Understanding understanding.

Understanding (also called intellection) is a psychological process related to an abstract or physical object, such as a person, situation, or message whereby one is able to think about it and use concepts to deal adequately with that object. Understanding is a relation between a person and an object of understanding. Understanding implies abilities and dispositions with respect to an object or concept of knowledge sufficient to support and sustain intelligent behaviour, attitude or belief. A person understands something if he/she is able to gain idea of what the concept is all about, why it is being discussed or mentioned, the context in which it is being mentioned, form an informed opinion about the concept and to give explanation or prediction about the concept.

A psychiatrist understands another person’s anxieties and the context in which they occur, if he/she knows that person’s anxieties, their causes, and can give useful advice on how to cope with the anxiety.

A person understands a command if he/she knows who gave it, what is expected by the issuer, and whether the command is legitimate, fair, honest and whether one understands the speaker.

One understands reasoning, an argument, or a language if one can consciously reproduce the information content conveyed by the message. One understands a mathematical concept if one can solve problems using it, especially problems that are not similar to what one has seen before.

Understanding, therefore can be said to be the limit of a conceptualization. To understand something is to have conceptualized it to a given measure.

Unfortunately, there people who cannot understand beyond what they think the other person is saying and what they believe he/she should be saying and people, who what they already know or do not know, do not allow them to gain full understanding of whatever is being said to them.

Whenever they read or hear anything, they understand it in these dichotomous frames. If it is not what they think the person should say or what they want to hear, they either respond to tell the person what he should be saying or they simply dismiss his/her views , especially if it is contrary to some beliefs they already hold.

This kind of people lack Understanding, even though they are prone to making display of their learning.

In issues of life they often display lack of understanding of the concepts by expression of prejudiced views, generalisations in their assertions and very narrow and non-compassing, in their views of the concept in question.

Understanding is a very important concept without which one may find life and relating to others difficult.

In the Bible, in the book of Proverbs, Solomon urged people to get understanding.

In Autistic spectrum disorders, patient lack ability to fully understand as they are unable to imagine what people may be thinking in everyday life situations.

They are described as lacking the theory of the mind. There are a lot of people who while not being autistic, behave as if they lack the theory of the mind by their attitude and response to others,which shows evidence of lack of understanding.

In addition, there are also people who tend to believe that their motive alone, justifies their position, unaware that motive; no matter how noble, cannot absolve, when there are people who are suffering from one’s action, even though it may offer the individual a justification for his action or position.

They do not understand that the motive of the perpetrator of an act,cannot compel the victims and others who suffer from its injustice and discrimination to see their injustice and suffering through the motive of the perpetrator.

In other words, motive is completely irrelevant, when other human beings suffer from our actions. Once there are victims of our actions or positions, if we are honest and reasonable, justice demands that we review it, with the views to eliminating the suffering it causes others.

It is this type of plasticity in the appreciation of the position of others that beliefs can erode in those who must be guided by dogmas which has no place for reason.

For instance, if a government cleaning up a poor neighbourhood claims that its motive is to regenerate the area, but makes the poor homeless, without adequate compensation to ensure they do not suffer from its action, even though its motive is good, it must not continue, until it has adequately compensated and resettled the poor satisfactorily.

Any attempt to treat the poor as collateral because of the motive of overall good, is unjust and shows lack of understanding (consideration, and sensitivity) on the part of the government.

The motive of the government, which seems good and right, even though it may be driven by the money the corrupt government officials and business men would make, is not Sufficient reason to compel the poor to see the injustice of their eviction, homelessness and suffering as something good, unless of course, they have been adequately compensated.

The motive of the perpetrator is simply what he is using to justify his actions, which he knows would have untoward consequences for others.

This is rationalisation at best and those with understanding will be aware of this because they can see beyond the expressed intentions in an unbiased manner.

This is because he understands that his suffering will bring benefit to others. In other words, he is aware that the good motive of the government is to enable some people make more money at his expense.

He knows that without adequate compensation that he is being exploited and sacrificed for the happiness and wellbeing of others, who have chosen to hide behind the good intentions of the government.

The poor with understanding can see beyond the smoke screen of good intentions and motives of those who use their power to exploit them.

This is where the beauty of utilitarianism and evil consequentialism is made clear. John Stuart Mill in his book Utilitarianism, stated, “In the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth, we read the complete spirit of the ethics of utility. To do as one would be done by, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself, constitute the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality.”

According to Bentham and Mill, utilitarianism is hedonistic only when the result of an action has no decidedly negative impact on others”.

