Tuesday, July 04, 2006

"Them" and "Us"

One of my first blog posts was about Them. The point of the post was that everybody has a Them, and everybody's Them is different.

This post is about Us, as opposed to Them. In normal social/business activities, it's pretty easy to tell the difference between Them and Us. After all, They are Them because they're Not Like Us. Now, as the groups get bigger, it gets harder to draw the line. It's easy to tell who's one of Us in a bowling league; it's a lot harder with, say, a religion or political party. By the time we get up to the State or National level, the concept of Them isn't useful any more — it's all just Us.

From an anthropoligical point of view, the strongest sanction that a group has available to it is expulsion from the group. This converts one of Us to one of Them. Nowadays, on a State or Federal level, the only way to "expel" somebody is to kill them. The alternative of exile is not available any more, as there are no real State controls on movement, and even the most backwater countries has passport control. Jails? Prisons? They're still here. Prisoners may be isolated from non-prisoners, but they're still here. Their "Us" is now other prisoners. Eventually, most prisoners are released and go back to being one of Us, although a lot of people seem not to like this.

What brought this up was a video (via) dated 1947, from the War Department, talking abot what we would now call "diversity". It simply points out that the US is one big Us, and anybody who tries to break us up into little warring cliques is up to no good. The example used (from those carefree pre-Godwin days) is the Nazis. Remember, this was 1947, and the memories of the horrors of WWII were still very fresh.

Another thought on this fine (until it storms again) Fourth of July is the idea of Tolerance, which goes hand in hand with Diversity. Some claim that Tolerance is self-defeating, because it means that the Tolerant have to be Tolerant of the Intolerant, who can then do anything they want to the Tolerant. This is based on a bad definition of Tolerance.

Tolerance is a two-way street. The only way I can "tolerate" you is if you "tolerate" me. If you don't tolerate me, the proper phrase for what I'm doing is "putting up with", or "trying to ignore", or some such. The reason to put up with the hate-spewing Dividers is simply that most folks recognize the tricks and ignore them. Helps that the groups that the hatemongers are trying to drum up support against (gays, Muslims, Democrats) are too big to be safely charactertured. It's very easy to work up a good hate against a group that you don't know any members of. When you say "they're talking about my friend Charlie", you've taken the first vital step to seeing through the hate. Now you can ask the question, "Why are they saying that?". This way lies freedom.

So go out this Independance Day and enjoy the burgers and beer and fireworks with all your wild, crazy, and, yes, Diverse Fellow Americans. Let's hear it for Us!

UPDATE -- that link for the War Department video is dead. Another one is here. Go watch!

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