Sunday, March 13, 2016

Elimination Game

I had several occasions when I was young to have the Lifeboat/Fallout Shelter Game forced upon me. At least once there was a variant where more information was revealed about the people after each round.  Or perhaps it was that we were all given slightly different information about each.  Yes, I think it was the latter.  So the black drug addict turned out to be a medical student who had become secretly addicted to pain medication after being injured as an army nurse in Vietnam.  The old rabbi, upon further review, turned out to be a psychologist with an artificial leg. The purpose, or one main purpose of the exercise, was to show you where your prejudices were, and start a conversation about what bigots we all are just under the skin.  (There is a medical school teaching technique which does something similar, adding in a symptom, or environmental factor, or lab result one at a time to see if it changes the diagnostic impression.  I don't know if they still do that.)
It was good for humility, I suppose, and should have been interesting in examining as a group what our cultural consensus of values was.  But it never worked out that way.  It always narrowed quickly to one or two issues, and half the group could not refrain from getting bogged down in whether the survivors were good breeding stock, or who was likely to try and be a tyrant, on the basis of no real information.
Yet it did give me one thing that I have kept, and that is an awareness that prejudice can be quite fluid. There's a recent social psychology test you can take on line that measures your prejudices from photographs of different races, ages, genders, and whether you hesitate to associate them with good words versus bad words. Apparently everyone involuntarily likes black people less than white people, even other black people.  I think there were also some good things we associated more often with females, some not.  Its advantage is that it all looks very science-y, because it gets in behind what you say you believe to what you really believe.
Except it doesn't really. Human beings have an initial response to a stimulus and immediately overrule it all the time. When we resettled a Laotian family in 1980, it accidentally worked out great because we got him a factory assembly job in Suncook - and those folks were tickled that he spoke French. Would it have been more of a problem if he didn't?  Probably.  But not definitely.  People find things.

There is something morally unattractive about confessing that you have mild versions of sins in order to blast those you believe are more intensely afflicted.  Earnest young Christian writers (males more than females, perhaps) wring their hands over discovering materialism* and pride - even in themselves.  In this they demonstrate that they totally get it, and understand, and aren't really judging at all, clearing the battle space for denunciation. Double bonus points - you get to demonstrate after how many mattresses you can still detect this pea.  Prejudice is another big-ticket item.  We all have prejudices that we don't want to admit.  Even I have a cute anecdote that I shake my head ruefully at in feigned humility before condemning all you racist bastards. Being part of the system and all that.

*especially at Christmas.

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