Wednesday, 1 March 2017
Dyed in the wool
When I was young, and typically optimistic the world could be rapidly changed for the better if people just pushed hard enough, I fondly imagined prejudice against gays, or transgender people, or blacks, or foreigners, was a very temporary thing and would soon die away.
I was completely ignorant of how engrained these prejudices were, how reluctant people were to drop them, how much they passed from one generation to another, and how eagerly they were nurtured by politicians and the media.
I assumed other people were basically tolerant and open-minded and couldn't hold such prejudices for long without realising how damaging and inhumane they were. I assumed they were as fleeting as snow-storms or flash-floods.
Gradually it dawned on me that these prejudices were often rock-solid. You could argue against them till you were hoarse, but people still held them, utterly convinced of their soundness. The very idea of dropping them would seem like an act of madness.
I realised that although prejudice against certain groups had lessened, it had happened incredibly slowly and was still far from over. There's still strong opposition to gay marriage, to giving transgender people jobs, to promoting blacks, to treating foreigners fairly. In fact many people would like to turn the clock back and remove all the rights these groups have painfully and laboriously gained.
So nowadays, a great deal older and wiser, I assume that rather than demolishing prejudice, which seems near to impossible, the only realistic attitude is to work around it and try to chip away little bits here and there.
My optimistic younger self would be shocked at my new-found pragmatism.