Post No.: 0310
Groups that don’t interact much with each other will sometimes hold presumptions and suspicions about each other due to racial, religious or other perceived stereotypes. Groups may even erroneously presume that other groups must be holding prejudices against them thus they each think they should act ‘defensively’ and prejudice against these other groups ‘back in return’.
If there is a language barrier, the sides may assume that the mutterings from the other side are always about them and are negative. Many times though, our unfounded fears and grudges can become self-fulfilling and eventually manifest as real because of our own initial mere unwarranted suspicions of others (e.g. by us avoiding them). Thus sometimes all it takes is for one side to be brave, be friendly, warmly smile, wave and say, “Hello, how are you?” to break the ice and stop the unwarranted suspicions and assumptions from escalating or spiralling negatively and antisocially.
So mere initial fears or suspicions can therefore in themselves be the seeds of hate and division. When faced with the unknown, it’s instinctively safer to lean slightly more on the side of being afraid and cautious because the potential benefits of throwing caution to the wind may be some mating opportunities, food or other resources but the potential costs are injuries, death or being captured, and obviously death is a lot more terminal and not worth almost any gain. So, from a historical human evolution perspective, it might’ve generally been a good survival instinct to assume the worst in the unfamiliar just in case it was a threat, more than assuming the best just in case it was an opportunity.
Yet we must not be slaves to fear and we should care more about gathering solid evidence. If we’ve not discovered any evidence of another person’s harmful behaviours towards us then they should be deemed as innocent unless proven guilty. We must therefore learn to assume that people are good and friendly before and unless they ever prove, with unambiguous hard evidence, to be unfriendly because merely assuming they’re unfriendly can make us subconsciously treat them in actual unfriendly ways, which the other party will read as hostile behaviour, which will therefore lead to them being actually unfriendly towards us in return, and so forth! You’ll think they started it, and they’ll think you started it, when really it’s because neither side had the courage to stop jumping to negative assumed conclusions about each other.
Suspicion without hard, unambiguous evidence to support those suspicions can be regarded as an act of aggression in itself – it can make people who were initially indifferent decide to turn against anyone who suspects and accuses them of being untrustworthy, unfriendly, etc. without good reason. Well put yourself in their shoes and see how it feels to be treated with suspicion or as an enemy when you’ve actually done nothing wrong! Maybe someone with the same skin colour as you in the world or historically did – but not you personally. We anticipate and assume, and if these are negative assumptions then these can create very negative self-fulfilling situations in themselves, or at least lead to interpreting ambiguous events or unproven hypotheses according to our own negative confirmation biases (e.g. assuming that another person is avoiding you because they hate you and look down upon you when it could be that they’re just very shy, or blaming ‘outsiders’ for every problem you perceive). And of course, because these are assumptions rather than facts, they only speak the truth about ourselves i.e. our own fearful and divisive, suspicion-seeking attitudes in this context, and not of whom or whatever we’ve made these assumptions about.
One may believe that one’s assumptions are justified based on stereotypes formed about another group (e.g. some Muslims committed a terrorist attack recently, these other people are Muslims too, therefore they support terrorism too) but this is as flawed as other people assuming that you are a bad person just because a few members of your supposed group did bad things (e.g. all British people are thieves because ‘they’ stole the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles). Such stereotypes are a contributory reason why there’s so much division, conflict and prejudice around the world – where new generations of people are suspected just like the generations before them, even though each generation was/is born innocent. Woof.
One’s own unfounded fears can be the initial root source of antisocial hate, contempt and aggression within a community. People who are fearful and suspicious as a default attitude create so much of everyone’s misery and segregation in society. It takes confident and brave people to be peaceful and harmonious in society i.e. those who are strong enough to not presume that people whom they do not know or fully understand are automatically against them. Well what’s ‘brave’ may be ‘foolish’? But you’d be a fool to fear what needs no fear. We shouldn’t crudely rely on our instincts – again we should rely on hard evidence. We should understand that the statistics for an immigrant (or foreign-looking-but-actually-locally-born person) harming anyone is incredibly low hence to automatically fear the worst in such people is irrational and immoral. Additionally, from a game theory perspective – the best rational pure strategy is ‘tit-for-tat with a kind/cooperative first move (plus random acts of forgiveness)’.
Those human ancestors who didn’t fear enough may have perished when faced with novel and unfamiliar situations that turned out to be dangerous for them, and so their genes and genetic instincts wouldn’t have passed on quite as much. But every human can adapt to be more sophisticated by using education and critical thought rather than relying on crude instincts alone.
Depending on our personality, we generally fear and are cautious of the unfamiliar, which manifests as us wanting to shun, say, foreign-looking people or disabled people, perhaps because, from ancestral perspectives, the former could’ve been potential pillagers and raiders, or disabled people could’ve been diseased, contagious or people not worth expending scarce resources on? Times and knowledge have advanced though yet innate instincts have largely not – but education, exposure to diversity and personal experiences of safety should eventually make us wiser and feel less threatened by the unfamiliar i.e. we make the unfamiliar more familiar by getting used to them.
