posts 1 - 15 of 30
freemanjud
Boston, US
Posts: 154


Watching:

Sheena Iyenger, professor at Columbia Business School “TED talk: On the Art of Choosing” (2014) (24:08)

Reading: John A. Powell, “Us vs. them: The Sinister Techniques of ‘Othering’—and How to Avoid Them,” The Guardian, 8 November 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/nov/08/us-vs-them-the-sinister-techniques-of-othering-and-how-to-avoid-them


Reading OR Listening:

Alicia Garza on “Identity Politics and 2020 US Presidential Election” (Alicia Garza is one of the founders of the BlackLivesMatter movement), either via this podcast (that is episode 17 of the “Who Belongs?” podcast series) or reading the transcript of the podcast, produced for the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley, December 2, 2019. A heads up: the full podcast is 48:48 in length; reading the transcript is much faster!

https://belonging.berkeley.edu/whobelongs/identitypolitics


Today in class, we evaluated, judged and chose a preferred pepper. (NB: yes, this is a history class. We just go about it in a slightly unconventional manner.) An interesting (and often hilarious) exercise, don’t you think?


In reality, we choose all the time. In order to choose, we discriminate (that’s the evaluation piece). First we decide if one thing(s) is different—and then better than another; then we decide which is our preference—and in this case, which was “the best.” To “choose,” we judge one another, we judge fruits and veggies in a supermarket, trying to determine (the verdict) which one to purchase. We judge people by what they wear and how they smell; we judge what looks "good" when we try on clothes, we judge whether one school is better than another.

And then we choose.


We too are judged. Others judge us. They size us up—that’s the discrimination part. They assess who we are and then they draw conclusions (that’s the judgment or the verdict part). Institutions judge us, law enforcement judges us, teachers judge us, our supervisors judge us, some believe that a God judges us. Many factors feed those judgments. Stereotypes play a role. So do preconceptions. So does compassion. So does objectivity. And if someone demands that we make a choice, based on these judgments, well, we usually do!


Judgment and choice imply a sense of ranking. Something is better than something else. Generally, judgment and choice involve a kind of opposition: this is good (or better), while this is bad (or not as good). Inevitably this is a kind of “othering”: the recognition that there is an “us” (usually good) and “them” (usually not-so-good….or bad).


Think about discrimination, judgment, and choice-making for a moment. Must we discriminate among things/people? Must we judge? What’s the point of judgment? Must we choose? Are these good or bad things or somewhere in between? Are there roles for choices in society? Are they essential to making society function?

Is it possible for a world to exist without discrimination? Without judgment?

Using Sheena Iyenger’s TED talk, the reading from John Powell, and Alicia Garza’s seemingly clairvoyant sense of what would happen 11 months later during the 2020 election, as well as what you have learned (so far…) in class (including today’s exercise on the “practically perfect peppers,” please weigh in on the nature of discrimination, judgement, and othering, whether there is anything we can do about it, and whether it is possible to build a post-othering society (and how)? Be certain to support what you say with some concrete examples and/or anecdotes.


At the end of your post, please pose a lingering question on this topic that you might have. This will be addressed by the person who posts after you. (If you post first in the thread, go back and answer someone else’s question! And if the person who precedes you fails to pose a question, find a question prior to his/her in the thread to address.)

ernest.
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 13

Charting out a Starting Point; How We Can Avoid Othering. (In just 7 short volumes!)

Starting off, I’ll state the obvious and say yes; judgement, discrimination, and choosing are all essential to life, and you certainly could not exist without them even if you tried. Literally every conscious action we take involves an evaluation, a judgement, and a choice, from choosing a seat on the train to deciding how well done you want your toast in the morning. These things are unavoidable.

With that out of the way, the question here really has to be how, and to what extent, these processes should take place in regards to the individual within a greater society. The choices I described are generally harmless and irrelevant to our conversation—you might, perhaps, decide to leave your bread in the toaster for a little too long and accidentally cause a fire, but on the whole, society has no reason to concern itself with these menial decisions. The important questions about judgement here center on judging humans, because that is when we begin to have the power to hurt others, and in turn be hurt. Choosing a bad seat on the train might leave you sitting on something sticky beneath you at worst, but making a bad judgement about another person can cause them to internalize your judgement, and others to believe it—and that’s a problem. Though, we still recognize that we have to judge people-whether we want to be friends with them, whether we should hire them, how to act toward them; these are all calls that, again, we just have to make. So again, I narrow the question: we know we have to make choices, but we need to think about how we make them—the evaluation—and what that then means for those involved—the judgement.

As described in the article about baby morality (from a separate assignment), how we make our choices can be attributed to our human instincts (nature) and, as described by the Ted Talk, to our culture (nurture). Both can be molded and reshaped by conscious efforts on our part, and by indirect messaging in media, entertainment, and social interaction. While we know that indirect messaging does great harm by conditioning us to irrationally associate certain social attributes like race, religion, etc. etc. with negative or positive qualities, we know that indirect messaging must then also have the power to combat that conditioning. In this way, the sources from which we build our world view (i.e. educational materials, entertainment, film, tv shows, literature, the news) are key to breaking down prejudice and establishing more accepting and less biased beliefs. We can extend this conclusion to the idea of othering, which takes our learned prejudices one step further and outright dehumanizes an entire social group, as opposed to just making a sweeping generalization about their qualities. John Powell described how media can often push us to Other, but also have the power to make us engage in “belonging and bridging.” Whereas problematic messages can simply be combatted with more accurate and empowering ones, othering is more extreme, and calls for a more direct response. It calls for us all to think hard about how we regard different groups, what the damage of that might be, and how we can change it.

In terms of whether we can achieve a post-othering society, the answer is no. Can we achieve true equality? Can we have a justice system that is always just? Can humanity, in short, achieve perfection? We can’t. Human nature is to be varied, imperfect, irrational; it’s naive to hope for such a society. But what we can do is move toward it, even knowing that we can never fully reach it. By using the tools I’ve described above, it is absolutely possible to move in that direction; we just have to know it will be a long and difficult road.

And on the note of how we can reach a post-othering society, I’d like to add that one of the hugest obstacles is the utter chasm between our beliefs and our actions, which I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on lately. The fact of the matter is, our actions too often do not reflect the beliefs that we adopt from information, and instead reflect our emotion-based and instinctual priorities. For example, I believe strongly that the persecution of Uighers in China is deeply alarming and should not be supported in any way. Yet, I take little issue with buying from Apple or other companies with potential ties to forced labor in Xinjiang. I know Apple may well be complicit for Uigher persecution, and yet I cannot stop myself from buying their products, because they are popular and make me feel good. The same applies to buying clothes from stores linked to child labor (which is almost all of them). The list goes on. How is it that my emotions are able to so override my rational beliefs?

