“Othering”


The following post was written by my eldest grandson, Joe, whose 35th birthday we celebrate tomorrow. Joe is an upstanding family man and all-around good guy. Besides being well-read, he is well educated, thinks deeply, and enjoys in depth discussions and debates.

The following is an example of Joe’s perceptive thinking and deductions on the topic of “Othering.” Some background here: no group ever sets itself up as the “One” without setting up the “other,” as different or hostile.

Be excellent to one another. Stop demonizing people simply for disagreeing with you.

A concept that I’ve learned over and over from reading history is “othering.” Over time, it has significantly changed how I think about most societal issues. For those who are unfamiliar, “Othering is a phenomenon in which some individuals or groups are defined and labeled as not fitting in within the norms of a social group. It is an effect that influences how people perceive and treat those who are viewed as being part of the in-group versus those who are seen as being part of the out-group.”

Othering has occurred throughout history along racial, religious, gender, political, and many other lines. The result is almost always violence and on a horrific scale.

As many in our society continue to draw lines in the sand over the various issues we face, I think it is important to keep in mind othering. Sometimes it is necessary to draw lines in the sand if only to protect your own mental health. I get that. But as we fracture our society into more segments, as those segments each draw lines in the sand and demonize anyone on the other side of the line, we bring ourselves closer to catastrophic violence.

We all have beliefs. Most of us unknowingly have a range of acceptable deviations from those beliefs. Anything outside that range is considered wrong. Be aware, that thinking this way means you’ve made your beliefs the measure of right and wrong. Think about the boldness of that. If you think this doesn’t apply to you, ask yourself how often you label people with different beliefs than you with a word ending in “ism” or “ist”.

It is incredibly rare that one side of a societal issue is wholly in the right and the other wholly in the wrong.”

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