Impressed by Isaiah Berlin’s thoughts on prejudice

Dear Editor,

I do not think that I am alone in feeling that our society is beset and besieged by all sorts of prejudice, buttressed by a dangerous arrogance in the belief that any one of us is right or has the answer to what is at the root of our current socio-economic problems. I certainly do not profess to have any particular solution but I do believe in the power of open discussion and the exchanging of ideas.

In this regard I was most impressed with the thoughts of Isaiah Berlin in his essay on ‘Prejudice’ as reproduced in his publication Four Essays on Liberty. I do not feel qualified to paraphrase Berlin but believe that a faithful reproduction of his brilliant thoughts on this crucial subject will be helpful to us Guyanese as we strive to forge ahead as an independent society; I therefore commend the following to my fellow Guyanese:

“Few things have done more harm than the belief on the part of individuals or groups (or tribes or nations or churches) that he or she or they are in sole possession of the truth; especially about how to live, what to be and do … and that those who differ from them are not only mistaken, but wicked or mad and need restraining or suppressing. It is a terrible and dangerous arrogance to believe that you have a magical eye which sees the truth and that others cannot be right if they disagree.

“Compromising with people with whom you don’t sympathize or altogether understand is indispensable to any decent society…nothing is more destructive than a happy sense of one’s own or one’s nation’s infallibility.

“Another source of avoidable conflict is stereotypes; tribes hate neighbouring tribes by whom they feel threatened, and then rationalize their fears by representing them as wicked or inferior or absurd or despicable in some way.”

I humbly commend these thoughts, as succinctly expressed above, to my fellow Guyanese.

Yours faithfully,

Nowrang Persaud

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