Further, how can I, or any of us, live with ourselves? Obviously we would condemn the conditions under which many of the products we buy are made; yet we buy those products anyway, because they are usually cheap, convenient, and enjoyable. Are we monsters for supporting forced labor, child labor, abuse? I feel that we must be, but that is the question I pose to the next person.

To link this back to othering- We all like to think that by reposting infographics and thinking and learning about (anti-)racism, we’re doing our part for the BLM movement, and for social justice as a whole. Yet real change comes from action and from deep reflection on our beliefs. I remember going into a restaurant to order lunch over the summer, and mistaking a man waiting for his food for an employee. There wasn’t a good reason to assume that he was an employee, and I wondered if this might have been because he was a person of color. I was horrified at that thought, and further, shocked that I was capable of doing such a thing. I had devoted my time to learning and reading about racism, to engaging in discussion about it. I was doing all the right things—wasn’t I? And yet I was still capable of doing wrong. I had never sat down with myself and simply said, I am racist, and will do racist things. What can I do to combat this within myself? We have to acknowledge that just because we have a rational and righteous belief does not mean we will always act on it; we have to realize that we are not much better than the people we love to separate from ourselves as ignorant, racist, Karen-like. I think a big reason people are so drawn to this call-out culture is because in calling out someone else for a biased act, we are able to affirm that we are not biased like them, that others, not us, are the bad guys. But we are all human. Which means we are all equally capable of doing wonderful good and unspeakable evil.

Cookie Monster
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 9
What can I do to combat this within myself?

That is the question that Ernest above proposed for us to answer. As someone who is as privileged as I am, being a straight white cisgender male, I have had to reflect on times that I have exposed my own unconscious microaggressions and biases. I have had to learn from those experiences and teach myself to never make generalizations based on someone's demographic status. However, one comment that one of our classmates made in their identity projects really made me think about how I and the rest of society can do better to prevent discrimination and othering. They mentioned how it is important go into a social interaction without making any assumptions about the other person involved. This means not resorting to stereotypes, generalizations, or putting anyone in a box based on their demographic traits. As I have mentioned above, I and other people I have associated with have made mistakes in the past when referring to other people based on demographic stereotypes. Although I don't like to talk about these things, I will apply the concept that one of our classmates mentioned to a certain situation I was involved in. In the pre-COVID world, I used to sit at a lunch table with a these boys who I percieved as pretty ignorant, yet I still went along and became complacent. These kids would make jokes about how all Africans live in huts and how Asians would give them coronavirus. Them, being white males, didn't see a problem with these generalizations because it wasn't effecting them. If you apply this concept of not making assumptions about people, these comments would've never been made because they don't know every single African or Asian in the whole world, whose cultures and lives could differ greatly from each others. Another effort that I would recommend is to be modest. I have been treated as if I was below other people and I couldn't imagine how it would feel to be treated this way for my race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc.. I have seen and experienced a lot of white males do this to other people in my time at BLS. I have seen them treat women as if they were objects and treat minorities as inferiors in ways that should be seen as disqualifying. In order to combat these behaviors and attitudes, we must believe that we aren't better than anyone else just because of our privilege and instead lift up others who have been silenced and marginalized.

Othering is the action of singling out groups of people who are different than you, leading to feeling threatened and scared of their presence in society. It appears when there is rapid demographic change in a community and a larger presence of people who may come from very different backgrounds. This backdrop makes people who have absorbed their privilege for so long and have become far too comfortable with their own advantage to feel as if these new members of their community could take their place in the upper echelons of society. However, a lot of this ideology is present in communities that are less diverse than those experiencing demographic change. This is because political rhetoric and the media are the main influences on people's view points, rather than actual exposure to the things people are forming opinions on. I guess a lesson one can conclude from this is that if people became less harsh with their rhetorical language against groups of people and in turn became more conciliatory, the population overall would become more accepting of diverse groups of people. However, there are major caveats in this argument. For example, this assumes that just because Donald Trump, with all his racial resentment and strong man rhetoric, wasn't reelected, society is going to go back to normal. We know that this isn't true because racism has been embedded in this country's blood for generations and will never actually be annihilated. In John Powell's article in the Guardian, he mentions how Canada is a good example of a nation that has managed to prevent the stark resentments between demographic groups that are present in countries such as the United States. However, I would beg to differ. While Canada has retained many liberal views having to do with LGBTO rights, as well as women's rights (,etc.), they still ignore a lot of the problems that they are experiencing first hand. As of this moment, a genocide of Native Americans is still being carried out in the country and the government doesn't seem to be forthcoming in combating the issue. In order to address the process of othering, which occurs in every single society around the globe, and get to a place where belonging (the idea of seeing our differences as a strength) can be carried out, we must educate ourselves. Populations must be taught, starting at an early age, about the concept of privilege and what it means. They must be taught how to engage in our institutions with an in depth effort to civically educated everyone in an adequate way. However, even to do this, we must solve the deep inequality in education systems that are present on a global scale.

Going along with what I said above, the question I am having trouble answering has to do with our education system. If our school systems are already drastically unequal in terms of resources, how are we as a global society suppose to address systems of oppression? In the US, for example, the segregation that was present during the time of Jim Crow in the twentieth century has still not been adequately addressed. This means that black and white children are getting two different educations without being exposed to each other's differences. This is what leads to the many generalizations we make about different groups of children. Because we don't see each other on a daily basis or know people of different backgrounds, it is hard to see others through an individual lens. We go along with what society tells us about other people and form our opinions based on sweeping generalizations without even knowing the diversity of said groups.

freemanjud
Boston, US
Posts: 154

In reply to Cookie Monster...

Originally posted by Cookie Monster on November 11, 2020 16:53

If our school systems are already drastically unequal in terms of resources, how are we as a global society suppose to address systems of oppression? In the US, for example, the segregation that was present during the time of Jim Crow in the twentieth century has still not been adequately addressed. This means that black and white children are getting two different educations without being exposed to each other's differences. This is what leads to the many generalizations we make about different groups of children. Because we don't see each other on a daily basis or know people of different backgrounds, it is hard to see others through an individual lens. We go along with what society tells us about other people and form our opinions based on sweeping generalizations without even knowing the diversity of said groups.

And guess where we are headed next week?

squirrelluver123
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 9

Everyday Judgment

If our school systems are already drastically unequal in terms of resources, how are we as a global society supposed to address systems of oppression? Responding to Cookie Monster’s question, first of all I think this is a very important question for us to be thinking about at this time. Honestly I think this is a really hard question to answer directly, and I am not exactly sure how we as a global society are supposed to do this. Like you said, “We go along with what society tells us about other people and form our opinions based on sweeping generalizations without even knowing the diversity of said groups,” so I think a start would be as a society to stop perpetuating assumptions about others, which I recognize may be a difficult thing to do. I agree that it is very easy to make assumptions about others when we do not know them personally. I also think that there are many people in the world, and especially in our country, who still refuse to acknowledge that systems of oppression still exist, and I think the first step would be to educate everyone on these so we can work together to address and hopefully some day end them.


