“But you don’t understand. We have seen life.”
The perennial argument was frustrating to the least. And in an ephemeral tide of emotions generated by the bluntness of the statement, I experienced what I presume is a frequent exasperation felt by a million minds in search of logical annihilation of the more experienced opponent. But what accounts for experience: is it the length of your stay here, is it the scale of things you have witnessed that affected your life or is it just an indescribable air of superiority that is exempt to any questions. Being set in beliefs is a frequently used term for the physically older people; but is it fair? So if I shape my own views based on experience of arguing with the experienced does it make me more set in my beliefs? There was always that elusiveness in the answers.
“But none of the statistical study, if it has been done, suggests any such thing.” I retorted in a last ditch attempt to salvage my point. But the problem with statistical arguments is simple: they don’t work, especially with the experienced. The ridiculousness of a mathematical tool being used to study human behaviour is promptly shoved into the arguer's face. It is almost as preposterous as quoting a study dismissing the eminent status presented to certain sects of Indian society by the maker Himself.
”You really think statistics can predict human behaviour?”
“But apparently you can.” The reply was sharp and knee jerk. There was a flicker of offence taken on his face, but it was quickly replaced by the snub laced smile that had been subtly displaying itself on his face all evening. Somewhere stupid I had heard that the young in their fights with the elders are constantly craving for conflict and aggressive reactions: a thought so patronizing in its presumption that any sensible person would dismiss it. But my reaction to his calmness was surprisingly subscribing to this theory, even though it has its narrow applicability limits to some teenagers. It was somehow annoying and disappointing to me that no visible offence was taken in my sharp retort. It was in that strange realisation that I knew the argument was slipping away as always.
“We are not contradicting what we taught you. All men are created equal. But what I am trying to say that there is something called group behaviour that hugely influences a person’s judgements. You may view these things as stereotypes; we view them as significant observations.” Classifying one’s natural prejudices as careful observation was a masterstroke. Can an observation that strengthens a bias be even considered an observation? Isn’t the notion self-contradictory? But I knew this battle could not be won on grounds of logic 101 fundamentals, if this was a battle. I considered this a battle, passionate about it, but somewhere in the deepest recesses of the neural fibres, there was an ignited doubt: was this even an argument for them? Do they consider me worthy of a battle of wits, or all this was playful probing of my ideas? A string of examples had been regularly laid in front of me to verify their experience. As a student of mathematics, I was tempted to say that verification by a few examples in close proximity was hardly a sound proof, but a sane voice in me stopped it.
“You mean to say that just because in India you know someone’s surname, you are supposed to know whether he is reliable or not. I have friends who completely defy your logic.” I was emphatic at the examples, trying to counter a flawed argument in its own twisted way. There was so much more I could not articulate. The fundamental flaw in the classification of human beings into groups is the undervaluation of the inherent diversity in human beings. Human beings have too less in common to group them into pseudo communities based on the ancestor glory illusion. If in statistics, there is a system with more than three variables, even if independent, it becomes increasingly difficult to predict the system’s behaviour. And human beings are complex adaptive systems, with numerous variables interacting with each other in a different way in different situations. Thus the idea of predicting human behaviour based on a flawed group behaviour theory is preposterous by scientific standards. This would have been a nailing argument anywhere, but not here.
“I am not suggesting feeling superior to some lower castes. All I am saying is that we as a community are just different from some others. This system works in India.”
“That suggests you and I ought to be very similar.”
I had lost.