Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Destructive Impact of Our Us v Them Perspective

During this holiday season, I think it timely to address a fundamental problem in the development of human societies ... the us v them mentality.  People band together in groups ... whether formally or informally ... because they feel something in common and want to be part of a group, not alone, often to increase their security.  Unfortunately, most groups form their identity by differentiating themselves from others which quickly transforms into us v them, competition, and often conflict.  

We see the world as made up of some people like us, and a mass of people not like us who would exercise power over us to our disadvantage if they had the ability.  The impact of this dynamic is not surprising. And it has been the basis for the development of human societies for millennia, if not from the beginning of man.

Since all mankind ... regardless our race, color, religion, nationality ... descended from a common ancestor in Africa, how did this come to be?  It is probably a safe bet that the first society was a communal one, but at some point, someone in the group wasn’t happy and split off and formed another group, and then competition for resources began and conflict began.  You have the same pattern in animal societies ... they are communal within the group but often fiercely territorial and aggressive towards other like groups.

Although man has a brain and can think, as he has advanced technologically his basic brain patterns have not altered at all.  Man is today working with the same brain that first evolved 100,000 years ago.  And so he still sees himself in an inevitable security/conflict mode.

How sad, because we are all children of the same God.  Regardless what you call your God, whether that God is responsive to prayer, a moral force, or an amoral force, or whether you see the development of the world and its species as a scientific progression and survival of the fittest and that is your “God,” we all are literally children of the same God, we all stem from an original source.

And we all have something else in common ... the suffering of mankind is universal.  There is no one, regardless how rich or how poor, who does not suffer because we are all afflicted with feelings of insecurity.

What a different world it would be if everyone felt that everyone else in the world was one with them and vice versa.  How different it would be if we followed the moral prescription of all religions to do unto others as you have them do unto you.  What if we gaged our every action by the impact it would have on others, and if others were in any way harmed we would cease or alter our actions?

There would be no war, there would be no poverty, there would be no lack of access to \quality education or quality medical care.  There would still be people who were richer or poorer, but the extent of inequality would be greatly reduced.

Who do I blame most for this continuing cancer on the soul of humanity?  The world’s major religions.  They are the force that has perpetuated more us v them feeling and violent conflict than any other force over the millennia.  Even when the conflict wasn’t religious, they have stepped up to support their nation states or communities in aggressive actions against others.

Yet the major religions are the principle holders of moral authority in the world.  They could, with a united voice, change this dynamic or at least begin the process of changing the dynamic.  They should be able to rise above their claims to exclusivity and embrace the equality of all religions as well as those who profess no religion..

I know that this will never happen.  Historical forces and our habit-energies would overwhelm any attempt to change this societal dynamic.  Nevertheless, this is what the world needs and I pray that a voice, or voices, rise to proclaim this truth and further peace on earth.