We all make choices in our lives, and even have to decide things every day. We choose what to eat and drink, or what to buy at the store. We choose people to spend time with and who we want to be friends with. We do this all by judging people based on what we know of them, and choosing what we think we want. We have to discriminate between things or we would never be able to choose or make any decisions.


We do have to judge and make assumptions about things. It is almost impossible not to. Even if we are not making negative judgements or assumptions, we automatically make these about almost everyone and everything. We have so many choices, if we did not discriminate, we could never choose. I think that making assumptions is not inherently a bad thing, but it can be when you allow the assumptions you make to affect how you treat others. I do not think it would be possible for a world without discrimination or judgement to exist. There are so many different types of people in the world from different countries, and with different religions and cultures, it is impossible not to make judgements about someone or something that you do not know much about. Even if we do not mean to, everyone makes assumptions about people that are different from them or things they are not used to.


It was very interesting to hear Sheena Iyenger discuss how people around the world view choice. It was interesting to hear about the people that she interviewed who grew up in times when they had very little or no choice. When there was one kind of chewing gum and one kind of soda available to them. Now we have hundreds of kinds of each to choose from. While Americans may be surprised by how they lived because we grow up now surrounded by hundreds of different kinds of everything, they are just as surprised by the amount of choice we have as we are of them. If you grow up with not many choices, you do not know what it is like to have many choices, and vice versa. These people were overwhelmed by choices because they did not have as many, just like we might feel constricted by the little choice they had. I think Americans can often forget that not everyone in the world has the same or as many choices that we have. Whether you think we have too much choice, or others have too little, people all over the world have different amounts of choices that affect the decisions they make through their lives.


The idea of the American Dream includes that people who come to America will be given opportunities they may not have been able to receive from their home country, but it includes the limitless choices that come with living here. In theory, people can choose to do or be whoever they want when they come to this country. However, many people view differences as “bad,” and so often see those who are different than them as also bad. These judgements can be harmless, but in some cases they can affect what you believe, and even how you treat others. People make judgements about others based on what they look like and their differences, without knowing anything about them personally. This can and has caused many divisions and rifts throughout the world and especially currently in the US. Whole groups of people are discriminated against in this country by people that are different from them, based on assumptions they make about them. With the increasing judgements by people about those who are different from them, comes the beliefs that they are better than them. These ideas can rise out of judgement and discrimination.


It was also interesting to hear Sheena Iyenger mention how unnecessary many of the choices we have are. We almost have too much to choose from everywhere we go. And that leads me to the question: How does having so much choice affect us in our daily lives?

iluvcows
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 8

The necessity of judgement

In Sheena Lyengar’s ted talk she discusses the sharp contrast between the choices people have been exposed to in life. In American society, individuals grew up with a multitude of choices in every aspect of life, from kinds of chips to types of soda. Other countries, especially those raised in a Communist environment have very little options and were blown away by the surplus offered by majorly Capitalist societies. Many believe that having various choices is a better way to live, and will result in a smarter choice being made. In reality having more options often leads to the individual feeling overwhelmed and anxious, causing it to be difficult to make a decision. This in turn can result in poor decision making because they are clouded by the immense stress. People all over the world have various amounts of choices in different aspects of their lives affecting their outlook on the world. This makes me wonder, If you live in a society in which there are limitless opportunities to become whatever you wish and do what you want is this deemed a good thing? In many ways it is, and you believe that you can achieve your dreams and goals because the possibilities seem endless. On the other hand those who are different are discriminated against and judged for their choices and decisions as well as their background. As @squirrellluver123 mentioned in their post, many people perceive America in this way, and when they arrive they experience inequity and mistreatment because they are different and this in turn has caused many divides in our country.


In the podcast Alicia Garza talks about how a lot of people choose to judge individuals without knowing them personally and choose to support those present in social media and news outlets without any knowledge on who they are and what they believe in. Often, groups are discriminated against solely due to news of an event being publicized. It is extremely unfair to create an idea, which is frequently negative, of who a person is based on how a indivdual in power views them.


I believe that we must judge things in life or else we won't be able to make decisions or choices. Without these choices, we would not be able to function as a society. Our evaluations of what we do in life is based on discrimination and judgement whether we do it conciously or not. The question is the way in which we decide which to choose, and whether it is a fair evaluation. These choices are not necessarily bad, but when people use this discriminatory attitude and their assumptions against others, this judgement becomes an issue. This leads to the topic of othering, which is the “conscious or unconscious assumption that a certain identified group poses a threat to the favoured group.” Many people are known to enter into social interactions with assumptions about the individuals involved, even when they know nothing about them. If people in society went into the world with a more open minded attitude, individuals of different backgrounds would feel much more accepted and welcomed into the community. I do not think it is possible to completely erase the judgement of others, but I do believe that society should try to avoid making assumptions about people who are different from them and acting on them in order to belittle and discriminate against the individual.


To answer squirellluver123’s question of How does having so much choice affect us in our daily lives?, I believe that having access to such a large amount of options in life can both have a negative and positive impact. As I stated earlier in my post, it can have a staggering impact on an individual as well as instill anxiety due to the pressure of choosing the “right” one. On the other hand, it creates many opportunities and chances for people to take advantage of, and allows for a wide range of choices people can make so they can find what will most benefit them.


Why do you think people automatically believe in the validity of news outlets views of certain individuals without any prior knowledge on the topic?


yvesIKB
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

The Liability of Choice

Looking on-screen at five differently shaped and colored and oriented peppers in class, I can’t say that I had any idea of what to think at first when Ms. Freeman asked us, which one won? Going through the slides, I could notice, of course, differences between these peppers; however, I was initially unable to formulate judgments on these peppers because I had no strong preferences. Only after getting into the mentality of ranking and characterizing the peppers’ differences as “preferable” or “unpreferable” was I able to make a decision, to choose a winner. I’m still not entirely certain why I used the criteria I did, how well they aligned with others, or how society has had a role in shaping these criteria in even something as insignificant as peppers. What I do know, though, is I find myself agreeing with Ms. Freeman when she wrote that, “if someone demands that we make a choice, based on these judgments,” we — and, I think, especially as Americans — will find ways within ourselves to do so.


When you search for the definition of “discrimination” on Google, two particular definitions will pop up. The latter one that appears gives us the meaning as “recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another.” In this way, discrimination is merely the act of making distinctions between objects of study. Noticing that one apple has a dent and another doesn’t, that one girl is taller than another, that one classmate is kinder than another. In this way, I think discrimination is a necessary act we practice everyday. In noticing differences in others, we find ways to characterize ourselves, maybe using these distinctions as part of our identities.


