Sunday, June 12, 2011

Groups and "Others"...

I find it disturbingly paradoxical to talk about  "the other"," the Other" or "Othering". Why?

Groups form their identities by various distinctives. These are cultural differences, which define values. The problem comes when values conflict with another "group", which they inevitably will. Focusing on these differences and using them as forms of "entitlement" does not help those of a minority race to "overcome". But, it enables an entitlement mentality. Ethnic identities are a biological fact, but we don't have to promote the idea that their social status deserves special treatment! This is a nonesstialist position.

I read recently where the Academy has gone from "the other" to "the Other" to "Othering". It seems to me that "the other" is a particular individual that is different from you. "The Other" is another group, whether  defined by differences of interest or values, or a "people group", while "othering" is an action taken toward "the other", and/or "The Other". Discrimination is about distinguishing, while "othering" is looking at commonalities. Both are useful, but must be understood within the proper "frame.

Groups are dangerous to individuation, as they do pressure individuals to conform to certain standards, or values. While this is good for children, it can be deadly for adults. Deindividuation has illustrated how group behavior all too easily becomes "herd mentality" and "mob behavior". Mobs create unrest and undermine the ability to think critically for oneself. It is peer pressure, plain and simple. Such "group think" is the group's "protection", security or defense against "foreign bodies" and is useful to maintain their survival. But, "group think" can also provide a cover for oppressive government or abusive dictators to defend their "territory". In these cases, propaganda can be used to manipulate and marginalize those that ask questions, or think "outside the box". Social conformity, in these cases, create a society where oppression rules over creativity, and individuation.

An identity is formed by  one's values, which must be underwritten by liberty, not paternalistic government, that "tells you what those values MUST be", in areas that really do not make a difference in societal flourishing. Otherwise, the individual is left without the ability to choose his vocation, or compete for a particular job. Americans have valued this form of individual liberty. While it is true that not everyone has the same capacity to perform every job, it is also true that there is a wide variety of jobs or interests that should be open to the individual in a free society.

In America, the States determine many social norms or values, such as abortion, gay marriage, legal ages for marriage, and other such "standards". These "standards" are the "cultural norm" for a particular local culture. But, at the national level, diplomacy is always negotiation of differences between or among different interests, cultural values, or standards of behavior. And these are determined by international law. It does become problematic when certain cultures do not allow liberty of conscience to the individual, as to religious conviction/claims. These cultures have been given "special priviledge" or exception, to the Universal Human Rights Declaration, which is disturbing to the nonessentialist. The West has paid a high costs in tolerating "intolerance".

Both postmodernity and multiculturalism are anti-thetical to rationality. Rationality is the only way or means of finding a place for "law and order". Otherwise, laws will be conflicting and confusing, because they will defend a particular culture, while discriminating against other cultures....or individual values.. An exclusivist culture defends a particular Tradition, while an individualist defends biological propensity/genetic identity. It is probably that both social conditioning AND genetic identity make for the uniqueness of individuals across the globe. And reason, not tradition, is the only way to understand those differences.

I am only beginning to think through these issues, so I can form my own opinion, and not be led by a paternalistic "authority", that limits my ability to come to my own conclusions.

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