Friday, December 16, 2011


There have been a few, quite good pieces I've read this week on power. Or more particularly on the complete obliviousness that people with power are capable of having with regards to that power. In the sense that they don't realise they have it. I would suggest that it's a form of the psychologist's fallacy - if you have power, you assume that everyone else has similar power, dismissing events that others construe in the context of power relationships. So sexist comments get waved off a a joke. Or racist comments get waved off as harmless. Whereas people on the other end of the joke don't perceive of it as harmless. Those making the jokes can then get all defensive when it is pointed out that not everyone sees it as a joke - doing so challenges their view of themselves as reasonable human beings. They might well be reasonable human beings, just in possession of power or privilege that they were unaware of. A similar relationship appears to exist between the religious and atheists in the US (and probably elsewhere) as well. Some religious people get offended when objections are raised to religious themes that are run through supposedly secular state governments. They have the power and pointing it out to them challenges how they see themselves and the world.

One of the things about power though, is that it is rarely given up freely. The battles to end sexism and racism, things that we haven't entirely conquered yet, wouldn't have been fought without those with no power fighting for it. In the best case scenario, you'll have some with power who when it is pointed out to them, acknowledge the disparity and will work to change it. There will always be some who refuse to change sadly.

Trying to be aware that the world I live in is not the same world that others of different gender, race or belief's live in is something that I've been trying to do for a few years now. It's one of Socrates better known quotes, with good cause I think:
the greatest good of a man is daily to converse about virtue, and all that concerning which you hear me examining myself and others, and that the life which is unexamined is not worth living
Just sayin.

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