The toxic virus of the mind: US vs. THEM

Us

From The Toxic Myth of Us vs. Them

The human mind has a tendency to categorize people into social groups. Often these social groups can create an “Us vs. Them” mentality toward people who may be different than us in some way, whether it’s race, gender, age, nationality, culture, religion, or socioeconomic status.

This ‘“Us vs. Them” mentality is a very dangerous virus that pervades many minds on this planet. Often it is so woven into the fabric of our conditioning that many don’t even recognize it in themselves. We stop seeing individual difference within the group. Instead, we see only faceless ‘They’, which is always bad or wrong, while ‘We’ are always right.

This virus of the mind limits us, keeps us in perpetual cycles of fear and violence. We feel justified, even righteous in shouting down or shooting down “them”. Not surprisingly the ‘Us vs Them’ approach is commonly used in military training.

us_them-150x150
from Us (Us us us) and Them (them them them)

Amazingly, studies of the ‘Us vs. them’ mentality have shown that people tend to favor a group bias even when they are categorized on relatively meaningless distinctions, for example: eye color, what kind of paintings they like, or even the flip of a coin. This tells us that we can potentially separate ourselves from a certain group of people on any random and arbitrary characteristic. Therefore, everyone is susceptible to be a perpetrator and/or victims of social prejudice and ostracism, even if the only difference is a star on a tummy, like in the case of Dr. Seuss’s plain and star bellied Sneetches depicted below.

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from Us vs. Them

From evolutionary perspective ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality makes sense. We’ve evolved to perceive these social categories as during tribal times, it would be beneficial to perceive unfamiliar people as a potential threat and treat them as such for protection and security.

Today many of these social categories and stereotypes are propagated by society, tradition, and culture. We see that all the time in politics (Republicans vs. Democrats), war (Palestine vs. Israel), sports (Mets vs. Yankees), and other aspects of our culture. Even though this mentality is not relevant in modern conditions and  creates unnecessary tension and antagonism between everyone, we are struggling with getting over this toxic meme.

How can we fight this powerful virus of the mind and bridge the gap between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’?

 US-Them-300x93
From Us-Them

Steven Handel believes that first of all, we need to “become more aware of our tendency to put people into groups and create an “Us vs. Them” mentality. Then, instead of seeing people in groups, we should try to see everyone as an individual worthy of respect, equality, and kindness, regardless of what groups they may be categorized in. If you choose to associate with a group identity, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Just be super mindful of it and be cautious if that identity starts to have a negative influence on how you view other people who you don’t identify with.”

Like Steven Handel, I try to identify with everyone in some way. I believe at the core we are all human beings and want the same things in life, regardless of our race, religion or culture. We all want to know our family is safe. We all want to be loved and appreciated, have food on the table, enjoy good health. In that sense, we are all very similar and are connected as one.

we-are-all-one
From The Only Message that Matters: “We are all One”

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19 thoughts on “The toxic virus of the mind: US vs. THEM

  1. James Poling says:

    Reblogged this on slothed and commented:
    This is a great piece and something far too few people are self-aware of.

  2. devonforever says:

    Categorizing others is something the human race excels at. The vast majority of us seem to have an inbuilt urge to be accepted, to part of a group – no matter what that group is. Perhaps it comes down to the need to be safe and secure? But I think it can be quite a constricting way in which to live. I try to be aware of what I am doing when I am putting people in boxes, but I am also aware that I don’t always succeed.

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Thanks for your comment, devonforever. It is very hard to stop ‘labeling’ people and putting them in boxes – it does seem to be hard-wired in us. I doubt any of us can succeed 100%, however I believe that any effort in that direction is better than none. 🙂

  3. stoicatheist says:

    The human need to categorize is one of those vestige traits of early humans. As you correctly state, it was once a necessary survival trait.

    Even if “design” was “intelligent” you’d at least have to say it was inefficient its ability to recognize and remove character traits that are counter-productive. The more reasonable concept of evolution, on the other hand is “devoid of immanent conscious purpose and governed by its own inherent, immutable, and impersonal laws” (borrowed from atheist.org’s definition of ‘materilism’ http://www.atheists.org/about-us/aims-and-purposes) of which I have no affiliation.

    Bruce Rozenblit’s “Us Against Them: How Tribalism Affects the Way We Think” is a excellent examination of this topic that I highly recommend and I’ve begun a compilation of the topic of “Tribalism” on my blog (pardon my shameless plug).

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Thanks for your insightul comment. I don’t mind ‘shameless plugs’ at all, as long as they are relevent to the discussion. I’m looking forward to reading your compilation on Tribalism. 🙂

  4. malootka says:

    Reblogged this on truthionary.

  5. sv says:

    Reblogged this on E'n'M and commented:
    I unconsciously do this all the time ………

  6. Huw Thomas says:

    So true, so sad… so we all need to do something about it.

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Hopefully, then we’ll be able to fight off this virus. We managed to get rid of lots of viruses in our history (e.g. witchhunting virus etc.). We can surely get on top of that virus as well. 🙂

  7. Powerful post! May I reblog? Thanks and God bless you! 😀

  8. […] has a tendency to categorize people into social groups. Often these social groups can create an “Us vs. Them” mentality toward people who may be different than us in some way, whether it’s race, gender, […]

  9. arnulfo says:

    Reblogged this on The grokking eagle.

  10. […] The toxic virus of the mind: US vs. THEM […]

  11. […] The toxic virus of the mind: US vs. THEM […]

  12. Val Boyko says:

    Powerful! As long as we lose touch with our humanity and our heart there cannot be peace.
    When we label people they become them.
    When they become them they become things
    When they become things we lose our humanity
    And violence is often the next step.

    You’re right – its a great way to manipulate soldiers.
    Val

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