When subscribing to this definition of discrimination, I think making judgments and choices are natural, and, in some cases, useful and necessary. When in primitive stages, making choices might have helped our species survive, moving us forward by not expending energy on smaller game, by taking less perilous routes when migrating. Now, we still make evaluations and choose based upon them. Our American democracy literally requires us to make distinctions between candidates, judge their competencies in advancing our country and our personal causes, and making a selection. And this is not necessarily a bad thing — for if we didn’t have a choice, how can we ensure we are best represented? However, I do recognize an inhibition in choice — specifically that not all options will make us seem like we are exercising free will. In Sheena Iyenger’s example, she recounted a study that required citizens in post-Soviet areas to select a soda brand out of seven options. Instead of seeing multiple options, however, many test subjects only saw one — soda. I think this is because they either had different standards for distinction than Americans would, or they are not familiar enough with the differences to decide. This really raises questions about the difference between how Americans and other areas of the world view choice — specifically, how important are the distinctions? Is every choice valuable because it signifies liberty? Or are distinctions so little and negligible that we are only fooling ourselves into thinking we have free will? I certainly think that, as Americans, we all think we have to choose, that this is a liberty entwined with our patriotism. I know that if I were in the experiment, I would almost definitely choose Ginger Ale — but this is because I am both informed on the differences of flavors and have a lower threshold for what even qualifies as a distinction. No one else around the world takes as much pride as Americans do in the ability to choose, no one else spends everyday practicing and training themselves to make judgments and choices like Americans do. But, as an American, my mind cannot help but tell me that having choices are generally better than having none. That, in theory, competition should ideally breed creativity (though not always true in practice). If this study has shown anything, though, it is that I certainly am biased in this.


However, when we observe the first definition, the most common one we use and perceive as a society, that appears for the definition of “discrimination,” we find its meaning as “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things,” which, it continues, mostly includes race, age, or sex. It does not let you analyze rationally or celebrate differences as the second definition might. Discrimination, in this sense, inherently includes unfair judgment. It is what makes us have preconceived notions of others, drawing on stereotypes of those different from us. Discrimination here doesn’t help us build our identities; rather, it enables us to exalt them, to use ourselves as standards, so that when we see others who don’t look, think, and act as we do, we degrade and demonize them.


In this ubiquitous definition of discrimination, inequality is necessary. Society shapes our judgments, so we care about skin color, gender identity, sexual orientation, body shape, physical and mental abilities, etc. However, I do not necessarily think it is impossible for a world to exist without this type of unjust discrimination. Why can we not look at differences as simply existing, as natural, instead of trying to categorize them based on desirability, as I initially did when examining the peppers? Why can we not look at power and advantages as something to be shared amongst all, not just those who are similar to us? I have to believe that all this was possible for humans — it just isn’t the case for us, not now. While I believe we are too late in creating this indiscriminately just utopia — as there is far too much painful history for that — I think we can move closer to a society that condemns hateful “other”-ing, and that we can do this by making choices. Alicia Garza on “Identity Politics and 2020 US Presidential Election” described how there are many people right now making choices around “protecting white power” and their agenda in “creating villains out of those who would say that, white identity politics aren't the only identity politics that deserve attention.” However, Garza also shows that there are people choosing to counter these choices. For instance, she describes the brilliance of Stacey Abrams’ campaigns, how people of all races, ages, and genders chose to stand out in a queue for hours, just for the possibility of voting, all because they understood the stakes in their decisions. Choices aren’t inherently good. To move closer towards closing the gaps of discrimination, we need to actively make good choices. Choice is power; therefore, we must treat it as a liability. In Sheena Iyenger’s TED-Talk, we saw that many French parents took comfort from deferring to doctors because they were free from the burden of liability. But when it comes to matters of discrimination, we can choose to revise our judgments, to rectify our prejudices. We can choose to vote for candidates who care about the issues of women, people of color, transgender people, and all those whom they don’t personally relate to. We can choose to be the Good Samaritan, not David Cash — for, as many say, not choosing is, in and of itself, a choice.


As I conclude these thoughts, I can only examine where my belief in choice comes from, as I recognize the illusion of freedom in Americans, but I still value the power of informed, moral choices. And I think it comes from Western entertainment and media. Think of Divergent when Tris chooses Dauntless, or Harry Potter when Harry chooses Gryffindor, or F451, or 1984, or The Handmaid’s Tale. How have these lessons changed who we are fundamentally? Do stories exist which caution choice rather than uniformity and safety? Either way, whether we believe that the abundance of choices is good or bad, we have the ability to make them — so when we look at discrimination, let us work to bring our society closer to the second definition, rather than the first.

yvesIKB
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

Originally posted by iluvcows on November 11, 2020 18:45

In Sheena Lyengar’s ted talk she discusses the sharp contrast between the choices people have been exposed to in life. In American society, individuals grew up with a multitude of choices in every aspect of life, from kinds of chips to types of soda. Other countries, especially those raised in a Communist environment have very little options and were blown away by the surplus offered by majorly Capitalist societies. Many believe that having various choices is a better way to live, and will result in a smarter choice being made. In reality having more options often leads to the individual feeling overwhelmed and anxious, causing it to be difficult to make a decision. This in turn can result in poor decision making because they are clouded by the immense stress. People all over the world have various amounts of choices in different aspects of their lives affecting their outlook on the world. This makes me wonder, If you live in a society in which there are limitless opportunities to become whatever you wish and do what you want is this deemed a good thing? In many ways it is, and you believe that you can achieve your dreams and goals because the possibilities seem endless. On the other hand those who are different are discriminated against and judged for their choices and decisions as well as their background. As @squirrellluver123 mentioned in their post, many people perceive America in this way, and when they arrive they experience inequity and mistreatment because they are different and this in turn has caused many divides in our country.


....


Why do you think people automatically believe in the validity of news outlets views of certain individuals without any prior knowledge on the topic?


Firstly, I never thought of the reaction of the outside world when discovering the limitations of America, which you mentioned, and I find this very interesting. As a citizen who grew up in America, I understand its limits. Maybe it is because of so many common people who see the paradox in the "American Dream" and current limitations that we value choices in America. It does get frightening, however, when people overexercise this, and disregard the welfare of others.

Now to the question of the credibility of news outlet, I think that people often automatically believe the news without prior knowledge because of just that — they don't know anything else about it. Convincing a biomedical researcher of anti-vaxx ideas is substantially more difficult than convincing someone who has never studied biology. We believe news sources because we trust them to be our educators, to be messengers and advocates for truth and justice. Additionally, we trust in their validity because in many cases, they are our only options. Other sources of information might come from scientific journals or bureaucratic reports or interviewing people, which I doubt anyone would go through the trouble of going through and researching themselves. Thus, we now think that news outlets and journalists have a responsibility to make information accessible to us, and trust in their words. I think by your tone, iluvcows, (though I could be wrong!!!) that you're skeptical of just automatically trusting news outlets, and I agree with that. I'm not sure what would be the best solution though, if there is any way to encourage society to do research on their own, or, if there is any way to turn the media from fast news and distorting opinions to deep research and accuracy. Either way, perhaps it is best to take everything with a grain of salt for now.

user1234
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 6

Responding to yvesIKB’s question I would say that these lessons about choice have greatly impacted how we see it. In most forms of entertainment we see how important it is to make choices that are true to you, and the message of individualism is very prominent. Because of these things we grow up with an immense pressure to make the right choices. Although these forms of media are trying to send a good message sometimes it can lead people to make bad choices because they are so focused on making the right ones. For example students will deprive themselves of sleep because they think that putting their education first is the right choice because it’ll lead them to success. Sometimes as Americans we are too quick to judge others without knowing their situation just because we perceive their choices as wrong.

