Inbred thinking @1000speak #1000speak


Dog in charge

I’m not really sure where I will go with this post. The 20th of each month looms large in my mind these days, ever since Yvonne and Lizzi set up the 1000 Voices for Compassion and I wondered what I would write about. Several things have been churning around this last month and I feel there is a link in there that I would like to divine.

To start, the title. Inbred. I have written a fair bit this past week or so about Dog and other dogs I have been privileged to live with. Ditto cats. One common feature of all of them has been their mixed breeding. Even that sounds too planned; they are happy coincidences of types that give them a robustness that is both appealing and satisfying. They certainly aren’t pedigrees. If once upon a time, when a particular trait was essential to a successful working dog, inbreeding was understandable I don’t see it today – or at least I’d like to see the evidence that this sort of inbreeding is justified.

No one argues (do they? that we should allow inbreeding within prohibited degrees in humans – even first cousins marrying seems mental to me (even if my cousins are delightful, of course) – yet we continue to tolerate it in dogs and cats and other domesticated animals.

And yet, and yet, if we humans generally chose out breeding partners more widely, and wisely, we still inbreed ideas. We condone narrow-minded thinking. Yet that leads to prejudice and bigotry.

But before you think I’m about to become holier than thou, I need to be honest. I can easily fall into narrow minded thinking and stereotyping. Indeed it is inherent in the human condition.

I follow a delightful blog – Autism Mom – where I learn an enormous amount about how AM aims to become the best parent she can be to her son, who is on the autism spectrum. I met her and her family when they visited London recently and it was delightful.

One post, preparing herself and her son for their trip to the UK caught my eye. The Navigator (her son) was concerned about the Brits laughing at his American accent. She went through this with him, using the analogy of walking their dog and someone wondering about whether they might clean up – check out the post here, it makes great reading. In the post she included this chart


AM’s chart

Often, a lack of understanding based on a lack of knowledge leads to the last three categories. Often, it is easier to stereotype. Often we have to. The world is a confusing place, full of new experiences or at least new versions of similar experiences. Our brain has to process an enormous amount of information and make decisions that impact our behaviour. It has to make a whole range of assumptions, just to allow us to cope. It has to stereotype. Someone walks towards us. It’s night. The road is empty. We don’t know them. We need to be aware. We need to make a few assumptions. The same person, in day time in a  crowd and we make different assumptions.

It doesn’t take too long to realise where this is going; how this can easily lead to prejudice and bigotry. It is at the crossover point where we need to train our conscious minds to step in. I am pretty certain we all know of occasions where we have allowed our minds to wander into stage four. That is entirely natural even if we might feel rather annoyed, maybe even disgusted by our thinking.

The important point is that, having thought the thought we dismiss it. We consign it to junk. Because we need to be aware of how our minds will work if left unchecked. And if we, as adults, need to do that consciously we need to help those in our charge to think and see clearly when such traps present themselves.

Small children explore, test and learn. They are utterly plastic, able to pick up new languages and behaviours in extraordinary ways. But we all know that, soon enough, learning is not so instinctual – we develop habits, we begin to understand codes of behaviour. We needed to, as animals, to stay safe. We had to read warning signs.

But now? We are the dominant species; there are no natural predators we cannot effectively control other than ourselves. And yet those hard-wired reactions are still there, and if we are not aware, we allow the brain to misuse them.

We do that by closing our minds to differences, to alternative ways of being, of thinking, of loving and living.

Reading Autism Mom, meeting the family and I begin to understand and accept the differences that follow. I understand what is stimming and how it has nothing to do with inappropriate behaviour and everything to do with the processing of information and emotions in ways I would not have realised but for reading the blog. It has been a privilege to learn from their experiences.

There’s a rather good new TV series just started on Channel 4 (sorry if you are reading this outside the UK; it will come your way soon enough – if you are in the UK, catch it). It’s called ‘Human’ and it is about Artificial Intelligence. There was a debate on the radio about the conceit in the show – the theoretical danger that we will create such a  sophisticated AI that it will no longer need us and will take over. One commentator referenced the Turing Test

The Turing test is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.

In the test, the machine passes if it can fool the human that is it human, by answering the human’s questions. But a  more sophisticated test, it has been suggested is when the AI, itself believes it is indistinguishable from humans. When it has learnt to look and act as a human. That is a real challenge for AI and it is in the ability to assess and react to situations we have never encountered before that human brains are different from programmed machines. It is a great challenge for robotic science to overcome and it remains a challenge for all of us. The good news is that we have the tools to help us. We need to be open-minded.

