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Be slow to judge, you are looking at different angles

 Be slow to judge, you are looking at different angles (Photo: iStock)

My father’s late cousin Oloo is credited for crafting an idiom he loved to utter when a bit inebriated: They are all equal and they look alike.

According to him, if it happens to someone else it will be easy for you to discuss it. Meanwhile, if you look clearly, you will find that you are not very different from the person you are talking about. This was my reference point the day I understood Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

Oloo may not have stepped into a physics or philosophy class. But his statement can be a derivative of the Special Theory of Relativity. It says that the velocity of light will not change because of the speed of its source and will be the same when measured by an observer, as long as he is moving at a constant speed. 

In this day when data is the new gold and information overload can lead to paralysis, how does one decide what to hold on to and what to leave?

Relativism is a philosophical view which looks at everything as relative to the perspective and context of the observer. We rate beauty, ugliness, goodness and such values subjective to what we know as the highest quality of the same as a reference.

I loved listening to the late Luo Benga maestro Okatch Biggy when I came of age. His first hit song was about a lady with big and beautiful eyes. I must confess that for long, the mark of beauty in a lady to me was big eyes. It does not mean ladies who did not have big eyes were ugly, they were just not beautiful about what I regarded as beauty.

Relativity in physics says various physical parameters depend on the motion of the observer and observed objects in regards to nature and behaviour of light, space time and gravity. All movement must be defined in relation to a frame where space and time are not fixed and absolute.

What you see depends on where you are standing and the knowledge you have to process it. Do you remember the worm’s, normal and bird’s eye view we learned in basic art? What a bird sees from high up is very different from what a worm will see from the ground. Yet they are both looking at the same thing. It has made me to be gracious to people.

We make sense of stuff based on how we understand our reality, our reality depends on how we perceive the world, and our perception is shaped by our experiences and knowledge. Our knowledge and experiences determine where we stand hence what we see. Growing up, I used to think some of my relatives were rich, maybe because they drove cars and could afford some luxuries that I deemed out of reach.

As I grew up, however, I concluded that everyone has their challenges at their level. His challenge may not appear as a problem to me but it is still a problem, nevertheless. I may need one thousand shillings but he cannot sleep for lack of one million shillings to complete a nagging project.

Another important aspect of context is who we are.

If you are suspicious of everything and everyone, you will always assume the worst. If you are hopeful and positive you will look for the good in all situations.  What you see depends on who you are as it depends on what you actually see around you.

Context helps us make sense of what we see. Your weight or body mass index is just a figure unless you see it against the background of why you weighed yourself in the first place. 

Context is what changes the killing of another person from murder to manslaughter. You can have the facts but without context, they will never make sense. It is important to understand the context around something.

Streetlight bias is where we look for something where we assume it is the easiest place to find it.

We depend on other people’s opinions on something even if they are not trustworthy because they are the only people we believe have knowledge about what they are saying. We never want to dig deeper, ask hard questions or find out the third angle to an opinion.

There is also the weakness of everyone to judge others by their behaviour and self by their intentions. This one bias kills many relationships.

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