I think that there are very major differences between judgement and discrimination. Judgement is how you view a person or idea. Discrimination is when people are unjustly treated because of who they are or what they believe. Although they aren’t the same thing they go hand in hand. If you and someone else don’t come to the same conclusion it doesn’t mean that the other person deserves to be discriminated against. Just because another group has different beliefs or ways of living it doesn’t mean that the way you carry yourself is better than the way they do. John Powell talks in his article about othering, and how it can be so detrimental to different communities. No matter how you judge someone or something it doesn’t mean they deserve to be treated unjustly.

It’s impossible to live in a judgement free world because it's in our DNA, and every move we make is based on judgement. When you wake up in the morning you “judge” or decide what clothes you're going to wear by how well they’ll perform against the weather that day. That decision and all other decisions you make in your life are based on judgement. Choices are essential because even if you don’t make a choice you're still making the choice not to make a choice. If you don’t make a choice about what clothes you're going to wear then you're making the choice to walk around naked. Although making choices is important, it is more important to make the correct choices.

When someone discriminates against another person because of their race, gender, or religion they are making a choice, but it’s the wrong one. Making someone feel left out or alone because of something they can’t control is not a good thing, but people do it anyway because they have that choice. That is why it’s so important to have laws that protect people over discrimination because ignorant people will always continue to make bad choices. Although sometimes it might seem like life would be easier if we didn’t have choices, that is definitely not the case.

My dad has told many stories of friends he has had that have lived in many countries where people don’t have a lot of choices in their everyday lives, and they hate it. They look to our country and they wish they had 1% of the choices we have. Touching on what Sheena Iyengar talked about, for people outside of our American bubble the choice of what soda they should drink is unimportant to them because sometimes people don’t even have the freedom to be part of any religion or be able to speak about whatever they want. The choices someone makes are truly based on perspective and the environment they’re in.

Choices and judgments that are made are based on the views of an individual. My question to you is: If we take away choice from people we consider to be making the wrong choice, do we have to take away everyone’s choice?

thesnackthatsmilesback
brighton, ma, US
Posts: 9

The nature of discrimination, judgement, and othering: Good or bad?



To answer Squirrelluver123’s question: How does having so much choice affect us in our daily lives? I want to start off with an example that I find quite extraordinary: Steve Jobs’ infamous black turtleneck. Jobs wore a black turtleneck in order to remove one decision from each day. His logic was that with too many decisions big or small, it places strain on a person making them less capable of making more decisions throughout the day. From my personal experience, I have been fortunate enough to live in a household where I got to make many choices. I think that it is definitely straining to have to make decisions throughout the day even if we were raised to do so since we were young. There are also different types of choices which can also change the strain on our daily lives. For instance, choosing which jacket to buy causes less strain to which job do I commit to. Choices are in so many forms, whether it be long term, short term, money related, emotionally related, or a combination of everything. I think that choices can really influence who we become or can be simply forgotten after they are made. I also believe that choices can be exciting too, being able to make our own decisions leaves us in a place where we are free to express ourselves and can make a big difference in how we view ourselves and the world around us. Overall choice can be both a good and a bad thing, it depends on how straining the situation is.


The nature of discrimination, judgement, and othering are the core of life wheather we like it or not. For example we have the food chain where there are organisms that are superior to others, we have the idea of power, where based on our own judgement, we decide who is in charge and sequencily who is not. Everything revolves around the ideas of making something or someone better than another.


Like Sheena Lyenger had mentioned, we were taught to make decisions big and small since we were born. Even before we were born, decisions and judgements were made before us shaping our minds and the way we view the world we see. Depending on what those decisions and judgements were, everyone has a judgement and therefore practice othering on every single thing they have. We all have so many different thoughts and ideas and judgements about the world around us that make us so unique. For example, during one of Lyenger’s experiments she left out 7 types of soda and gave people who were in the past part of commiunist countries to pick, they replied with “ they are all the same,” while I would have to agree with Lyenger when she says that “ we all know that Coke is the superior choice.” Without the choice to make a judgement, we would live in a society where we wouldn’t be living for ourselves because we all would not be obtaining what we wanted for ourselves. Although these terms have negative connotations, I don’t think that making these decisions is a bad thing. Decisions need to be made in order to keep our society going which will lead to othering one way or another. Therefore it is impossible to get rid of. These words have loaded meaning othering could mean the immense poverty that people are in due to the government control in their country to picking to wear a blue shirt instead of a red one.


Although I am not saying that these words are positive in any way either. Looking at the vary land we live on today, we have been a prime example of discrimination, judgement, and othering. People of color still suffer today due to the history that we have embedded into our culture due to a group who felt superior to anyone in their way. Discrimination is a topic no one should take lightly and harms many around us and it is one thing that over the past hundred of years has been improving, however I don’t think it is likely to ever stop occurring. Judging, making assumptions, othering, discrimination will always be visible.


Though I would like to hope that as time goes on, the idea of judging and making assumptions will no longer be a bad connotation, but a hopeful one. Instead of the idea of “this person was giving me a mean face and she probably doesn’t like me” I hope that in the future the overall mindset of people will change to “she is having an off day, but she spoke to me.” It may be incredibly naive to consider that to be a possibility throughout the human race, but this is my judgement, that the world can improve to become a more inclusive and loving place (and othering out the fact that humans are all evil).


Now going off the idea that we were taught to make judgements and decisions ever since we were young, I raise the question, if we were born in a world where our backgrounds did not affect our choices, how would we make decisions?


BLStudent
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 7

"Why do you think people automatically believe in the validity of news outlets views of certain individuals without any prior knowledge on the topic?" was asked by Iluvcows.

I think the reason people are so quick to believe and trust various news outlets and even individuals comes from our inherent desire to be right. Regardless of where we fall on the political spectrum we want to believe we our right and good in our beliefs because we don't want to admit our wrong doings and misconceptions to ourselves. This need for self validation creates echo chambers when we surround ourselves with people who share are beliefs and don't challenge our ideas actions which causes are beliefs to become increasingly strong and causing us to become increasingly stubborn. We want the media to back up our worldview and when it does we naturally trust it. To combat this i try to hold "my side" to higher standards and am more critical of them when they don't live up to those standards.


