***Editor’s Note: We are pleased to feature a Viewpoint from Alric Lindsay, who submitted this commentary following the publication of our story on racial divisions in Cayman’s school system.***
I was watching ‘Human’, a series on Netflix explaining how powerful the brain is and how it can adapt. It led me to wonder how much of our reaction or judgement or perception is fueled by the things each person learns individually.
Born with prejudice
If it is true that our brains are constantly learning and adapting, then there is hope for every person to improve. Sometimes, it is this individual hope that keeps a person going. Something that makes them keep trying.
For those who share the view that some people are born with a certain disposition (a ‘like’ or ‘hate’ for something), I think that a person could always improve or adapt or enhance themselves by learning.
In the case of ‘brain defects’, I feel that our perception of the same is limited by our current knowledge. For example, a person may be deemed to have a defect or disability today, but we may discover later (even by accident) that that person simply learns differently. This may involve some effort on our part as we probe our own brains to find or create a language (through technology or otherwise) that another person’s brain understands, effectively establishing an environment where he or she can now communicate or participate.
You may say that some people don’t have adequate access to resources and they are bound to adapt to what they learned initially within their environment as a child. Personally, I do not accept this as my truth.
In my view, the environment is not a fixed state. Instead, it is constantly moving and being impacted by what we individually learn. Further, it is not limited by where we physically live or what we financially earn.
In Cayman, for example, there may be vast differences in incomes or backgrounds, but there are still many charitable organisations or philanthropic persons or businesses that make certain resources available, which then provides individuals with opportunities for, or greater access to, knowledge they might not have otherwise had to aid their development.
How you perceive yourself
Having considered the above, ask yourself how you perceive yourself. Are you smart? Are you gifted? Are you pretty? Are you handsome?
From my personal experience, my perception of myself is immensely different in the details from the conclusions drawn from the brains of other people and then expressed by them. I think this is because how we see ourselves is dependent on how our own brains have evolved to date and each of our brains is in a different state of evolution.
How you react
Since the evolution of the brain probably requires billions of subtleties (whether consciously or subconsciously) to be analysed every nanosecond, our reactions to a present scenario might actually be different to past, similar circumstances. I think this is because our brains learned from past events and have considered that knowledge, along with new information introduced to the current scenario.
The best example that I can think of is when I arrived at university in a foreign country and I was asked by a black person why I was hanging out with Caucasians. At first, I was shocked. Up to that point, I had socialised with people in Cayman who were from different backgrounds, but I never consciously connected my choices of associates or companionship with their race. A nanosecond later, I responded that my associates and I were from the same country and our association in a foreign country did not hinge on our race.
I think that my brain concluded in that moment that socialisation is not based on race. In fact, racism seems to have its roots in limitations that have been placed on socialisation (in times gone, a black man would not be able to maintain his gaze at a white woman without consequences). Fast forward to current times, there may be a refusal or reluctance by some to socialise.
I think that, if we deliberately deprive our brains of meaningful experiences (like those that can be derived from socialisation), we are likely to draw a variety of conclusions which stem from our brains not evolving with the benefit of such experiences. In my view, it is simple — if we do not allow our brains to evolve, neither will we. We will be forever stuck in the same thinking, our brains thirsting for something but feeding on nothing.