Sunday, March 16, 2014

The creation of false hierarchies

It seems that it’s a natural tendency of human beings to create false hierarchies, placing people on levels according to their perceived importance. Unfortunately these hierarchies are usually based on material things and many times people are given status not because they deserve it, but because of titles which have somehow come to represent power and of course money.

I find it odd that people will suddenly start treating me differently when they find out that I have studied psychology. I’ve heard things like, “oh we didn’t know that you were so educated”, or “oh why didn’t you tell us that you are a psychologist?” And then suddenly they start treating me like I deserve to be listened to, and somehow my words are automatically given credibility. Many times I have wished that people didn’t find out about the degrees I studied or the work that I do. That way I would know what they really think of me, not as a so-called professional but as a human being.

People do that all the time, somehow people with professional careers have come to occupy the higher ranks of the hierarchy. This is why our travel agent was so insistent to get flight bookings for a doctor on our recent trip for umrah. While the rest of the people had to wait patiently, the doctor’s arrangements were made first priority (and no the doctor was not going there to help others it was his family umrah trip).  Likewise, professional people’s children are treated better at schools and somehow it’s believed that they naturally have higher status.

I often wonder how all this began. It just seems so ridiculously superficial to me. What prompts us to create these hierarchies based on things that don’t even matter? It seems that it’s all about the perception of power and status. Somehow going to university and obtaining a degree ceased to be about gaining knowledge and expertise, and began to be about power and status, and of course the more high paying your career is, the better.

This reminds me of when I first started university. People in first year have a tendency to ask each other what they are studying and so on. On more than one occasion I got the quizzical look when I said I was studying psychology. “But why, there’s no scope for psychology and there’s no money in it?” Was the response I’d get from some people. That was the first time I realized that studying, like many things in life, has lost its purpose and these days it’s more about earning status than it is about gaining knowledge.

Somehow people have managed to label most things in life according to these false labels of status and power. In the same way, people have created false hierarchies, placing at the top those with more “status”, “power” and not forgetting more money.

What type of hierarchy would we have though if we based it on human values, morals, etiquettes and so on? We’d probably find a reverse hierarchy, with those people who are currently undervalued right there on the top. The teacher for instance would hold a higher position than the businessman, the cleaners would be given a much higher level than what they currently occupy and of course, the mothers or caregivers would be somewhere right at the top.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying here that doctors or other professionals don’t have value. However, I believe that value should be given based on actions, and not mere perceptions of status. I also believe that people should be treated fairly and equally no matter who their parents are. The problem with these false ideas of power and status is that it takes away the true value of things and replaces it with falsity. So for instance, instead of someone wanting to become a doctor because they have a genuine need to help others, people then begin to want to study medicine because of the prestige it would bring them and that’s how the essence of things get lost.

The question I have is this- why does there have to be societal hierarchies in the first place? Why can’t people all be valued intrinsically, why do we have to have titles and labels assigned to us? Why can’t we trust that words uttered by genuine people, whether they have a degree behind their name or not? Why can’t we see beyond all the physical barriers and accept each other for who we are instead of what we are?

Sometimes the way the world has become just really irritates me, it reminds me that we are currently in battle, we are battling the forces of negativity and falsity and we cannot afford to relax and stop fighting, because there has to be some people fighting for good.

I pray that Almighty Allah helps us to see the good in others, no matter who they are, to gain benefit from those who Allah has bestowed with real knowledge, no matter who they are, and to treat everyone fairly and equally, no matter who they are. May we have respect for those who deserve to be respected, the ones who have sacrificed their lives to bring about goodness and real knowledge, and may we be of those who shun falsity wherever we may see it, Inshaa Allah!  

Image 1 from hereImage 2 from here 


  1. I agree with you Zarina. It looks like people treat people differently, depending on their place in society or their education degrees. It's what I am witnessing at work these days. High profile people are respected, when lower profile ones are treated badly. I don't understand this behaviour. It seems so wrong according to my beliefs. We are all human beings and as humans we need to be respected for who we are.
    Often people change their voice tone or the way they speak when they realize they face a manager or a cleaning lady.
    I feel like we have to keep fighting Zarina. May God help us and show us His light in each person we meet.
    Take care dear and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Ameen to your prayer Marie, and yes, some things definitely are worth fighting for, even if its difficult.

    You take care too and may you always have peace

  3. I applaud you Zarina...Not only are we battling these dark forces and ideas- we are living them. I keep telling my husband we have not progressed at all we are going way back...with all of our knowledge and developments we are so small minded :(

  4. Salma (Party of 5)

    That's so true, we fool ourselves into believing that we are progressing when in fact we are far from it. This change of thinking has to start with us, if each individual realizes the damage their ideas are doing, then real change will be able to come about.

    May Allah guide us all to always see the truth and to understand right from wrong.

    Stay well and in peace always