Monday, September 12
Monday, September 12, 2005
It's easy to confuse real survival needs with the need for group conformity and agreement. Disagreement in many groups is equated with a dangerous fragmenting force that might give an enemy advantage. Groups which keep an eye on the very long term may feel every act and every word is political, giving the group an advantage or disadvantage in relation to other groups. Group members who deviate will be regarded as pathogens and expelled.
When group divisions become hardened, it's a bit like a defective immune system response. "Anything you say cannot be trusted, and anything in me that feels compassion for you must be expelled from consciousness." Each group expels awareness of its own dark side, it's own power drive and repressed sexual or violent impulses, by attributing those traits to the enemy group. At some point, group members cease to be individuals and become expressions of the group's need for power, like the Borg.
I'd like to see a lot of people experiment with communication, exploring boundary lines between groups and seeing which kinds of language trigger the exaggerated immune response and which kinds lead to empathy and new growth. When an atheist and a fundamentalist Christian interact, which statements send walls up and which ones take walls down? Or a Jew and a Muslim. It's easy enough to find the sore spots... but it may take a lot of experimentation (and people willing to experiment) to collect the data needed to heal the political and religious divisions in the world.
There was an experiment done at a summer camp, where kids were divided into "tribes" and put into group competition. Each tribe began to regard the other tribe's members as inferior, unreliable, unworthy of friendship. Then a task was given to both groups that could only be solved by working together. Friendships soon formed that lasted beyond the camp experience. Something to explore as we go into what may become the most terrifying period of religious and political conflict in history. How much suffering and sacrifice might we avoid by working systematically and in large numbers to unearth the psychological roots of seemingly unsolvable conflict?