It is hot and humid. One cannot see the clouds, which seem to blend into each other. It is just after noon, and the birds are mostly quiet. On the second floor of a cafe, there is a patio. It is quite a popular spot to take photographs, as two young women are posing and capturing at the corner. The weather is not so nice for photographs. The sky isn't blue, and the light is too harsh. But all that might be adjusted with editing, and the final photograph might still look quite stunning.
Our life is represented. We might like or dislike it, but our life has become a picture on a screen, a moving image in the theater. We take representation seriously. That photograph, which we might post on social media, is going to show, tell, represent what our life is. So, we usually smile, put on makeup, wear the beautiful dresses, and pose. We might want to look nonchalant, carefree, or we might want to appear thoughtful, considerate. We put on a look, an expression, just for that moment. We wish to capture something beautiful, meaningful, and show to the rest of the world. Therefore, our representation of life is tremendously important to us.
This representation business hasn't been new. The movies have done it since it began. And now, filmmakers, entertainers, storytellers spend immense effort, energy, and resources to produce a representation of life. It might be romance, history, political, thriller, horror, and we seem to have endless energy to imagine, construct worlds of fiction. We, in turn, enjoy, cry, shout, feel excited and shameful in these representations. We also learn from them. How to kiss. How to talk. How not to be awkward. How to accomplish a dream. We might not be conscious of how much our representations of life have changed how we live, but unconsciously, we conform to an image on screen.
And if one goes further back, there are the beginning of the novel, travel fiction, newspapers, poetry, comedy and tragedy, and the cave paintings, statues, rocks put into particular formations. Humans have always represented life. What it means, its purpose, the happiness and sorrow, delight and fear. So, we mustn't believe we are in a new age, that we have only recently given representation importance. We have always given it importance. The medium might change, might become faster, more convenient, more globalized, but what we represent is still the same, which are the boredom, brutality, excitement, struggle, conflict, happiness, joy, freedom of life.
One wonders, if we have ever asked, why have we given representation so much importance? When we look at the western world, where there is a movement of seeking equality for human beings, much of this struggle is within the field of representation. We think, by correcting the stereotype, the vicious representation on a screen, we can help end prejudice and discrimination. We see that the stereotype, the discriminated image, the beginning of prejudice is partly from a screen. The representation of life, in films, novels, news and so on, has created and is still creating a limited image of a group of human beings, and because we are so concerned with the representation, not that which is represented, we either accept the image as reality, or we reject the image. When we reject the image, we might also want to create further images, so we can correct the wrong image, and replace it with something more complex, more realistic.
If we haven't given the image such importance, would we be so concerned with how the image portrays life? After all, the image is not the real, but why have we mistaken it for the real? Why do we, upon hearing stories, seeing movies, think that we have understood a group of human beings? Be it women, men, all kinds of races and ethnicities we have meticulous invented and maintained, or sexual identities. Obviously, if we are rational, if we think clearly, we see that the image is only a representation, and the representation is always limited, biased, prejudiced. The representation is not the represented. Do we ever wonder, after we have given tremendous importance to representation, that we have neglected the represented? We might give awards to, write editorials on movies and songs and literature, but have we given attention to those who are represented in these stories, or we are simply satisfied with an image, with the construction, perfection and judgement of the image?
One must also remember that, racism, sexism, and all sorts of discrimination of a group, began with the image. The travel stories some European travelers have written about Africa, the rigid stories and myths we have created about the female and the male, are the beginning of prejudice. The image is limiting. The image is the prison in which we are putting ourselves and others into. The image is also, unfortunately, what we are so heavily dependent upon.
Therefore, representation is related to prejudice, as representation might be the very source of prejudice. We rely on representation to make sense of the world. If we observe our reactions to others, we might see that some reactions are quite rigid, and they come from a long line of tradition, culture, and media consumption. We might see a black man and immediately think of danger, or we might see the beautiful makeup and immediate think of sex. We see a poor beggar and our reactions are quite mechanical, to stay away, to be disgusted, and so on. These are what we do in life, and these mechanical, rigid reactions are the product of prejudice, of judging the human being based on an appearance, on the clothes and ways of walking, on that which is utterly superficial. Representation is a superficial business. It is very conscious of the looks, the colors, the materials, as we do when we take a photograph of our life. Unfortunately, we might dislike the stereotypes we are confined to, but we only want to create further stereotypes. We are so willing to represent life, to make a human being into an image, that we are not so careful with what is the actual. The actual is never the image. Reality cannot be represented. Can we see that? Can we stop altogether giving importance to an image? If we do not, then we are bound to create more images that confine the freedom of human beings.
At the ending of prejudice, we are free of the image. We see life as it is. We listen to a human being as they are. There are no more preconceptions, premeditations, but only the real. There might be no need for representation at all.
When we see that representation is the beginning of prejudice, are we still concerned about bringing about right representation? Any representation is stereotype, is rigid and limited. We can make the representation more and more complex, multifaceted, but why do we need to? Why don't we face reality which is infinitely complex? Why don't we watch, learn with, talk to the actual human beings, instead of an image on screen? Why do we mistake image as reality to begin with? Therefore, we can create countless movies and stories, take countless photographs, but we will never end prejudice this way. We might finally arrive at a pleasing image for myself, my group of people, like certain identities have enjoyed over history, but that is not the ending of prejudice. To say I am good, I am kind, is to compare. Without comparison, how do I know I am kind? Without the wretched, the evil which I have named, how do I know I am good? To say I am anything good is to say there are the not good. To say my group is better, in whatever way, is to push down another group. This is an inescapable fact. If we are really serious about the ending of prejudice, then any sense of comparison must come to an end.
Therefore, to end prejudice is not to create a pleasing image for myself or my group. The pleasing image of me is always based on the vicious image of another. To live a life without any sense of prejudice must happen through understanding. It is to understand the basic facts of life. The representation is always limited, biased. The image is never the actual. To face the actual, one needs no image at all. A life without prejudice is an utterly intelligent life. To have no prejudice, the mind must not be lazy, must not rely on any image and remain comfortable with petty conclusions. It must always see and move with the tremendous complexity and newness of life, of each human being. So to live in this way is not easy or comfortable, but it is to be tremendously alive, alert, aware. In this alertness, then, one is careful, hesitant, not so quick and brutal, and a sense of gentle attention can come into being. That gentleness is nurturing, is that which allows everything to grow, change, die, and live. To live without prejudice is an immense act. And only then, perhaps, can love come into being.