It is not inevitable that greater good must be achieved at the cost of smaller evil. Greater good is possible while avoiding or ameliorating the evil done to others to achieve it.

Attitude that justify consequentialism come from lack of understanding.

It is this understanding, which did not take into account the declared motive of the perpetrator, but based on what the victim knows by living with them in the context of the events, actions and personal destines, that enable the poor to disregard the expressed motive and to base their understanding of the situation on things they have come to know about the human beings they are dealing with.

It is this type of understanding that produces the most Obstacles to human integration, unity and peaceful co-existence and must be recognised and appropriately placated and sufficiently informed for peace to reign.

It enables a man to disregard what his opponent says about his motive and to generate a plausible and understandable alternative motive, in view of what he knows about human beings and the society on which to base his position.

Unless we have the skills to address this kind of understanding, reconciliation and compromise are often impossible and people become entrenched in their positions and conflict becomes intractable.

It creates a situation where the strong will win, leaving victims who recent him and who must wait their time and chance to avenge the injustice.

This is how the seeds of intractable conflicts are sown and watered, and why dictators kill their enemies and keep killing as many as possible because they know that a single enemy, giving sufficient time, will take revenge.

This type of dynamics is currently being played out between the many interest groups taking part in the Nigerian national conference. The mistrust that exists is essentially due to lack of the type of understanding.

People need to accept that sometimes, the good we want to do will have terrible consequences for others and will be the legitimate reason, why they will hate us. People who pay the price of our goodness will hate us.

For another instance, just because we believe that homosexuality is a sin does not justify the injustice of discrimination and persecution against homosexuals.

They will rightly feel discriminated against, irrespective of the reason for their discrimination and persecution.

What they would want is for persecution and discrimination to stop and not necessarily for the perpetrators to change what they think about them, but for whatever they think not be regarded as justifiable reason for the injustice meted against them.

This is what all discriminated people want and the reason why people who some believe are in the wrong have the audacity to fight those who think that they are in the right.

Those who fight against discrimination are right, irrespective of the morality of their position, because there should be no reason for discrimination in any society that believes in justice as fairness and equality of all before the law.

The perpetrators cannot hide behind the law because when a law is discriminatory, it is unjust and gives people who are discriminated by it the moral right to protest against it in anyway and manner they can afford and justify.

Tyrants are good at using the law to perpetrate injustice. The law was used in apartheid South Africa and currently, Israel uses it against the Palestinians and Pakistan against Christians.

Therefore, if one believes that there should be no reason for discrimination, then religious beliefs cannot provide sufficient reason for it and any discrimination based on religious beliefs is very wrong, unjust and should be unacceptable in a civilised, enlightened and fair society.

From this, it is clear that things like race, gender sexuality etc., on which people often anchor their discrimination, cannot provide sufficient reason for what should never be justifies.

Therefore they have to approached, understood, grasped and actualised by acquiring a cultural faculty to comprehend the different positions of all and what needs to be done to achieve harmony and peaceful co-existence.

However, a situation whereby people seek to justify what the victims of their actions say is unacceptable, tyrannical, oppressive and abusive, no matter how noble the motive of the perpetrators.

As Carl Jasper would say, whoever has no eyes cannot practice histology and I would add, whoever is unwilling or incapable of conceptualising what confounds him and representing them vividly in his mind cannot gain understanding.

Therefore such people should not be in positions of authority where they would be making decision on behalf of all. This is because they are incapable of conjuring up in their mind the way the different people who would be affected by their decision would feel.

In other words they lack empathy, that necessary quality that enables us feel what others may be feeling by gaining entry into their own emotional shoes to understand why it be hurting them and what it feels to wear a shoe that is hurting and attempting to achieve what we expect of them.

In addition they fail to give the liberty and dignity of all equal consideration and may be prone to singling out individuals or groups for special treatment in other to secure their favour, when they should not.

It is in attempt to be fair to all, that the West has decriminalised homosexuality, support fight against racism and pursue equality of all under the law.

They have recognised that prejudice is a primitive human trait, which can be brought under control through enlightenment.

In a way, this is what religion wants to achieve by appealing to all to love their neighbour as themselves. By referring to a neighbour, Jesus was making it clear that it can be anybody and do not have to be someone of the same gender, ethnic group, sexual orientation, race or religion, but any other human being, who we are in contact with.

He simply said; love your neighbour as yourself. Not more, not less. In other words, do not discriminate against others and endeavour at all times to treat others how you would like to be treated if you were in their situation. This is understanding.

Eke Eke


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