I think othering is a very dangerous and very common phenomenon but unfortunately i think its very human. Othering has happened since the beginning of time when tribes or eventually nations fought over various values or resources and i think it isn't going to go away anytime soon. However i think the recent spike in it in America and the rest of the world is very troubling and we should try to resist it as much as possible. I think John Powell did a really good job breaking down the increase in right wing nationalism and otherism in a number of countries including the US but he also left room for hope of positive change with examples like Canada who told their multi-ethnic population to "keep their identity" and has a relatively small extremist right especially when compared to other countries. I really like this example because alot of times we focus preventing the negative and while this is important the way forward is to promote positive change and gain inspiration from positive examples.


From the beginning with the podcast I agree heavily Alicia Garza on her view of identity politics. She started off the podcast saying " People say things like, "If we just had a woman in this role, everything would be better." "If we just had a black person or an immigrant, or insert whatever identity, then things would be better." But the reality is white supremacy can be carried out by black people, it can be carried out by women. It's not just identity in and of itself that changes the ways that politics happen.".

As someone who considers myself further left the average democrat i have have been incredibly frustrated with the championing of Kamala Harris as a progressive icon because she is a young black woman running on a democratic platform. while at the same time ignoring her history as a District Attorney where she made a number of incredibly questionable decisions which disproportionately harmed poor people and people of color.

The problem with identity politics in my opinion is that it's often not used genuinely but rather as a way to pander to a certain voter base. Like Alicia Garza said its identity only for identities sake but whats really important to create positive change is identity plus a different vision. Identity is important but it shouldn't be a deciding issue of your campaign. You need a candidate who can bring as many identities as possible together and Obama was able to do that very effectively through his message of hope and change. Our differences and different struggles should help us connect and understand each other rather than be used to push us apart. i agree that a progressive vision is both important and powerful in current politics. I also think its incredibly telling when they talk about the increasing disconnect between black voters and democratic party candidates. The democratic party relies on the black vote but does little to earn it through talking about issues black people care about.

I think judgement is an important thing to do in political discussions, we need to be able to judge right from wrong but i think we should form our judgements based on ideas and policy rather than identity. There is a very fine line between judgement needed to make important choices and discrimination based on any aspect of someones identity. While discrimination is more in the open on the right in American discourse to say theres no discrimination by the left would be foolish and partisan. Both democrats and republicans have enacted bills which disproportionally affect different groups of people. Joe Biden our current president elect was a big part of the disastrous crime bill which disproportionately affected black people. Obama though I liked a-lot of what he tried to do constantly drone striked the middle east often killing innocent people and deported a large number of immigrants.

There are important choices which need to be made in this country but if we want to see it improve we cant make those decisions as individuals or even as members as individual groups but instead we need to come together as a broad coalition regardless of identities in the name of progress which will benefit all of us.


My Question would be How can we find common ground despite our differences? where do we draw the line between judgement and discrimination?


cherryblossom
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 9

The Power of Judgement and Choice

I want to start by saying that these readings and videos were very insightful and thought provoking. I was able to look at judgement, discrimination, and choice in new perspective. Specifically, I thought much more deeply about choice and its impacts.


I believe that judgement, discrimination, and choice are all crucial to the make-up and function of our society. Judgement allows us to determine what we perceive as good or bad and better or worse. It enables us to label and define the people, objects, and ideas around us. For example, in class, everyone evaluated each pepper to decide which one was the “best”. We all made judgements. Everyone had their own expectation of and characteristics associated with perfection and being the best. Our judgements were influenced by the people around us and society. Many people thought that symmetrical, brightly-colored, firmness, and medium-sized were attributes that qualified a pepper to be the top choice, while others thought a pepper’s unique shape and color made it the best pepper. With all of this being said, our judgements and discrimination upon objects, like peppers, and people allow us to make choices.


Choice plays an important role in our society, as it defines us all to a certain degree. The ability to choose shapes us and determines how we see the world. The judgments that affect our choice can be good and bad. To look in a positive perspective, our choices can help develop a sense of community, aside from allowing us to assert our individuality. This is seen in how our choices are influenced by the people close to us that we trust and respect. Our choices help guide us and determine what paths we take. Furthermore, choice can be viewed as a collective act that benefits both you and everyone else. However, choice and judgement can be bad too. To refer to Powell’s article, he talks about the process of Othering, which most often arises during rapid and major changes in society. Othering involves assumptions and judgements being made about certain groups. It leads individuals to consider who does and does not qualify to be in our society. Demographics and attributes, such as one’s race, religion, gender, nationality, and sexual orientation, contribute to the process of Othering, specifically how they are manipulated. A great amount of these assumptions are rooted from the words of politicians and the media. We can see this by how Trump has normalized rhetoric that dehumanizes and alienates people from certain groups and backgrounds. His words trigger more fear and anxiety to people, which causes them to target and attack those groups.


I also want to acknowledge that judgement and choice varies greatly across different cultures and countries. Sheena Iyenger’s TED talk addresses this point. The degree to which we are able to make choices is linked to the assumptions we make about choices. For instance, Iyenger said that Americans tend to equate more options with better options because we are greatly exposed to many options and this factor makes choice a part of us. In contrast, Eastern Europeans from former Communist countries perceive a lot of choices as too many choices and think more critically of their choices, weighing their true value. Another assumption that Americans have is that saying no to choice is bad. This view is challenged in how French parents that are not given a choice in an incident regarding life support for their infant have more positive thoughts than Americans parents after the incident. These assumptions go to show how much choice defines and affects individuals.

We cannot live in a society without judgement and choice, but we can change our attitudes and approaches to make these judgments and choices more beneficial to us and our communities. We can respond to our collective anxiety from Othering by bridging across different cultures and perspectives. Everyone should work together to stop the manipulation of our shared anxiety and learn to embrace and celebrate our differences. As Alicia Garza stated, we need to use identity politics to cross bridges between our differences. This includes both our identity and our views on identity and politics. Through identity politics, we should strive to bring forward a vision that includes everyone. Identity politics enables us to come together and challenge the systems and institutions that oppress us.


To answer @squirrelluver123’s question of how does having so much choice affect us in our daily lives, I believe that this abundance of choice hinders us from deeply considering our choice and its merits. It internalizes the mindset of thinking that these many choices that we have are all good. This can be harmful to us because it might allow us to make less thoughtful decisions. In addition, having so much choice can get overwhelming too, creating uncertainty of what is a right or wrong choice and/ or good or bad choice.


