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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Let's Talk About Bullying Again (Part 3)

Fairly recently I came across this little piece on the internet about Disney's Beauty and the beast which is a childhood classic for many and one of their great animated hits from the old days.Though personally not a fan of the popular children's tale, it gave insight into the story in a way a great number of us who have seen it in our childhood would have not observed. Seeing and observing something from the mind of a child differs significantly from how we see, perceive, feel and react to things as an adult. This little piece online gave quite some food for thought about the deep messages hidden between the lines, how there is more to a simple children's tale which we had seen many many years before any hint of adulthood wisdom kicked in. That little piece talks about bullying and social discrimination in a manner that makes it an important highlight of the children's animated film.

The film highlights how damaging bullying can be and the consequences of bullying, not just that but also some of the other types of bullying that takes place, and how we as a collective lot do not reject bullying, instead of we go an extra mile and glorify bullying behavior. There is a character called Gaston in the film that everybody developed a disliking for as he was seen as a non friendly character, but what the film also suggests and this is from the above link itself, that the character demonstrates that bullies are rewarded and beloved by society as long as they possess certain characteristics, while nice people who don't are ostracized. Even the love story itself is about two individuals who find comfort in one another after society rejects them.

The character of the beast and his outbursts of anger are also an important backdrop of the film. His anger is not because he is a monster, but because of society's attitude towards him and their decision to socially ostracize him by convincing him time after time that he is indeed a monster not worthy of social acceptance. See this here itself is a very important lesson from this Disney animated film, there are very deep psychological consequences of society's behavior towards a certain individuals who by their own circles are deemed different from the lot, especially if it is different in the wrong kind of way. By reinforcing the belief that one is a monster or sub human or in any way in a relatively inferior human being, society particularly the active self serving pricks are pushing one towards the belief that they are indeed human or simply put not EQUALLY HUMAN.

The Concept and idea of being equally human is an interesting one, there has been much debate on this in academic circles and their publications, but stimulating and productive discourse on the topic rarely takes place among standard social settings. People in society usually display such treatment towards not only those that are different from a standardized lot but also those deemed relatively inferior, and the way we have seen such behavior depicted in popular culture, it initiates with the work of self serving trouble makers, who would benefit directly or indirectly from the mistreatment of another And like its highlighted in the Disney article, these trouble makers are usually very conveniently ignored as trouble makers and are seen as fairly right people and fairly rightful in their approach because of certain characteristics they all possess. No one even remotely entertains the idea these trouble makers maybe the one's'who are really different because the general rule of thumb is good folks do not try and build hatred for others. It is these very people that lead others on as well to follow them into a web of hatred, discrimination and demonize they the others.

Examples are widespread in Pakistan, it is usually one person or a small group of people that incites provokes and gathers a mob against minorities, against law enforcement agencies and functional government institutes. These include acts of violence and persecution towards religious minorities such as Qadiyani' and Christians in Punjab and Hindus in Sindh. It also extends to include the trouble makers from BSO Azad at Universities across Balochistan in their personal feud with the state.

But let's look at it from a more micro perspective leaving behind political or religious or any other controversial elements to this debate. Early basic, primary and secondary schooling or education are the basis for behavior that shapes people as they move into adulthood. It is in these years that such behaviors are ingrained, conditioned or taught with respect what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. Not everyone we went to school with has a standardized life map like a lot of us. Every child in school in the early years or as a teenager in the later years are a product of their environment, upbringing and their realities of life. Some of our fellow classmates are the only child, some come from broken families, some come with the baggage of trauma from abuse, some come from an over protective or overly ignored upbringing, some from very competitive and high expectation backgrounds, quite a few variables.

We all remember our schooling days of how there were always other children who were brutally picked on and they were the children picking on them, most of us were silent  restrained observers. In true essence we in our minds were actually condoning bullying behavior firstly by not only showing apathy and restrain from preventing a conflict (for whatever reason) and secondly by looking down upon the victim of bullying, harassment and discrimination as an inferior being, some one whose ill-treatment is justified. In a way we are reinforcing bullying by justifying it, we are reinforcing the belief that victims of abuse and mistreatment do not belong and they need to be rightfully put in their place. When was the last time, either of us dared to get up and question the bully or question the acts of bullying?

