Thursday, May 18, 2023

#138 / Seeing What We Expect To See (Pretty Much)


An Op-Ed that appeared in the May 17, 2023, edition of The New York Times bore the following title: "Firearms Classes Taught Me, and America, a Very Dangerous Lesson." Harel Shapira, who wrote the Op-Ed, is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas, in Austin. What lesson is Shapira talking about?

Basically, the lesson that Shapira wants us to learn is that we generally see exactly what we are expecting to see. He is talking, specifically, about "gun safety" training sessions that teach participants to be constantly aware of potential dangers that might require them to use a gun to protect themselves. I would suggest that the lesson can be generalized, and that we tend to see, always, what we expect. Once we know that this is true, we need to start expecting better things, don't you think?
Here is the last paragraph of Shapira's essay, as published in The Times

With more than 200 mass shootings in our country this year alone, advocates of gun regulation often cite the tragic number of lives lost or the fact that gun-related injuries have surpassed car accidents as the nation’s leading cause of injury-related death among people under 24. But another, less recognized casualty is the kind of public interactions that make democracy viable. The N.R.A. says that “an armed society is a polite society.” But learning to carry a gun isn’t teaching Americans to have good manners. It’s training them to be suspicious and atomized, learning to protect themselves, no matter how great the risk to others. It’s training them to not be citizens (emphasis added). 
There is probably no more powerful illustration of exactly the phenomenon discussed by Shapira than the horrific video I am making available, below. The video documents a security guard at a Walgreens in San Francisco killing Banko Brown, an alleged shoplifter. If Brown was, in fact, shoplifting, the amount in question was about $14 in candy. Click here for an article from 48 Hills, for those who haven't already learned about this incident. The video follows:

If we want to be "citizens," Shapira advises us, we need to see each other as "connected," and to see ourselves as "in this together," and not as hostile "others," about whom we need, always, to be suspicious. 

As I say, I think this is a general lesson, not only one applicable to the issue about whether we should all be carrying guns around, to "defend ourselves." This is one more example of where our "mind models" need to be attuned to expect the best. Not the worst!
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