On Prejudice and Property

Antagonism towards an object on the basis of a superficial visual or auditory prompt is a sensory response. However, it is not “sensible” as in “rational” or a response mediated by reason or thought.

Positive or negative responses to prompts are often identified as “prejudice.” The Latinate word tells us that the behavior, coming to a conclusion about a matter BEFORE evidence has been considered, has been recognized for a long time. Nowadays, “prejudice” is often linked with negative or antagonistic attitudes, but that is defining an action by its results. Anyway, I prefer to call them “preconceived notions.” We do not know and when it involves a preference for purple flowers or disdain for mauve towels, we do not care. Also, when it involves teenagers swooning over Elvis Presley or Democrats idolizing JFK it is minimally concerning. What makes prejudice concerning is when it is used to mask or justify the irrational exclusion of other human beings from normal social intercourse. Why is it concerning? Because people are social organisms and exclusion is contrary to their nature. Inclusion, like ingestion and reproduction, is a natural right. However, natural human rights have never enjoyed priority in the U.S. Property rights took/take precedence. Have to, otherwise owning human beings could not have been legal. Echos of slavery persist in our legal system. Indeed, children are still considered to be the property of their parents and that is the basis for challenging a woman’s right to govern her own reproductive system. The failure to let human or equal rights trump property rights is not a fluke. Property rights are like civil rights in that they enable some people to have control over the behavior of other people. So, if people fail to provide properly for their property (real estate or child), it will be taken away and given to someone else. That is why we have half a million children a year in foster care. We pay other people to care for children, but not their parents. GWB was correct when he said we are an “ownership society.” We rely on the right to own property as a mechanism of social control. That is not often admitted. However, the premise for ownership is that it will promote stewardship; that people will take good care of what they own. In fact, that hypothesis has been proved false as evidenced by all the litter and derelict structures mouldering around the land. Ownership does not automatically prompt caretaking or responsible behavior. Besides, it seems possible that exclusive behavior (shutting people and other organisms out) is a higher priority for many people. Or perhaps more instinctual. After all, lots of avian species, equipped with very small brains, devote much energy towards chasing intruders away. We call it “protecting their territory” or exclusive access to a mate, which scientific investigation has now proved false since DNA analysis of bird eggs shows that while the vociferous male was off defending, another snuck in and serviced his ”spouse.” It seems monomagous birds are also a man-made fiction. Lots of wishful thinking going on.