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Post No.: 0097superficial


Furrywisepuppy says:


One day, I decided to pay homage to Charlie Chaplin by cutting and styling my moustache to look like his. I got some weird looks and comments though when I was outside of the house. Some people must’ve thought that I was like him, as if I somehow absorbed his spirit simply by sporting the same moustache as him, and as if I suddenly became as funny as he was or something.


But the source of his great comedy acting was not in his moustache but in his razor-sharp timing and slapstick ideas, for which I had neither. A ‘Chaplin’ moustache (I believe it’s called a toothbrush moustache) didn’t make me funnier as a person, and people don’t even need to have a moustache at all to be funny either. There are many amazingly funny female comedians and actresses, for example, and as closely as I can tell, they don’t even have furry facial fuzz (although if they do then it’s only normal)!


I took it all as a backhanded compliment though, in the way that I could easily fool these people just by the way I looked. These people may conversely miss out on some genuinely talented and humorous offerings though when confronted with someone who doesn’t bear a moustache like Charlie Chaplin’s, all because they superficially judge others, and themselves, by the way people look.


…Okay I’ve never ever really sported any such facial hair because I’m just a dog (woof woof); a puppy even! And I’ve never whenever I’ve temporarily shape-shifted into human form either (I’m a magical furmiliar creature). Dogs can have what are considered moustaches and beards but not like the post-pubescent facial fur of humans I’ve been talking about – well, unless someone has cruelly shaved the rest of a dog’s face to leave just the area beneath their nose(!)


Anyway I’m going off track – the point I’m trying to make is that wearing running shoes alone will not make one athletic and one doesn’t necessarily even need running shoes to be athletic, a business suit alone will not turn one into a businessperson and one doesn’t necessarily even need a suit to be in business, a pair of glasses alone will not make one smart and there are many smart people who don’t wear glasses, a toothbrush moustache or any moustache alone will not turn one into a racist fascist like Adolf Hitler and there are many racist fascists who don’t even have moustaches, and so on…


Being so superficial and judging people by their appearances leaves us vulnerable to being easily deceived, whether because we wrongly judge the innocent as guilty or the guilty as innocent, or the friendly as dangerous or the dangerous as friendly.


Our generalisations include positive stereotype discriminations as well as negative stereotype discriminations. But positive stereotypes aren’t good either – they set generalised high expectations, that if not met create disappointment, but the stereotyped person didn’t necessarily claim to possess these qualities him/herself. It should not be surprising to find someone who doesn’t fit your own positive preconceptions (e.g. a man/woman from country x not actually being good at y) – it reveals your own crude generalisations. And preconceptually favouring or positively discriminating one group is essentially the same thing as negatively discriminating other groups (e.g. presumptively favouring people who went to elite private schools is essentially the same thing as presumptively discriminating against everybody who didn’t).


We can only afford to be superficial when survival is easy. In cultures (even in the present world) where survival conditions are tougher – people care about selecting mates who can e.g. hunt and provide, rather than how they look.


Many people are influenced by irrelevant and superficial factors when trying to judge which political candidates to support and vote for, such as what they’re wearing, how they look when they eat something, what sports team they support; rather than their policies, background and history of competence. The media is riddled with stories about the former kind of superficial information because it feeds the demand – it generates the views and page clicks. Even something like seeing a candidate have a drink in the pub now and again and so they seem like ‘a regular person’ isn’t really telling us much about attributes that are more relevant to their potential role in office.


So we should not be so superficial in judging by surfaces, whether we positively or negatively discriminate someone or something. These judgements are based on the unrefined associations and stereotypes we believe in (e.g. women are physically weak, rich people know what they’re talking about, teenagers are lazy). Sometimes these stereotypes work but sometimes they don’t, and it can be costly when the stakes are high, such as when we choose our leaders, partners or when it relates to administering justice. We need to be more sophisticated than that and probe deeper.


Unlike a potential ‘predator lurking in the long grass’ – in the overwhelming majority of situations in the modern world and modern life, we have ample time and opportunity to pause and look deeper and not need to make a ‘potential life-or-death snap decision’ based on perceived appearances. It may be overall safer for our survival for this ancient instinct of ours to err on the side of over-firing than under-firing but it leaves us open to deception, which in this modern world can leave us e.g. financially poorer or more stressed than we need to be.


We should adapt to this modern world because evolution is too slow to optimise our instincts here. Being tidy in presentation, or really being clean (being clean and tidy aren’t exactly the same things), is one thing, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with being or regarding someone as beautiful or handsome – but reading much more into superficial information generally leaves us at risk of being gullible and easily duped (e.g. by salespeople or cheats). One can also fool oneself in terms of one’s health, safety or whatever by simulating a superficial conception of what it means to be healthy or safe e.g. drinking protein shakes because this is associated with some sportspeople, and they’re healthy and fit, but one doesn’t do enough, and of the right kind of, physical activity to warrant these supplements oneself, thus one just ends up taking the protein as extra calories. (Read Post No.: 0033 for more about what good health really means.)


Woof! Furrywisepuppy hopes everyone will learn to be more sophisticated and less superficial.


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