One of the sad things about these economically uncertain times is the rise of a “us-vs-them” mind-set. This is where one group of people develop a hostile attitude towards another group. This can be between different groups in society, or an attitude towards minority groups, or perceived intruders into a society such as immigrants, or between whole nations. What we get is polarisation and an increased inflexibility and refusal to compromise. Parallel to this has been the rise in right wing extremism.
This also happened in the 1930’s depression, with the rise of power of racist and nationalist parties. Simplistic solutions involving the scapegoating of perceived “alien” groups became widespread, again paralleled with polices aimed to further a country’s own economic and political interests at the expense of others.
Thinking people need to pause and take note of the trend. Is this what we want? Is this who we are and who we choose to be?
At a simple, personal level what’s happening is to make another not OK for being different to us. It fails to appreciate that under the perceived difference is someone who is very like us, and at some level is us. From the understanding that you and I are One, what difference can there be?
Being different is a function of the ego, the sense of an individual “I” who has these or those characteristics, unlike others who are seen as being separate. The sense of separation is at the bottom of being “different”. A function of the ego is to separate off into polarities, and to make comparisons. It involves fear and adversarial thinking.
Economic hardship tends to foster such perceptions, since there is a fear that we will lose out unless we take certain actions against others to defend our interests, an attitude that can get reciprocated and lead to conflict.
It is striking therefore to note government policies withdrawing support from certain disadvantaged groups, while the very rich draw even further “ahead” in absolute and relative wealth terms. Countries are putting tariffs on each other’s goods. Policies aimed to halt immigration are increasingly popular, despite the economic arguments in favour of it. Public hostility to minority groups like the disabled has sharply increased. Nationalism at the expense of international collaboration is spreading, as in the decline of the European ideal, or the growth of separatist movements.
Those that have the understanding that we are all One need to challenge these trends. Meanwhile the global crisis over the climate and resources that requires massive international collaboration goes unheeded.
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