If we fail to be open-minded; if we shut off the possibilities and fail to remain accepting of all interpretations of a given situation, we are no better than a narrowly programmed robot. We are unique. We are all different. Enjoy that fact and allow others to enjoy it too.

This post is part of the 1000 Voices for Compassion. Click here if you wish to follow the blog and see the other posts; clear here to find the FB page which you can follow.


About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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22 Responses to Inbred thinking @1000speak #1000speak

  1. I’m not actually a dog lover, but I have often been appalled at what breeders have done to some to achieve various disabling effects.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. fangboner1 says:

    I don’t understand the need to purposefully mix breeds to call it a purebred. The best dogs in my opinion are mutts.


    Yes we need to keep telling our children to keep an open mind and to never stop learning. It was something that was drilled into me, never stop learning, and it has been so very helpful.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      Thanks for the comment Erin; and you are so right about learning; took me years to realise how important constant learning and relearning is. I’ve bored the children with the idea – not sure they’ve quite got it yet!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I suppose it’s kind of selective self-preservation. Worrying, though, how easy it is …But vive la difference! Infinite variety and all that.
    Dog has the most infectious grin!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Charli Mills says:

    Inbred thoughts, what a way to explain narrow-minded thinking. I appreciate AM’s chart, too. It shows how we get into that kind of thinking. How fun that you got to meet them recently, and that you’ve taken the time to learn of another family’s circumstances with Autism. That is how compassion spreads.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Norah says:

    Great post, Geoff. I like the way you stepped through your thinking processes, making sure we were tagging right along there with you. Comparing narrow thinking to inbreeding is a great analogy. Thank you for linking to Austism Mom’s post. It is an interesting one too, though you gave a great synopsis. I really like the chart. It shows the gradation from assumption to bigotry very clearly. It would be great to use with children.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree with all the commentators here…the analogy is apt and the point, excellently made. Narrow minded thinking is inbreeding….we are sometimes so closed that we do not realize the double standards we practice.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. roweeee says:

    So much to comment on re this great post and it’s now 1 am after getting home late from buying the car, popping in on my parents and then Geoff’s finally put the cupboard back in the kitchen so I could refill it after re-doing the floor.
    Thank you for putting me onto Elizabeth’s blog. I will pop over there now to have it waiting for me in the morning.
    As a parent, being open-minded and giving people a go can be challenging…even though none of us here is hardly conventional. The trouble is that you do need to have your radar switched on for potential trouble because you want to protect your kids and not throw them to the wolves. At the same time, there are the wolves dressed up in sheep’s clothing and the reverse is also true. Somehow, you need to buy yourself a bit of time. Not easy when your child is off on there bike or disappears on their way home from school wandering off to some unknown friend’s house.
    That said, I’ve written about the need for understanding and compassion for kids who don’t fit the mold or are playing up due to difficult circumstances at home.
    Quite a challenging area. On that note, I definitely need to get to bed !


    • TanGental says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment Rowena. Children are an amazing educator mostly about ones own motivations. If I’ve learnt any one thing it is they are more resilient than you think and the older they get the less time they need but the more important that time is. Two things…


  8. Autism Mom says:

    I love this concept of inbred ideas – so many accurate and important layers in that. Brilliant!

    Thank you for the shout out and the kind words. Folks, Geoff is as delightful in person as he is in his writing. I count meeting him as one of the top highlights of our trip, even better than being within 10 feet of Prince William. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  9. roweeee says:

    Hi Geoff,
    Just wondering whether #1000 speak is doing the link up this month please? Can’t seem to find it xx Ro

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      It is Rowena. There is a pinned post on FB here’s the link. It is staying open longer for the Charleston massacre

      Liked by 1 person

      • roweeee says:

        Thanks, Geoff. We’ve been watching snippets about the Charlestown Massacre here. It was interesting because in my head I’d filed this as “America” or “American Church”. However, Sydney had it’s siege as did Paris so not just America after all.
        All of this is such a far cry from my next post. My beach walk took about 2 hours this morning as I took the camera and got chatting and walked a bit further. It was so serne, relaxing and I felt fabulous soaking in the suns rays in the middle of Winter. I can’t spend much time in the sun as my disease is photosensitive but I dose up a bit in Winter for better or worse. Even the dogs are currently outside sunbaking.
        Can’t say the same for Geoff who works in the IT bunker at Macquarie Uni.
        Yes, I do feel a tad guilty! xx Ro


  10. Annecdotist says:

    Impressive post, Geoff. we’re bound to have stereotypes, As you say, that’s the way our minds manage complex information, but we can question them, explore alternatives and, as you’ve done, meet people who challenge them. Makes the world a far more interesting place!

    Liked by 1 person

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