Monday, March 22, 2010

Broader Reach

It has of late come to the forefront of my attention exactly how much our perception of one thing can influence our evaluation of something completely different.  I am as guilty of this as anyone, although I try my utmost to avoid this contamination of prejudice.  Kind of like an extended negative association.  Negative association is the psychological phenomenon that lead Watson to seriously damage little Albert by connecting in his mind negative consequences (in this case fear caused by a loud noise) with a benign object, in this case white fur.  The child was so traumatized that the child couldn't be approached by women in fur coats for years after the experiments, so the historical story goes.

Likewise, if you are highly opposed to supplements, then you may extrapolate that dislike to other things associated with supplements, even simply items in the same aisle of the grocer's as supplements- energy drinks, Ensure-like supplements, Emergen-C, air-sickness bands, or Ora-Gel for example.  There's nothing that inherently links these items other than there placement in a store, but that association with supplements creates a dislike towards the other items.  That's not to say there isn't a reason to dislike some of these things; supplements especially have questionable contents, little to no regulation and are far over-marketed.Our minds play funny tricks like that.  Similarly, a bad experience with Aunt Edna's* latest "low-fat, low-sugar, high-fiber" recipe may be so bad as to turn a person off any food that claims to be "healthier" or "natural". 

The worst thing that I can think about in regards to this scenario is when the phenomenon leads to discrimination against a group of people.  This week, it appears that our Congress will debate and possibly vote upon the biggest health care reform legislation since the creation of Medicare/Medicaid.  This possibility has created serious tensions and much backlash, especially from those in the Tea Party movement.  Reports in my state's capitol of Columbus this week included the heckling and harassment of a peaceful pro-health care reform protester who happened to also have a disability.  The Tea Partiers went so far as to throw money at this man, and proclaim such things as "I'll decide when you get money" and "There's no handouts here- you have to work for what you get."  These were not illiterate high school drop outs, either, but instead well-dressed, professional looking individuals.  In our country's capitol, there were ethnic, racial, and sexual orientation slurs thrown about, and spittle hurled at some of our members of Congress.

What madness has possessed people to sink to such blatant straw-man attacks rather than discuss the merits and drawbacks of the legislation at hand?  It hurts to see humanity sink to this level.  It hurts more to see this happen in my own country, and my own time.  This is not the Spanish inquisition.  This is not Selma, Alabama in the 1960's.  This is not the McCarthy hearings of the 1950's.  This is 2010, in the United States- a country founded by rational thinkers of the Enlightenment period. 

*For the record, I have no Aunt Edna of which I know.  There might be a great-aunt with that name somewhere, but no aunt, so I'm not actually libeling anyone.  :)

No comments:

Post a Comment