I found Powell’s article about Othering very interesting and was left with this question: With a new elected president and the start of a new administration in the near future, do you think the use of identity politics and how individuals perceive choice will change?


bebe
Posts: 6

Put Up the Barrier

To answer @thesnackthatsmilesback’s question asking about how our backgrounds influence our choices, I think that it would be extremely different to live in a world where our decisions were not based on this. From a young age, we are taught to think and act certain ways by our parents, teachers, coaches, and even society in general. We are raised with a social norm and understanding of what is considered acceptable. Like Sheeyna Iyengar said in her TedTalk, we in America are raised with the notion that we have the right to ask for whatever we want, while many other countries do not hold this same belief. This question is hard to answer. There is no way to know how we would make decisions without the added factor of our personal and cultural backgrounds, because that so strongly and deeply influences every aspect of the choices we make everyday.


No one will directly tell you to make judgements and discriminations. Most people are not blatantly told that one type of person is better than another. However, every human being across the world is raised in a world where making associations and judgements towards people is inevitable.


As a race, we thrive on competition and organization. We are always categorizing people and objects and comparing ourselves to them. We have a preconceived notion of what we think is the best, and we always want it. That is why so many people were inclined to pick pepper number 2 in class on Monday. It was the one that looked the most symmetrical and had the deepest and purest color, all things that we are trained to consider perfect.


This idea extends far beyond just instinctually choosing which pepper we would choose for our shopping carts. It reaches to every aspect of life on our planet. John Powell discusses the idea of “othering” and how it is the categorization of groups of people based on which is better and which poses the most threat. At this point, this is dangerous. Othering is no longer just judgement, it is descrimination. The key difference between the two is marking the point in which the associations become dangerous.


Judgement is necessary and fundamental in the way our world works. Whether we like it or not, we all do it every day, and that is not necessarily always a bad thing. It really could just be judging which produce we think will be the best for the meal we are planning to cook. Judgement is the weight behind every choice and decision we make.


Descrimination, however, crosses the line. It is unrealistic to think that we could ever live in a world where it did not exist, but in every case, it harms people. Descrimination is when you take that judgment and negatively alter the treatment you give someone or something because of it. You are belittling one group based on a personal bias, and with the sole intention of promoting another group.


I would love to one day say that I live in a society where judgements do not turn into discriminations. But I know that is a long way to come. So my question to you is, how might we go about putting up that barrier to stop a baseline judgement from becoming a dangerous descrimination.


cherryblossom
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 9

Response to @BLStudent's question

Originally posted by BLStudent on November 11, 2020 20:41


"Why do you think people automatically believe in the validity of news outlets views of certain individuals without any prior knowledge on the topic?" was asked by Iluvcows.

I think the reason people are so quick to believe and trust various news outlets and even individuals comes from our inherent desire to be right. Regardless of where we fall on the political spectrum we want to believe we our right and good in our beliefs because we don't want to admit our wrong doings and misconceptions to ourselves. This need for self validation creates echo chambers when we surround ourselves with people who share are beliefs and don't challenge our ideas actions which causes are beliefs to become increasingly strong and causing us to become increasingly stubborn. We want the media to back up our worldview and when it does we naturally trust it. To combat this i try to hold "my side" to higher standards and am more critical of them when they don't live up to those standards.


I think othering is a very dangerous and very common phenomenon but unfortunately i think its very human. Othering has happened since the beginning of time when tribes or eventually nations fought over various values or resources and i think it isn't going to go away anytime soon. However i think the recent spike in it in America and the rest of the world is very troubling and we should try to resist it as much as possible. I think John Powell did a really good job breaking down the increase in right wing nationalism and otherism in a number of countries including the US but he also left room for hope of positive change with examples like Canada who told their multi-ethnic population to "keep their identity" and has a relatively small extremist right especially when compared to other countries. I really like this example because alot of times we focus preventing the negative and while this is important the way forward is to promote positive change and gain inspiration from positive examples.


From the beginning with the podcast I agree heavily Alicia Garza on her view of identity politics. She started off the podcast saying " People say things like, "If we just had a woman in this role, everything would be better." "If we just had a black person or an immigrant, or insert whatever identity, then things would be better." But the reality is white supremacy can be carried out by black people, it can be carried out by women. It's not just identity in and of itself that changes the ways that politics happen.".

As someone who considers myself further left the average democrat i have have been incredibly frustrated with the championing of Kamala Harris as a progressive icon because she is a young black woman running on a democratic platform. while at the same time ignoring her history as a District Attorney where she made a number of incredibly questionable decisions which disproportionately harmed poor people and people of color.

The problem with identity politics in my opinion is that it's often not used genuinely but rather as a way to pander to a certain voter base. Like Alicia Garza said its identity only for identities sake but whats really important to create positive change is identity plus a different vision. Identity is important but it shouldn't be a deciding issue of your campaign. You need a candidate who can bring as many identities as possible together and Obama was able to do that very effectively through his message of hope and change. Our differences and different struggles should help us connect and understand each other rather than be used to push us apart. i agree that a progressive vision is both important and powerful in current politics. I also think its incredibly telling when they talk about the increasing disconnect between black voters and democratic party candidates. The democratic party relies on the black vote but does little to earn it through talking about issues black people care about.

I think judgement is an important thing to do in political discussions, we need to be able to judge right from wrong but i think we should form our judgements based on ideas and policy rather than identity. There is a very fine line between judgement needed to make important choices and discrimination based on any aspect of someones identity. While discrimination is more in the open on the right in American discourse to say theres no discrimination by the left would be foolish and partisan. Both democrats and republicans have enacted bills which disproportionally affect different groups of people. Joe Biden our current president elect was a big part of the disastrous crime bill which disproportionately affected black people. Obama though I liked a-lot of what he tried to do constantly drone striked the middle east often killing innocent people and deported a large number of immigrants.

There are important choices which need to be made in this country but if we want to see it improve we cant make those decisions as individuals or even as members as individual groups but instead we need to come together as a broad coalition regardless of identities in the name of progress which will benefit all of us.


My Question would be How can we find common ground despite our differences? where do we draw the line between judgement and discrimination?


To answer @BLStudent, we can find common ground through identifying commonalities in our differences. Everyone can work together to acknowledge and understand our different backgrounds and perspectives. Our speech needs to change so that people can feel empowered rather than separated from our society. We also need to recognize that there is inequality in our society and that everyone does not start at the same position/ level in life. By changing our attitudes, we can create a vision that includes everyone, especially the people that have been left out of politics. Ultimately, these changes will help us make more thoughtful choices that benefit yourselves and everyone around us.

BlueWhale24
Boston , Massachusetts, US
Posts: 9

The Self-Centered American Perspective

How does having so much choice affect us in our daily lives?