To Be Continued.....

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Are we really good and socially responsible friends? (Originally published April, 2011).

There is a question that has been on my mind for quite some time. That question has been what distinguishes our friends from our peers, and should we practice social responsibility towards our friends ? At times, there are many people who can not distinguish between their friends and peers, though the definition of friendship varies from how the world describes it, definitions of how we define our peers stay some what the same. I remember once picking up a sociology textbook that first year university students use for intro to the subject and came across a textbook definition of what a peer is. Based on that text book, our peers are defined some what as people we know, we get along with and people we socialize or interact with. Sounds like the definition of a 'friend', but surely friendship and friends carry a different meaning, otherwise the two words would not be in existence or would be merely used inter changeably.

Friendship in order to distinguish itself incorporates characteristics that differ from those we associate with our peers.  Friendship incorporates additional values such as empathy, honesty, mutual understanding (which is common with peers also), trust, positive reciprocity as well as an element of social responsibility. The social responsibility that I speak off comprises of only not only how socially responsible we are, towards our friends, but also how pro active we are in instilling  a sense of social responsibility in them, whether that social responsibility is towards other people they know, or the wider community at large. In other words, a socially responsible friend is one who is not only a good, reliable and responsible friend towards us on an individual level, but is also one that communicates a sense of socially responsible behavior in us. One might argue that as mature adults, many of us are capable of thinking independently on our own and be in a position to distinguish between right and wrong, and that we do not need our friends or peers or who ever to be telling us what to do and what not to do, what is right or what is not? These are some of the countless arguments that one can expect people to give.

To put it simply what I am really trying to say is that what distinguishes our friends from our peers is that they are not reluctant to re assure us when we are correct, yet at the same time neither are they reluctant to criticize us or condemn us when we are walking down the wrong path or following a set of behavior or actions that are questionable, socially irresponsible or even just down right wrong. It is human nature, that we through out the course of our life, especially during early adulthood, we want a sense of continuous assurance from people in our lives especially those whom we see as our friends, with regards to what our plans in life are, and what course of action we choose to follow.  We want people, who we see as our friends to unconditionally support us regardless or whether we are right or wrong and/or look the other way when we are doing something wrong. Though different people have different thresholds for criticism coming from others, when it comes from our friends, or when our friends tell us what we are doing is wrong has an entirely different effect on us. One possible reason for this could be a level of emotional connection that we have with them, a sort of memorandum of understanding that has been built over time. Has it ever occurred to us, that it is only our friends who will communicate this to us, if we are genuinely truly doing something wrong, while our peers would not even think twice about what we are or are not doing?

Why is it that we forget that is our friends and not our peers at the end of the day, who come to our aid in times of need, in times when we are at our worst, times when life turns it's back on us and not necessarily the people we socialize with. So why should be reluctant to listen to our friends when they are giving us genuine advise and most importantly why should we hold ourselves when our friends are doing something wrong. It is not uncommon that we over the years growing up, witness our friends do questionable things before us, even though it might cause us minor disappointment deep down inside, out of possible fear of repercussion or loss of acquaintance holds us back. How many of us have seen our friends cheat in final exams, break the law, bully, abuse, harass and carry out targeted discrimination towards others. How many times, have we seen our friends use and exploit others, how many times have we seen our friends mistreat others, how many times have we seen our friends become victims of drug and alcohol abuse? How many times have we seen one friend of ours mistreat and exploit another friend? How many times have our sense of favoritism amongst friends cloud our objectivity and social responsibility? Just How many times?

One of the most famous human rights activists of the 20th Century, the late Martin Luther King Jr who led the famous civil rights movement in the United States once said ' Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter'. If we look back and reflect on life, the frequency of us witnessing such events over our lives would be substantial. We should take this opportunity to reflect back on just how good of a friend have we been to our friends and how often have we been silent where we should say something

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Myth of the First Impression, First Impressions are not as Accurate as we think.

