Us and Them

Having a community of like minded people is great. It’s part of what makes us human. It helps us promote things we believe in and move humanity (or at least our local society) in a direction that we choose. But as we’ve seen there is danger in community too. Just as communities can support justice and truth, they can also support bigotry and lies. Danger doesn’t come only from the latter though.

It also comes from when we start thinking of the world in terms of “us and them.”

We are just. We stand for good. People like us get vaccinated. People like us wear masks. People like us support this cause.

They are different. They are evil. They don’t do what we do or believe the things we believe know to be true.

We mythologize them, dehumanize them. That’s the dangerous part.

We forget that they are people (sacs of molecules), just like us. They weren’t born racist or ignorant; society and our broken systems made them that way. In no way should this absolve a person of wrongdoing, people need to be held responsible for their behaviors, but it’s important to recognize how the same systems that perpetuate oppression and violence, work at the other end to foster the ideologies that feed injustice on the individual level, which then contributes to those systems.

In fact I think subconsciously, or in some cases maybe consciously, we choose to outright reject people with discordant beliefs because we fear that if we actually get to know them, we might understand their perspective, or worse empathize with them. Justice is uncompromising and people with wrong beliefs don’t deserve empathy!! But there’s a difference between understanding where a person is coming from and condoning their actions and beliefs. You can learn how a person became who they are without supporting who they are.

Another reason we try to create divides between us and them is to protect our own egos. Because if we focus on the big evils done by others, then we don’t need to look at the small evils in ourselves. We put ourselves on a moral pedestal clearing ourselves of any responsibility to critically evaluate our individual actions and how what we do perpetuates hate or violence (of any kind to anyone or anything), because at least we’re not one of them.

I’m not trying to call anyone out here (if this is directed at anyone it’s mostly myself), but I will say that if you don’t think this is about you, it probably is.

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