Do We Only See As Dictated By Our Prejudices?
Time was when funny did not depend on rat-tat-tat deliveries of the word nigger in all its salted-to-taste formulations, neither on salacious euphemisms for fornication, nor on the alleged reputation of the female genitalia as the mother of all multitaskers. Those were the days when the hottest comedians of the stage and screen were named Larry, Moe and Curly: The Three Stooges. One of their funniest skits (still available on Youtube) has them performing as court witnesses. The resulting hilarity lifts the roof when the clerk routinely requests that Curly remove his hat, which he does with his right hand. Then the clerk says: “Take this bible in your right hand and repeat after me.” Which of course required Curly to lay aside the hat he’s now holding with his right hand. He replaces it on his head instead and reaches for the bible with his now free right hand, only to be directed once more to “take off your hat.” Not once does it occur to the clerk to advise Curly to hold his hat with his left hand. Or to Curly, for that matter. So it goes for several side-splitting minutes until an exasperated Larry, in typical fashion, intervenes. Sounds corny, doesn’t it? Until you see the actual taped performance—which of course offers a lesson in communication!
The big news last weekend was all about a planned Sunday afternoon demonstration ostensibly against the Chastanet government’s plan to demolish the sub-standard structure that although only half completed after nearly eight years had already cost around $118 million (the original estimate was $60 million). Reportedly the inspiration for the protest march was an off-the-cuff statement by health minister Mary Isaac to reporters who ambushed her on her way to a sitting of parliament. Asked about the immediate future of the temporarily abandoned St. Jude project, the government having earlier declared its disappointment following visits to the Vieux Fort site, the minister said: “I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the government may have to consider recommendations to demolish the structure.” The arguably careless words had barely slipped past the minister’s rose-tinted lips when her detractors embarked on a campaign with the d-word at its red heart.
It is hardly a state secret that the Kenny Anthony government had taken on responsibility for the project when it was returned to office in 2011. In September 2009 the uninsured original St. Jude had been badly gutted by fire of uncertain origin, leaving the Stephenson King administration no other choice but to “temporarily” house its patients at the George Odlum sports stadium while it attempted to rehabilitate the building. Barely two years later the opposition party was demanding the facility be returned to the island’s athletes, evidently with little concern for its patients with no other place to go.
To repeat: the Kenny Anthony government took over the project upon assuming office in 2011. The administration faced monumental money problems, as had its predecessors who initially planned only to restore such areas of the hospital as had suffered badly from the fire. It soon dawned on all concerned that the extent of damage was far greater than at first had been calculated. A new hospital would have to be constructed on the original site. Conceivably the new government and its advisors found nothing wrong with the work started by the King administration. By all that later transpired, it was tacitly endorsed, as was how the money was spent. Several times in 2013, a hard-hatted Prime Minister Kenny Anthony and his own health minister Alvina Reynolds took to the airwaves to promise the good people of Saint Lucia, those in the south especially, “a state of the art hospital,” in 2014 and in 2015. The prime minister also pledged to account in due course for all monies, donated and otherwise, spent on the dream medical facility.
But all of that was before economic affairs minister Guy Joseph and his own team of experts publicly declared the structure half-completed and a total disaster that had unaccountably swallowed up $118 million. Mary Isaac’s outburst added more fuel to the hot-air dispensers. Of course, nothing in what she had said in any way suggested the government had taken a decision to demolish the St. Jude structure, regardless of how badly constructed. “The government may have to consider recommendations” obviously does not mean the government had made a determination on submitted suggestions.
Despite that the minister for economic affairs and Prime Minister Allen Chastanet had in turn assured the nation that demolition of the hospital was not on the cards; despite that the prime minister announced more than once that expert advice on the way forward was being solicited from overseas experts, the opposition party continued as if indeed a date had been set for blowing up the alleged $118 million monstrosity. In the process of setting the nation at war with itself, the former agriculture minister in the Kenny Anthony administration, Moses JnBaptiste, said on TV that while it was true the prime minister had given his word about the immediate future of the St. Jude structure, that it would not be destroyed, the Labour Party’s publicized protest demonstrations would go on as planned— “because the prime minister’s word cannot be trusted.”
As Brian Resnick noted last week in an article for Vox, “talking with a political opponent is as unpleasant as getting a tooth pulled.” His position is supported by a study recently published in the Journal of Experiment and Social Psychology. Two hundred participants were presented with two options. They could either read and answer questions about an opinion they agreed with (on same-sex marriage) or read the opposing viewpoint. If the participants chose to read the opinion they agreed with, they were entered into a raffle pool to earn $7. If they selected to read opposing opinion, they had a chance to win $10. Sixty-three percent of the participants chose to stick with what they already knew, forgoing the chance to win $10.
Both people with pro same-sex marriage beliefs and those against it avoided at similar rates the opinion hostile to their worldview.
To quote directly from Resnick’s article: “They don’t know what’s happening on the other side and they don’t want to know, says Jeremy Frimer, the University of Winnipeg psychologist who led the study.” For his part, Resnick points out: “Avoiding facts inconvenient to our worldview isn’t just some passive, unconscious habit we engage in. We do it because we find these facts genuinely unpleasant. And as long as this experience remains unpleasant, and easy to avoid, we’re just going to drift further and further apart.”
One of the study’s co-authors, Matt Motyl, tested people’s knowledge of the opposing side. Largely the partisans were unfamiliar with their viewpoints. “So it’s not the case that people are avoiding learning about the other side because they’re already familiar. What’s going on here is motivated ignorance.”
Finally, this from Frimer: “This fundamental need for a shared reality with other people overshadows incentives to weigh evidence or to be objective when it comes to political discussions.” So I ask: Is this why protester after protester on Sunday told a bubbly interviewer for Choice TV they were demonstrating against the demolition of the St. Jude structure because they didn’t trust the prime minister’s word? Were they really unaware that the prime minister and other members of his government had repeatedly stated they were awaiting expert advice before making any further pronouncements regarding the project’s future? Were they simply mouthing what they believed as a group—expressing a shared reality—the propaganda put out by their party leaders?
Is this “fundamental need for a shared reality” the reason certain sections of our society would prefer politicians get away with all kinds of criminality? Is this why so many insist Grynberg was initiated by Stephenson King when indisputable evidence proves the credit belongs only to Kenny Anthony? Food for thought? And now, once again I think of the wisdom of Thomas Paine: “To argue with a man who has renounced the use of authority and reason . . . is like administering medicine to the dead.”
Finally this from the highly respected Whole Building Design: “Hospitals are the most complex of building types. Each hospital is comprised of a wide range of services and functional units. These include diagnostic and treatment functions, such as clinical laboratories, imaging, emergency rooms, and surgery; hospitality functions such as food service and housekeeping; in-patient care or bed-related function. This diversity is reflected in the breadth and specificity of codes, regulations and oversight that govern hospital construction, including highly complicated mechanical, electrical, and telecommunications systems, requiring specialized knowledge and expertise. No one person can reasonably have complete knowledge, which is why specialized consultants play an important role in the hospital planning design. The functional units within the hospital can have competing needs and priorities. Idealized scenarios and strongly-held individual preferences must be balanced against mandatory requirements, actual functional needs (internal traffic and relationship to other departments), and the financial status of the organization. Good hospital design integrates functional requirements with the human needs of its varied users.”
As unpleasant as may be the facts, it is to be hoped that we’ll learn soon enough how qualified were the folks who undertook the rebuilding of St. Jude, their employers and where the money went. At any rate, those of us not irreversibly victimized by motivational ignorance!