Saturday, February 07, 2015

We are the good guys, right? But,wait, who are they?

Sometimes, I wish I had some kind of a tribal affiliation.  A passionate affiliation where there is a distinct us versus them.
Even as simple as rooting for "my team" versus the "other team" that I want to lose.
Or, my political party to win the elections versus the other that I want gone.
Or, if only I was passionate about my single issue!

Maybe I should rename the blog title to "A rebel without a cause."

When I was younger, I had such affiliations.  The cricket team.  The commies.  Even the Trojans!  Now, it has been years without tribal affiliations and, thus, forever I am in a party of one.  There is no "us" and "we."  Because, unlike with the rules of tribal behaviors, I don't have to prevent myself from expressing a dissenting thought.  And when that is expressed, well, I become branded as one of "them."

The older I get, the more suspicious I am of being in a herd.  I can now see a lot more than mere humor in Groucho Marx's response, "I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member."  Membership comes with more than privileges, yes, but it also seems to intentionally breed a us-versus-them.

This essay, which often has material at levels that are simply way above my paygrade, begins with a verse by Rudyard Kipling.  A verse that I am able to understand, appreciate, and agree with too:
All good people agree,
And all good people say,
All nice people, like Us, are We
And everyone else is They:
But if you cross over the sea,
Instead of over the way,
You may end by (think of it!) looking on We
As only a sort of They!
How do writers like Kipling manage to string together a few words that then get across some awesome stuff?  I wish I were like "them" ;)


Mike Hoth said...

Unfortunately for those of us who try not to become part of a "camp" of enemies, we are fighting against basic psychology. The human brain is a marvelous tool that allows us to categorize unconsciously and pull those categories up with just as little thought. Ideas such as "red means bad" or "people in trench coats are dangerous" can be helpful, although they are often incorrect.

So too do we reduce people to the categories we create. The man sitting in the dark corner who keeps staring at you is setting off red flags that our cultures teach us about, but we have already judged him on his clothing, the way he sits and perhaps even his physical appearance.

I often find myself backpedaling in a desperate effort to catch these ideas ahead of time as a religious Republican on a college campus. With those two words, I have given whoever I speak to all the information they need to condense my quarter-century of life into beliefs and practices that may not even be me!

It seems that I too cannot get my point across quickly like Kipling does, but perhaps that is because I have a 5-page paper to write and only 2 pages of meaningful things to say. Perhaps we can start a new team of people who don't like to ramble and yet cannot shut up?

lakerudyard said...

For some other examples of Kipling's talent see The Surprising Mr Kipling, available on Amazon & Kindle.

Sriram Khé said...

In the first place, you identifying yourself as a "religious Republican" student reminds me of this post from six years ago, in which I recalled students telling me in one class that I made them feel secure in my class that they didn't have to worry about letting it known that they are Republicans. I have always wondered how a 19-year old "Republican" student might feel in the office of a faculty member who has all kinds of anti-GOP cartoons and materials plastered in that space, and yells GOP-hating rhetoric. Ah, well, that is what academe is today, eh!

I know what you mean when you write that people might caricature you in a certain way if you said you are a " religious Republican." For a number of years, when asked about my religious beliefs, I said I was an agnostic, instead of the atheist that I was even then--because of the caricatures that the religious tend to have about atheists! Caricatures like that reflect an unfamiliarity with the real thing. The other regular commenter these days here might also have something to say about this. Thankfully, not being in a herd means that I am often interacting with people who might be identified with various "tribes" ... including "religious Republican" ... if only we would get out of our own tribes, right? BTW, one of the downsides with the internet is that we increasingly prefer to talk and interact only within our own tribes :(

Anne in Salem said...

Excellent poem. Well chosen.

Sriram, I must say I am shocked you did not admit your atheism, even for an understandable reason. I'll need to think on that.

People always make assumptions about others - categories, associations, caricatures - either from ignorance, discomfort, or self-protection. While I am generally comfortable with the assumptions people make about me when they learn I am both religious and Republican (few are surprised), my favorite is the shocked look that comes when people learn I was an officer in a sorority in college. Stereotypes abound in the other person's head, none of which fits me currently. I like to think I am challenging those assumptions (both about me and about sororities) and expanding the other's mind, but I also try to remind myself not to make similar assumptions about those I do not know well.

Yes, Sriram, you do belong to a tribe these days. It is a small tribe with challenging entrance rules. It is the tribe of thinkers, those willing to cogitate, ruminate, perseverate and educate themselves purely for enjoyment.

Sriram Khé said...

Oh my, that's high praise about the tribe of thinkers. Thanks!

To some extent, the generalizations are valid. As in if one were drawing from a large population and then sampling. But, we tend to confuse that large population sampling with an individual we meet and there begins the hassle. So, we will go about challenging people's assumptions on categories like "Religious Republican," and "Sorority Republican," and ... BTW, one of the public intellectuals I read is an atheist-conservative: Heather Mac Donald. Interesting combination that runs counter to "tribal" categories, right?

But, seriously, in a sorority? ;)