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The missing links in the understanding of prejudice and terrorism

The world has been historically full of inequities, injustices, racial and cultural conflicts and injustices. From the disgusting realities of apartheid in South Africa to the pointless terrorist attacks in Paris in November, there have been struggles for global power that interrupt the effective functioning of society as a whole

However, even though apartheid has been dismantled and militant radicals have the entire world trying to destroy them, there seems to be no end in sight. There are still significant racial and ethnic disparities in access to health care in South Africa (as well as in the US and the US), and Paris has a history of terrorist attacks on its soil

In addition, much attention has been paid to the hunger strike of a student at the University of Missouri who caused the president of the school to resign in November, but will it really be the end of prejudice on campus ?

As moving, practical and urgent as inequality and justice are for human society, why are protests over injustice so ineffective in achieving their long-term goals? , and what can we do about it?

Exploring the roots of prejudice

While apartheid and terrorism are blatantly conscious systems of struggle of power, the prop The prejudice can be deeper than we think.

In general terms, there are two types of prejudices: explicit prejudices, where people are aware of their preferences and advantages, and implicit biases, where their brains are unconsciously connected to preferences and prejudices. It is believed that the latter is due to a subtle and fear-based brain wiring that interprets "outside groups" as blacks or Americans as threats and, therefore, leads to exclusion and overgeneralization as a form of protection.

This is where it gets even more complicated: whites now perceive themselves as victims of reverse racism, and even terrorists can perceive their actions as a reaction to being victimized. The feeling of disempowerment is a universal phenomenon.

The real roots of Prejudice are much less accessible than we think, so it's time to stop having those blatant reactions to injustice and start having deep and high conversations about it.

The Victimization Complex

Power imbalances are commonly seen as situations in which one demographic is seen as the aggressor and the other as the victim. However, a recent comment deepened this dynamic and discovered that humans can, in fact, be psychologically inclined to gravitate toward victimization. Instead of sadomasochism, the real struggle may be maso-masochism: a struggle to prove who is the biggest victim.

This poses many challenges when extrapolated into group dynamics. Culturally and politically, striving to be the biggest victim only leads to situations of stagnation. This explains why hunger strikers and suicide bombers are so effective at drawing attention to the inequalities in question, but fail to really solve the long-term problems they are protesting.

] This is also fueled by the fact that the human brain is designed for envy and gloating. We are prepared to compare ourselves with others, and we love to see how people with perceived power fall from grace. It is not hard to imagine why the Islamic billionaires of the oil baron are targets of jealousy, or why superpowers like the United States become automatic targets of hatred.

If we resent power, how can we want to have it? Clearly, our conflicting feelings surrounding this issue must be addressed. Currently, they only lead to more cycles of conflict and disempowerment.

There is a limit to our concern

Unfortunately, the human brain is connected with limited resources to care for others. This is a phenomenon called depletion of self-regulation, and it can certainly manifest itself in how we see other races and cultures.

One study, for example, found that those who supported Barack Obama for the president of the United States were more likely to favor white candidates over black candidates in other scenarios. The study concluded that expressing support for an African-American person gave that person "moral credentials," which allowed him or her to be less concerned about being hurt.

We have limits to what we are going to represent of our points of view and attitudes, and some of these are integrated in the way we are connected. We must stop exhausting ourselves with external acts of perceived tolerance and face the guilt and political correctness that may be driving some of our decisions.

Seeking an adequate response to prejudice

Given these deep psychological impediments: implicit prejudice, propensity to be victimized, our envy of power and the limits to our care – I believe that identifying prejudices is critical , but addressing them openly through acts of protest and terror is not a useful tactic.

While war may be a temporary solution, the real war here is not against the outside; is really against the precarious ways in which it seems that we have been designed in a world where this wiring not only blows circuits, but entire societies.

Here are two potential routes we can take to better understand ourselves, our prejudices and how we react to them:

· Try on a different pair of shoes. Entering the opponent's head can have a great reward. It is clear that we are not going to "feel" for the people who oppress us, but what if we try to walk in their shoes? What if we look at the world from their point of view without judging it?

For example, if your goal is to overcome sexism in your workplace, design a diversity strategy just for you will take so far. However, if you directly question yourself (and men in powerful positions), the following question will have a much more effective and lasting impact: "What could you do if you feel that you are being discriminated against because of your gender?"


When we walk in the shoes of others, we often notice things that we never knew existed, and we create a greater opportunity to reach a common ground where others feel understood, instead of being condescending.

· Adopt your psychological and biological limitations. Recognizing that we are all predisposed to be harmed is a crucial step. We could, for example, start conversations eliminating guilt and recognizing the unconscious prejudice that resides deep in our brain. We could recognize that our prejudice is based on fear, and in the previous example, we asked: "What has to do with women in the workplace that scares men so much?"

With our limits in mind, we must eliminate the guilt, shame and judgment of our problem-solving tactics, whereas prejudices must be recognized and understood openly and used to make empowered decisions.

The solution to understanding our prejudices is far from obvious, but we must certainly raise our conversation, these two strategies could be the vital components that are missing in our ultimate goal: to make this world a better place and more satisfying to inhabit.

Dr. Srini Pillay, founder and CEO of NeuroBusiness Group, is a pioneer in the field of personal development. It's in the brain and is dedicated to helping people unleash their full potential. He is also a master executive coach and serves as an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He teaches executive education programs at Harvard Business School and Duke Corporate Education.

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