I brought a calendar today that had old photographs from the area that I live in. History fascinates me, and I found one picture in particular that could potentially inspire a story. It was a saddlier in Wakefield who’s building had a large chunk removed from the middle of it in a boundary dispute with a store keeper. It is truly a photograph that inspires thought and further investigation, but then I got to thinking. If I researched this, would I get a proper perspective of the story, or a one-sided account of what happened?
A strange question to ask you might think, but if you stop and consider history, it is full of one-sided points of view. Which led me to another deep thought. What is it about the human psyche that we judge events that go on around us by our own experiences and prejudices?
Okay, we are probably getting into the realm of chicken vs egg thinking here, but it was something that really struck me, and I have encountered it before, in history class, when we were studying Edward (?) and Richard III and the Princes in the Tower. All of the history records points to Richard killing his own nephews so he could assume the throne, and that may just be what happened. But the historical references to this were actually written by the families own enemies who later assumed the throne (OK, so my memory for history is slightly vague, but you get the idea). So history is full of one-sided accounts.
Why didn’t these historians put their prejudices aside and actually investigate the matter further to find out exactly what happened, even if it painted their ruler in a poor light? Well back in those times, it was the threat of treason and having your head removed from your body, but surely, for prosterity’s sake, they could have put something in writing and concealed it somewhere?
But, why in more modern times, do we tend to believe some situations and not others? Take the Bain Family murders the community is clearly divided over who was capable of killing the family. People’s own prejudices tell them who they believe did it, yet without all of the evidence we make a judgement, just by the looks the potential killers, their intelligence level, state of mind, the family situation, even our own family situation can make us judge the entire situation.
Why do our own thoughts, beliefs and prejudices colour our interpretation of the facts into the story we weave. Is it an age-old, deep ingrained need to embellish stories that we pass on through the generations? Or is it that the sensationalism of a misused word or misplaced fact enough to make the story more interesting, and with each telling, it changes – much like chinese whispers does.
I haven’t really answered any of my questions, because I am not a psychiatrist, psychologist, sociologist or any other mental type person who is qualified to make that answer, nor am I trying to raise debate. What I am really trying to do, is make you consider your own humanity. Take a look at your own perception of things and think about why you automatically make a judgement based on the few facts that you chose to accept, while discarding those that don’t fit. Does actually reading all of the facts, listening to all of the opinions actually change your judgement?