Prejudices and judgements

When it comes to understanding the difficulties of human relationships in any kind of society, we have plenty to consider with our opinions and judgments. But in addition, we can’t neglect our prejudices, which unfortunately hail from a very old family and are very difficult to ignore. Not content with all the possible judgments that can be made in a lifetime and over the millennia, some even come to the end of their life believing that a final judgment awaits them in the “other life.” In other words, we are born, we grow up, we die and after we are dead we still have a pending judgment. As some old people in Spanish speaking realms would say: “No hay salud…” – literally, “There is no health …” In other words, you can’t win – no one can endure so much judgment.

It seems that our lives pass between judgments, since much of what gives legality to our existence depends on judgments, and when we aren’t dealing with legalities, other kinds of judgment arise. Lawsuits and judgments of all kinds – over money, over property, over fraud, over business, over abandonment, over sticking out one’s tongue at the neighbor, over mistreating animals and sometimes people, over robberies, attacks, impure thoughts, over not obeying, over obeying what one should not obey, over being where it is forbidden, over not being where one should be, over befriending the powerful, over feeding the hungry, over clothing the naked, over paying with false coins, over falsifying documents, over not falsifying documents… The list is long and broad, and we’re all familiar with it. It’s part of our daily lives and we go from judgment to judgment, trying to use them to resolve our differences. Maybe it’s no coincidence that we are always judging others and feeling judged. And as if that weren’t enough, we judge ourselves. Definitely … no health!

It is curious that justice depends on judgment. It is curious that she is depicted allegorically as a blindfolded woman with a balance in one hand and a sword in the other. Obviously this is a representation, a way of roughly explaining the need for punishment, equanimity and proportion; but the figure of a woman really does not fit, the attributes do not correspond at all. But hey, there they are… Until a very short time ago all judges were male. Law at the service of the state, the kingdom or whatever, has always been dominated by the masculine, and the idea of adding a feminine touch is  hardly convincing. 

In any case, I say that this representation is curious because of the obvious effort to synthesize all the ideal elements of justice, when in reality everything is reduced to judgments, innocent or guilty. The innocent avoid the punishment that is applied to the guilty and thus “justice” is done. What seems significant to me is the cultural weight assigned to what we call “judgment.” This gives it greater weight inside the individual, so that even though many of us have never been “tried,” we internally judge others and ourselves. In other words, we have internalized this whole entanglement without even realizing it.

Now, if we consider that poor relative of judgment we call “prejudice,” we can better understand how it has been installed socially, religiously, culturally, ethnically and in every “entity” we might encounter. Prejudice may be “poor,” but it is massive. Prejudice does not need judges, trials, juries, lawyers, laws, guilty or innocent parties. Prejudice is an a priori condemnation that anyone can make without any legal or rational support. Perhaps the irrationality generated by fear of the unknown is prejudice’s favorite food.

Prejudices poison everything they manage to touch and generally thrive on the differences found in  societies. If we consider that the first thing we learn as human beings is to distinguish, to differentiate, this behavior is no coincidence. Differentiation is an attribute of perception and of the structuring capacity of the consciousness. We separate, distinguish, differentiate, and that is how we understand the world around us. We separate what we perceive into opposites; highs and lows, light and dark, good and bad, happy and sad, etc, etc. and thus we begin shaping a fairly rigid reality that is structured enough to allow us to exist.

Our existence and our understanding of existence are intimately tied to prejudice and to the actions that correspond to prejudice. We are educated to have certain “values” that highlight certain attitudes and elements over others. It could be said that this is inevitable and necessary, and it may be, but that does not justify the narrow criteria that are generated when only one alternative and its opposite are seen, with nothing between the two.

In educational terms, little effort is put into establishing relationships, into complementation, into understanding that extremes are always part of a whole. Little effort is made toward real education, toward recognizing that “It doesn’t matter in which faction events have placed us; what is important is to understand that we have not chosen any faction.” Seldom do we see that this approach to life would be much truer and more interesting than simply condemning others and condemning ourselves without any understanding beyond what we perceive and what is imposed on us.

When I begin to consider that I have not chosen, that is when I also begin to see the fears I have acquired. When I observe those fears, those irrational identifications, I also have the possibility of understanding the possessive roots of my attachments, attachments that only serve as long as they are not confronted. When they are confronted, I react, and my prejudices decide. Then I defend what I have not chosen, generating problems and rigidity in myself and suffering in others. Yes, clearly… “there is no health”!

And what would happen if I didn’t react? If indeed I did not give in to fear? If I tried to understand all this? Most likely, I would feel many different things, among them a kind of internal release of weight acquired without any conviction or reason. I would probably feel a bit unprotected, but at the same time I would feel internally light, and interested in learning, investigating, and understanding. Without a doubt, I would be advancing against prejudice, and in terms of human relationships, I would be getting closer to understanding others and myself.

Then we would be able to say: “There is health”!!


March 27, 2021