There is a well-researched phenomenon in social psychology called In-groups and out-groups. We all have built into us an “in-group bias” – we define ourselves in terms of social groupings and are quick to “other” those who do not fit into our group.
I’m sure there is a lot of solid reason for why we, as a species, needed to hone this capacity to scan for whether the person in front of us was “either with us, or against us” – as is said in political communication.
There is also solid evidence, however, that this in-group bias also has within it, the seeds of extremism, terrorism and genocide. Barbara Coloroso has documented this movement from small acts of harm to mass scale murder in her important book “Extraordinary Evil: A Short Walk to Genocide”.
I notice this impulse to “other” another most strongly in the political arena. I need to hold myself back from believing Trump, for example, is “not like me.” Luckily, I have a friend who is a Trump supporter and my more personal contact with his approach, through her, keeps me pushing up against my in-group bias. Everyone else I know “thinks like me” – we are of one “in-group.” My relationship with her is an outlier relationship – although she used to be “one of us” (central/left-leaning).
So there we have it. As much as I want to be open and free from bias – I have them as much as anyone else. All I can hope is by keeping this tendency in my awareness, I can prevent myself from going too far down the road of “enemification” (making an enemy of those who do not think like me).
To throw in another twist, how do we stay in a human place, seeing the other in the other-group as friend, and yet disagree? I am deeply concerned that on the political scale, we don’t seem to have the same standards of human dignity & respect that is starting to happen in workplaces. In the public institution workplaces where I mediate, there is a growing collective agreement that treating each person with dignity & respect is a bedrock principle for how to disagree.
I wonder what it would be like to expect this same principle in politics? Not in a way that vilifies anyone who may have violated the principle of dignity & respect – because we then engage in in-group bias – they did bad, they are the enemy and I am here in this “good person” group. But in a way that stands for dignity & respect with dignity & respect?
Can we start a movement: Respect in Politics – R.I.P. – or Rest in “Peace”
What do you think?