electronic gadgets when walking or using public transport for shorter journeys but to take time to look around, observe my surroundings, greet people, and be ready to be of help if needed. I am seeing much: some delightful, others frightening, a few quite irritating, some a cause for thought and of course the ingenious and funny surprises that puncture some of my stereotypes.

With regard the ingenious: I often impressed with the lengths to which some cyclists and backpackers would go to find creative ways to load up their rucksacks or backpacks working their way through London’s heavy and crowded traffic and walkways. Recently I saw a cyclist with what looks like a reasonably-sized painting wrapped up and taped to his rucksack speeding and meandering through some back streets in London. I often associate such ingenuous ways of handling one’s transport challenge only with people from the majority world!

Then there is the irritating matter of luggage – especially the ones that are on wheels which we often pull behind or roll alongside us. I must confess to a love-hate relationship with this invention. On a personal level, I find them very useful when traveling by public transport across various parts of the country or when having to take budget airlines! But, try walking through a busy train station like St. Pancras, Kings Cross or Paddington with a whole heap of people pulling these traffic jamming obstacles behind them at lethargic paces, or while fixated to their mobile gadgets, or with their ears plugged up to the beat of their music of choice, and then stopping suddenly in their track to respond to a text message. Or even more, ridiculously walking straight into your path while eyes are glued to a screen.

At such moments niceness and propriety disappear; the potential to find an array of adjectives to compliment ‘idiot’ become real; and the feeling of wanting to report such suitcases/luggage as un-attended luggage as suspicious items to be taken away for disposal is very tempting. Thoughtlessly deployed, the luggage of others can become one’s worst nightmare! For often these owners may have stopped living in the real world around them, locked into a tight embrace with their surrogate electronic companions. This, of course, does not apply to saintly me!

And for another of my prejudices: it is the early morning rituals of some train and bus passengers. Have you ever observed the sort of things that are hidden away in the expensive handbags of some – often pulled out on early morning trips for a ritual makeover? And what about the patience, obliviousness, and dexterity with which they pull-out all sorts of make-up tools (most of which I need a Course to help me naming them) to work eyebrows, eyelashes, lips, face, cheeks, and nose in a moving train, tube and bus – all within breathing distance? It is mind-boggling to say the least! The lure for the perfect and unblemished face has become an obsession. My own bias works overtime as I find myself often thinking that the person looks uglier than when she first joined the train, bus or tube! Why and how come could I arrive at such a view and what are the processes happening outside of my own awareness?

I am learning to interrogate my motives and question my assumptions especially when I am making value judgements about others and their actions. It is a constant battle as the tendency to think my way is ‘the way’ has long and tentacle-like reach. In the meantime I will continue to reflect on the need for some to mask selves in order to be someone else. I may still smile every time someone grabs their bag and dashes out of a bus or tube, having had their ear plugs stuck to their ear-holes and their eyes glued to their favourite computer game or dozing off to their favourite music, and will try to remember to offer a prayer that they do ‘mind the gap’!

jagessar© 24 May 2015

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