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‘We’ and ‘they’

While in the past we used to consider ourselves more as part of a community (family, village community, tribe or religious community), more and more people now see themselves more as an individual than as part of a group. And it looks as if this process of individualization, worldwide, is not finished yet.

With this development in mind, it is surprising to see how much misunderstanding, division and aggression is nowadays associated with the fact that apparently not everyone is yet fully capable (or ready) to become their own individual human being. Which is understandable, because being or becoming an individual human being is not merely a pleasant or positive experience: loneliness, uncertainty and fear are side effects of individualization.

These side effects can evoke the desire to feel "safe" and be part of a community again. And so we can see all over the world how people - fuelled by an atmosphere of uncertainty and division – go astray: they try to become part of 'we’ by submerging others to ‘they’.

You see that with the ‘we’, of the anxious Germans, opposed to ‘they’, Syrian refugees and women-assaulters;
or the ‘they’, Saudi Sunnis against the ‘we’, Shiite Iranians;
or the ‘we’, democracy-and-prosperity-spreading Americans against ‘them’, the incomprehensible Chinese-planning-to-control-the-whole-world.

Every time people are not judged on their individual abilities and attributes, but on the assumption that they are part of a group, we actually take a step back in the evolution of man. We are on our way - by trial and error - to become free, autonomous individuals and that can only be reached by facing others: open and curious, full of interest in the other and their individual human-being.

Anyone who can see that the future lies in that direction, will stay as far away as possible from any division between 'we' and 'they'.


John Hogervorst

January 2016

John  |  2016 01 18  |  Permalink  |  Share


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