Trusting someone untrustworthy is obviously bad, but mistrusting someone trustworthy is also bad – the behaviour of not trusting a trustworthy person can create distrust reciprocally in return i.e. it can create unnecessarily fraught relationships or lost opportunities for both parties. Suspicion is like a passive-aggressive version of a pre-emptive strike i.e. not really a friendly or peaceful behaviour at all – it’s behaving like the victim when one is actually the perpetrator. And then unfriendliness begets unfriendliness (e.g. preparatory military drills next to the border of a country one is not too friendly with will be viewed as a self-defensive deterrence by one side but as offensive and provocative by the other, hence could escalate rather than de-escalate a situation).
One will need to be a little cautious with someone one has not known for very long but we shouldn’t continually distrust someone despite no ill coming from them. And by the way, one cannot prove to not be untrustworthy because that’s trying to prove a negative – perpetually thinking ‘they haven’t done anything ill towards me yet’ is an unfair attitude to take. Would you like to be treated like that? How would you treat a person who treats you with suspicion constantly, no matter what you do or don’t do? And how would you feel if you were making a genuine effort but then were accused of only pretending by the other party? One cannot prove a negative, and if you’ll never do what they suspect you’ll one day do to them, is it right for them to indefinitely think ‘but you’re going to one day or you will if I ever let my guard down on you for a second’?
They’ll never deem you innocent despite a lack of evidence of your guilt – you’ll always be deemed guilty pending evidence of your guilt, perpetually; and they’ll believe that it’s actually their passive-aggression towards you that’s stopping you from harming them when really it’s the fact you have no intention of harming them that’s stopping you from harming them! But if you’re already ‘doing the time’, you might think why not also ‘do the crime’ if these people discriminate against you, which affects your job and other prospects? But then they’ll think you were bad all along when you were only bad to them because they were bad to you with all those covert or overt suspicions, discriminations, ostracisms, unfriendliness and/or unfavourable propaganda/rumours spread about you.
Suspicion and paranoia are therefore arguably evil acts. Without direct, irrefutable evidence to prove one’s hypotheses for the present case of distrust (i.e. for this individual person) but only racism or other stereotypes/generalities as our rationalisations, we will at least subconsciously treat another group as if they’re cautiously guilty already, via acts of prejudice and discrimination against them.
In international relations, it creates sour relations and potential ‘grey zone’ conflicts, or cold wars where no side is actually attacking the other but both sides feel as if the other side is about to attack them. And due to the preparations in case of such an attack, both sides will seem to confirm each other’s suspicions – well if you’re suspicious about me attacking you and are arming yourself in case of such an event, I’ll see your arming of yourself as a reason to arm myself too, thus creating a tense situation where two sides are armed to the teeth, poised and moments away from striking each other. This is a stressful way to live for both sides, and is expensive regarding time and resources that could’ve been better invested elsewhere.
One can understand the game theory in which an unarmed state is vulnerable to attack and being armed and prepared for a fight can act as a deterrent, but one must always make sure that such arming is not personal against any other particular state(s). (As an analogy, one must put a lock on the door not because one suspects that person A might steal something but because any person might come to steal something; and one hasn’t just put a lock on one’s door because person A has just put a lock on their door – it’s simply not personal because we all get on fine in front and behind each others’ backs.) Making such acts of passive-aggression personal towards a specific party risks that party personally reciprocating and escalating the tensions.
So pre-emptive, self-protecting suspicion ironically self-fulfillingly increases tensions and the chances of conflict – pre-emptive self-defence via paranoia can prolong offence and ironically self-fulfil what you were paranoid about. You’re the scared party so may think you’re the victim, but your reactions of suspicion rather than conciliation and cooperation will actually make you the one who is working against peace.
Chronic suspicion can be highly destructive in individual person-to-person contexts. Bitching, spreading gossip, conjectures and fuzzy rumours contribute to malicious acts – this is equivalent to propaganda in international contexts, and it’s equally as divisive in personal contexts.
The mere behaviour of suspicion when no suspicion is warranted is an ill behaviour itself, and potentially creates reciprocal ill behaviour in return, because who likes someone who prejudices against or ignores them for no good reason? Pronoia is the delusional belief that people are plotting and saying good things behind your back! Maybe this is the attitude that more people need to take? Well neither paranoia nor pronoia are good because they’re based on insufficiently supported assumptions. People should be innocent until and unless proven guilty. And even if ever found guilty, there must be chances for forgiveness in the long-term.
Woof. We need to be enlightened, as well as courageous, to not default to suspicion or fear.