*This article was originally written and published in August 2016 at UNICEF Voices of Youth’s former website. It has since been moved here.
Since I figured out how to read and write at the age of 5, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I have been writing ever since, anything and everything. I write about what I feel, about the stories of the people I meet, about my own experiences, about the troubles of the world… It was only 3 months ago that I came across something called the “writing culture”, something that basically explores and questions the concept of objectivity. It had me thinking: how objective can one be when communicating oneself, when reporting a recent event, or even when telling one’s mother about the fight one had with their significant other?
The basic assumption that we have knowledge over all aspects of an event—or an issue—is what makes us prone to subjectivity. How we come to think of a certain event is based primarily on our inherent prejudices and biases. We don’t do it on purpose, of course, that is just how the human mind automatically works. It is not that big of an issue when it comes to personal matters, yet when we talk about events on a bigger scope—be it national, international, or global—such state of thinking can and does cause a great deal of harm. How do we maintain who is right and who is wrong, collectively decide on matters that affect individuals and societies, consider ourselves authorized to make judgments about people and their actions, or even condemn examples of “heinous” behavior when there are not two, but at least a dozen faces to the medallion?
How I was brought up as a kid, my education, my cultural traits—including but not limited to traditions, language, and religion—, the books I have read and the movies I have seen, the people I have communicated with, the heartbreaks and the joys that I have experienced, anything and everything that I have been in touch with, influences how I came to think of things that I encounter in life. They create biases—both positive and negative—that apply to anything from a bird to a murderer. I tend to see a bird and recall freedom, yet someone else is horrified by a bird because they were once attacked by one. I watch the story of a serial killer on the news and feel disgusted, whereas someone else sees the same story and gets inspired by it. Just as in Rorschach tests, life is something we all interpret differently. The very cliché saying that goes “you know my name, not my story” is in fact very accurate.
On the personal level we should not be too quick to make judgments about others, ideally we should never make judgments at all. On a higher level, we should not claim nations, religions, ethnicities, sexes, ethnicities, or any kind of distinctiveness as part and parcel with who we are. We cannot genuinely know and understand where others are coming from, no matter how hard we try. I might be right in my own way, and yet the fact that you are right in your own way is not effected by it. The best way to avoid this kind of conflict, in my opinion, has to do with eliminating elements of identification, that eventually create alienation and animosity towards certain individuals and groups, that actually build a part of the identity. We can thin out this vicious cycle, if not completely abolish it.