Sunday 10 May 2009

When not racist is racist

One of the more fascinating aspects of human activity systems is their tendency to produce opposites at the extreme end of a spectrum. Some intense intent A to avoid Z causes Z after all.

In the West we have become very careful to steer clear of any hint of racism, so much so that often measures are evoked which in fact lead to exactly that kind of sentiment. The lead-up to the current outcry against Indian taxi drivers in Queensland, Australia, is one example.

In order to be seen absolutely non-discriminatory towards foreign students the rules governing employment in the taxi industry had been largely suspended and as a consequence students from India availed themselves of the opportunity to drive taxis to supplement their income during their studies here.

Not only were they not tested on their knowledge of local streets but sometimes even their ability to drive a car needed to be questioned. Over the years the problems increased to the point where local taxi drivers - whether Anglo-Saxon, Asian or Indian for that matter - protested against the unfair practices which in turn impacted on their own employment conditions. The resultant publicity led to the general perception that Indian drivers are to be avoided.

As usual the perception is grounded in reality, but it is the generalisation derived from so many shared experiences that causes concern. Compared to world events the issue is minor, but it was considered noteworthy by Thaindian News informing Indians in Thailand and the story was picked up by news services in India itself.

In terms of system dynamics the steadily growing radius of conceptualisation can be observed to gradually extend the awareness of the system’s members but not further.

Racism is a phenomenon that lacks a sufficient cognitive reach to understand the consequences of a limited perception. As the system evolves these consequences become part of its knowledge base and avoidance measures are the result. They in themselves can be seen as a system which grows and becomes more and more influential. In the absence of mitigating factors however the measures become counterproductive. When the backlash sets in the very thing they opposed is given sustenance and attains a viable status within the wider context.

In other words, another system is born and quite possibly finds support in the previous set of notions that gave rise to the entire development in the first place. From racism to liberalism and back to racism.

In a fundamental sense this demonstrates how dangerous the obsession with an ideal can be. As nice as a perfectly clean world would be, some dirt is necessary to keep it moderately clean.

1 comment:

Marc said...

I can barely understand you sometimes.... ; )