This question, posed by @squirrelluver123, is difficult to respond to - living in the capitalist superpower known as the United States, we are faced with choices from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed. The founding mantra of America rested within freedom and the pursuit of happiness. In recent decades, the American ideal of personal liberty has become associated with constant choices. For this reason, Americans as a whole have become bogged down by meaningless decisions, holding each one to the same importance. The question of ‘what do I get from the vending machine’ sometimes requires nearly as much thought as ‘where am I going to buy a house’, even though the two are worlds apart in significance. While this may not seem like an issue, the constant presence of choice within our daily lives has driven all of us to inherently believe that we are the “best” at making decisions. Since our daily lives are filled with countless choices, we’ve become pros at deciding what’s best for ourselves, and nobody else. When we are faced with other people who differ from us in viewpoint, we simply assume that our decisions are more superior for the simple reason that we’re the ones making it. In short, constant choice has begun to block out the perspectives of others.


In the Western world, it has become common for people to choose for themselves. The extreme level of consumerism which has taken over our lives has become the norm, since it is inherently a byproduct of capitalism and a free economy. Our outcome of our lives rest solely on the choices that we make. Contrast this to ancient history, when your life was completely dictated by outside forces, whether it be caste systems, societal practices, or religious ideals. In ancient India, if you were born into the untouchable class, you’re life was predetermined upon birth to be filled by discrimination and neglect. Yet, in places like Europe, if you were born into the royal family, your life would be filled with extravagance and lavish living. Beyond these examples, in most places every single social class had a very defined role, and social mobility was a non-existent factor. Even less than a hundred years ago, the battle between free choice and no choice waged on in the form of communist ideology vs. capitalist ideology. Now, with it being apparent that capitalism won, does that mean that it should have?


Communism, and overall socialist ideology, by definition limits the choices of individuals. It poses an almost utopian scenario, in which every person has their choices predetermined for them so that they can become a seamless cog within society. An example brought up within the TED Talk referenced the viewpoint of the people who used to live within communist states viewing seven different types of soda as one choice. In places like the USSR and China (pre-economical shift towards capitalism), there were no such choices - soda was soda. And it was in these places where we witnessed dramatic censorship, oppressing environments, and overbearing governments. Inevitably, communist ideology could not be sustained, leaving very few countries in the world which still practice it today. It’s unreasonable to allow the government (an external force) to make the choices for all individuals. The inability to make choices for themselves is what threw the populations of communist countries into turmoil; the government rarely made decisions that were beneficial to the wellbeing of each individual. It’s virtually impossible to do so - how can you account for millions of people and their specific wants and needs? On the other hand, capitalism presents the opposite argument: each individual seeks the goals which they desire, everybody looks out for themselves, and all of us co-exist harmoniously. Or at least, that was the goal.


Taking a step back from the communist and capitalist ideology viewpoint, it’s interesting to consider how different cultures and backgrounds influence the perception of decision making and the importance of choices. The experiment which I found most interesting from Ms. Iyengar’s TED talk was the anagram test with Anglo-American children compared to Asian-American children. Growing up in a Chinese household, the importance of my parents’ decision-making could not be overstated. While I cannot compare my experience to those of my peers of different backgrounds, I can confidently say that at least in Asian culture, deferring choices to those whom we respect and trust is very common. In fact, it’s even expected up until a certain age that we will not argue with the choices which our parents make for us; the unspoken rule has always been ‘ your parents know what's better for you than you do, so don’t talk back’. This ideal is echoed in China and many places in Asia, where filial piety and familial respect are core components to a well-behaving child. Compare this to America and Western culture, where familial respect is still present, but individualism is heavily emphasized. American teenagers are expected to go through a phase of isolating themselves and losing touch with their parents as they learn to make their own decisions, and this is expected to happen. It’s safe to say that the importance of making one’s own choices is much more heavily weighted in American culture than in Asian culture.


Taking all of this into consideration, ultimately I still believe that it is important to make choices for ourselves. Discrimination (not racial discrimination but rather choosing between something) must take place in order to differentiate one thing from another. Discriminating and judging are the tactics with which we use to come to conclusions about things that we experience. From the moment that we are old enough to comprehend such things, we learn to judge what we are going through, and add on to that judgement after taking more time to thoroughly understand it. Furthermore, I believe that choice is crucial to maintaining a well-functioning society. Human nature dictates that we all must look out for our own interests. From functioning as a survival tactic during the days of cavemen, it has carried over into modern day. Whether we like it or not, we tend to prioritize the interests of ourselves over those whom we don’t know, and for this reason it’s unreasonable to believe that a system in which all of our choices are decided for us can possibly work. No single system can properly serve the needs of every person under it. Many before us have tried and failed. In society, we must choose for ourselves to be satisfied with the outcomes.


Choice itself cannot be defined as either inherently good or inherently bad. Whether or not a choice should be made by ourselves or pre-determined for us depends entirely upon the context in which it’s being made. Yet, as Ms. Iyengar stated, we in the United States have become accustomed to believing that every single choice is good, without considering whether or not it's truly needed. Choices are essential towards making a modern society function : we must move past the time where many were marginalized for circumstances out of their control. But we must strike a balance between allowing ourselves to choose what’s in our interest and the out-of-control consumerist mindset of infinite choices which we live in today.


Discrimination and judgement are critical to how we as humans perceive the world around us. It’s impossible to completely rid ourselves of our instinctual nature to come to conclusions about whatever we see. However, the sad reality of current society is that many fail to recognize the mistakes of their judgement due to the “my viewpoint can’t possibly be wrong because I’m the one making it” mindset. This attitude comes about as a byproduct of the choice-filled world which we live in. The idea of “othering” relates directly to the individualistic mindset of always looking out for your own best interests. For example, an anti-immigration American complains about “those Mexicans” for stealing American jobs, because it damages their preferred group. They might complain about “those Muslims” because they see them as a threat to their people. The feminist and Black Lives Matter movement are prime examples of situations which are seen as threats to so many people, even though in essence they pose no threat towards the groups which oppose them. But rather, the thought of groups which have historically been marginalized coming to power frightens those who have never had to face such issues.


Our cute little analysis of which peppers we liked most was a demonstration of the harmless side of discrimination and judgement. In a matter as trivial as which pepper we liked most, we all had different criteria by which we determined our favorite. We utilized the skills which we learned as infants and young children to assess the peppers and come to a decision. But on the other hand, our ability to judge so instinctively also acts as a barrier between different groups of people within the United States, and around the world. Issues in the United States arise because the actions of one group will damage the interests of another. Discrimination in the United States arises because one group judges that the actions of another will be of detriment to them. The sad truth is that this kind of negative discrimination cannot be truly contained. It’s a core part of how humans see the world. However, this does not mean that it cannot be fought against. Countless people today choose to go against the traditional norms of “othering”. Understanding the viewpoints of others beyond simply what’s beneficial to ourselves is the very first step in creating a “post-othering society”. For many, it’s not easy to look past simply what is in our own interests. It takes selflessness and empathy to do so, while it’s much simpler just to place blame on others for things that negatively impact you. But through just a little more of that selflessness and empathy from each and every person, we can all become a little less divided and a lot more connected.


(My lingering question : how can we combat extreme consumerism in American when capitalism has become such a big part of our national identity?)
posts 1 - 15 of 30