Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Us v. Them, the false paradigm.

We as human beings make many separations in our philosophy, separations between people and animals, between people and people, between races, between cultures. Some separations are valid, some are less so, but we seem driven mentally to create them.

There has always been the 'us' versus 'not-us' paradigm, the us versus them rooted in early history when everything was a potential enemy or potential prey that was not part of our family. We developed instinctive aversion responses to people who were different because of the potential for carried diseases, and many other things, creating the 'uncanny valley' of robotics, where a being that appears human if it gives improper responses is less human than a corpse.

There is a large amount of research involved in humanity, and the way we separate people from each other, from socioeconomic classes, to skin colors, to the injured, sick, and dying, to criminals. Perhaps the greatest, and easiest to understand separation is that of the criminal from the society... or is it? "Those people" are no less people, and save for the plea bargain or judgment of their peers would not be considered criminal. Without the laws themselves that ensnared them, they would not be considered criminals. It is an artificial barrier, created as much by politics, as by truth.

Often, we as people create such artificial barriers to control that which we cannot understand, and refuse to attempt to try. By labeling them criminals, we separate ourselves irrevocably from them, by making the label permanent. We don't have to care about them, we can dehumanize them. The truth is, we judge most harshly those who seem... most similar to ourselves, but separated by small things.

Like the Uncanny Valley, it is that very similarity, coupled with differences that causes us to reject. It was a survival response, designed to fight plagues and problems from a distance, but it carries over into today. Our very psyche rejects that 'those people' could be like us, so we dehumanize them further, rationalize this dehumanization, and engage in their destruction, often because they... are too much like us, yet different.

Is this rational? Is it sane? We judge others by what we see within ourselves, and dehumanize and depersonalize them, to vent our own self-hatred upon them in the 'scapegoating' response. This does not change our problems, but it provides a sociological 'relief valve' that seemingly offers catharsis until our own inner problems reassert themselves. For those most rejecting of others, most rejecting of differences, most rejecting of people, it says that they have many inner problems that they cannot face. This is not a judgment upon them, but a reality which is true within all of us.

The truth of the 'us versus them' paradigm is that it is untrue. It is, and has always been... us versus us.

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