Life at № 42
As I said a few days ago, this blogging thing is fascinating. Yesterday Tildeb was pointing out in one of his comments the dangers of interpretation bias. That is, when an individual hears/reads a statement, and the statement is then interpreted through a lens that distorts its intent. This can be negative or positive (but tends to be negative)- and to a reasonable degree it’s a natural process. The operating word being reasonable.
Let me give an example: a group of people are sitting together having lunch in a restaurant. One says: “I don’t think I’d like to live in an apartment. I need a bit of privacy and the dogs need a garden to play in.” Another person at the table answers with “I think you’re anti-social, and you think you’re better than everyone else.”
One person says to another: I never wear yellow because it doesn’t suit my complexion. A lover of the colour yellow responds aggressively – this happens because the listener in both cases has taken what in effect is not a statement about them and interpreted it through a lens where it’s transformed into a personal attack on their being.
As the internet has grown in the past decade, and people don’t have tone, nuance and facial expressions to counterbalance the words they’re reading, interpretation bias seems to be becoming the norm for interaction. In that sense the use of language is being damaged enormously because various groups are attempting to create sweeping categories of “no-go” words and areas.
The very mention of race/ethnicity/nationality is often automatically categorized as racism, even when there’s no qualitative aspect to the statement.
-Does your family have Indian origins?
– No, Pakistani, you racist.
Not racist. Perhaps generalizing, perhaps presuming based on certain physical features someone is a member of a particular ethnic group- but only racist if there’s an implication that being from one of those cultures makes an individual inferior (or superior) to another.
Being able to understand context is of primordial importance in communication. Without being able to grasp the intent of the author, we’re reduced to a world of black and white, and a very primitive and basic variety of interaction. What that creates isn’t a world of equality or respect, because those things only result from real knowledge and understanding, the kind we can’t achieve, for example, if any criticism of Islamic ideology is deemed Islamophobia. Or in an even worse example, when the LGBT community stopped talking about AIDS because we just didn’t want to be associated with it anymore. The consequences have not been good.