Be it an ordinary person or an organiser of socio-economic development, he, while doing many good jobs, fails to be in command for some fatal mistakes. He often wonders why others can not perceive progress and laments 'though I have done a lot, these guys see nothing, rather disparage and bring upfront only the negative issues; contenders are blind to their own faults and are very eager to perceive failures of their rivals'.
Perception is the matter of mind associated with knowledge, either proper or improper. Classical Indian philosophy accepts perception, or perceptual experience, as the primary means of knowledge. Perception is etymologically rooted in the sense-faculty or the sense-organ and can be translated as sensory awareness, an instrument in the act of knowing. There are two major forms of perception: what we perceive and what others perceive.
The true essence of personal perception and its individual bias becomes obvious in the notion of leadership. There is a tendency to believe that leaders lead and followers follow and personally are effective and efficient leaders (using current benchmark as a guide), but the intended followers may have a very different perception of what leadership should be. Leaders think we are leading well but very few people might be following them! It does not matter whose perception is 'right'. What does matter is that they perceive and believe. Perception is the truth in reality. People can perceive the same thing differently and should become an integral part of the decision-making process. However, leaders' explanations are that people of low esteem only have negative perceptions and live their lives comparing themselves to others in a futile and unrealistic way without evaluating themselves with all their perfections and acknowledging their own uniqueness and strengths. Not surprisingly, they will never feel good about themselves against such impossible yardsticks, benchmarks or thresholds, nor will they feel good about themselves.
Fact remains negative perception is not born and developed in a day or two. It grows over the years out of disappointments, denial of rights and privileges, in an environment of non-transparency and bad governance etc. Negative perceptions kill the power of positive thinking and commitment to society. It is unfortunate for any manager of socio-economic development to find bedbugs of negative perception which hinders progress, creates non-cooperation in a non-coordinating environment.
Over the past five decades, as technology has made tremendous advancement, the power of the media has also gained increased influence as more individuals are able to access real-time information with greater rapidity. Increasingly, people live in a society dependent on this information and communication to perform their daily activities. Decisions are made mostly based on the information gathered. In fact, people live in an age where there are myriad media sources and, more often than not, these sources might carry a bias on each issue. As a society, a tremendous amount of trust is expected in the media as an authority on a broad range of topics, and relying on them for accurate information on current events, entertainment, and education. The media can be a helpful and might also be equally harmful force. The inundation of repetitive messages can develop and perpetuate negative perceptions and assumptions, as well as shape public opinion and beliefs-sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly.
Seasoned diversity practitioners should stress on the importance of viewing things from different perspectives. The media can shape the attitudes about a multitude of things from what to buy, the people to admire (and those are not), the perceptions of political issues like maintaining law and order, doing distributive justice to protect fundamental rights, curbing corruption to save public fund as well as uphold moral values, to establish social issues focused on diversity facets such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and age. Members of society need to be vigilant, and ensure that they look for opposing opinions and evaluate the facts for themselves, rather than blindly accept one media outlet's or one individual's version of the "truth."
As a society, all have to put a tremendous amount of trust in the media as an authority on a broad range of topics, and should rely on them for accurate information on current events, entertainment, and education.
All should remember: generalisations, assumptions, and perceptions can all be influenced by the media, but it is up to each member of society, as diversity champion, to be diligent in encouraging the discovery and evaluation of all perspectives, opinions, and accurate information.
In terms of socio-economic development efforts in a developing economy like Bangladesh negative perceptions might create obstacles to necessary development process. Money market - banking sector in particular - is losing trust of its clients as their deposits are being laundered without appropriate and timely action. The fortunes created by mass population are seen appropriated by a handful of people. In fact, loss of human lives and properties due to mishaps and misrepresentations, disparity by mal-distribution of wealth through sheer embezzlements might create negative perceptions. Sense of national integrity and firm commitment for the overall development might lose its speed and energy if negative perceptions are created the minds of many people. Rate of return to national productivity, if diverted to petty wishes and blame game governs over all norms and practices, the pace of macro-economic growth will suffer. These are the costs of negative perceptions.
Dr Muhammad Abdul Mazid is a former Secretary to the Government and a former Chairman, NBR.
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