The saying goes that the first impression is always the last impression. It is something we have been brought up to believe over the course of our lives through a product of conditional and subliminal. To put it more accurately it would be fair to say that the first impressions are usually the more lasting one's when it comes to other people, These are the images or perceptions that stick in our minds and we experience what somewhat call a mental road block that distorts or influences how our senses and perception reacts to future signals or communication coming from the person following the first impression. The first impression that the other person leaves on us, whether good or bad sticks around whether we are the judgmental types or the open minded.

The truth of the matter how ever is that if we keep a slightly open mind and think objectively for a moment. First impressions are not necessarily accurate and might not reflect the true image of the person we are meeting. Firstly I would like to point that out that impression building begins even before we actually meet a new person for the very first time. It begins with our perception. Over the course of our lives, as a result of various experiences, various people and through conditional and subliminal we develop our unique perception and outlook on life. Now I am a person who favors diversity and values the different opinions and attitudes that new people bring into the social setting. Due to all of this, we have a certain level of expectation of what we expect the other person that we are about to meet. For example, when we meet a new person through a friend or in other friends friend of a friend, we expect unconsciously that the person our friend is about to introduce to use would share some similarities to our friend or would fit certain characteristics we expect some one of that age or background to bring with themselves. That is not the only thing that shapes our attitude towards the new person even prior to any interaction. At times it is human nature to do a quick back ground check on the person that we have just met or are about to meet, and sometimes what we hear might influence us when interacting with the new person. In other words, what I am trying to say is, already an impression is created in our minds due to a word of mouth. Word of Mouth could be good or bad, we could be hearing pleasant or unpleasant things from a person we check up with, and based on what we have heard, we judge and we observe the smallest of things. In a nutshell for example, we are about to meet someone new, we check up on the person from someone we might know mutually, if we do not hear good things, in a way our mind is made up even before the other person leaves their own independent first impression.

Even if we take back ground checks and pre-determined perceptions out of the equation. There are still a lot of inaccuracies when it comes to first impressions which make determining the other person based on a first impression as somewhat controversial and questionable. Other variables and factors are always at play that can have an effect on the outcome of the first impression. These include the person’s physical health, when we meet someone for the very first time it is entirely possible the person might be unwell, might be down with a fever or something, which might affect the person’s full potential in a social situation. When one is unwell and is meeting people, it is already a daunting task managing ones self in a social situation, let alone take full advantage of it or show your true self. Another variable which plays some role in the first impression scenario is the shyness level of the new person. At times people we meet are shy around new people, or people they are being introduced to, it takes some time for a person to be able to move into a slight comfort zone with new people. My best guess from personal experience would be that it takes till the third time for a person to be able to really move into the comfort zone around new people. I am stating this based on the fact that the second interaction creates some level of familiarity which breaks the ice, while the third interaction is re visiting familiarity after the ice has been broken allowing people to slightly move into their comfort zones.  Observe and see for yourself, by the time we meet a new person for the third time, we as well as the other person in Question are relatively more comfortable with each other. For such an observation to be made however, a proper social interaction would be recommended as opposed to a casual bumping into people.

As an individual myself I have always truly valued diversity and the different set of values, beliefs, characteristics and opinions that people bring into the room. I suppose it is a product of living overseas in a multicultural society, where contrary to what many people believe, diversity in society is embraced and valued as opposed to being treated as an excuse for possible friction. It is due to my values of in favour of embracing diversity that I argue that we should all keep an open mind when it comes to meeting and interacting with new people as opposed to going with a slightly closed box mind. If we keep an open mind and optimistically think that not all people we meet will be selfish with some personal agenda, we are opening ourselves up to great opportunities and people that might come our way Most importantly when we are meeting new people, we should always practice and observe common courtesy, as the lack of basic common courtesy is what could spark unwanted friction and misunderstanding.