What is the root of all human evil? Many claim it is money. But I think it is something else. A contagious behavior so insidious that effects all human beings to various degrees regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, presence of disability or lack thereof, social class, education level, political affiliation, and more. This behavior can be seen in the highest levels of education and the lowest levels of ignorance. It is exhibited by social justice advocates and the “Oppressors” alike. It occurs in society’s elite as well as the downtrodden.
This behavior is infectious. It spreads from one person to another like a virus. It causes a person’s thinking brain to become dormant while the person’s emotions take over. It breeds a vicious self-reinforcing cycle of hate, discontent, anger, paranoia, insecurity, revenge, indignation, righteousness, contempt, and loathing. Many times this behavior is blatantly obvious. Other times it is hidden in intellectual discussions and writings of educated advocates of worthwhile causes.
This behavior is responsible for incalculable human suffering. In its most powerful form, it has caused the deaths of millions and individual acts of unspeakable cruelty. In its milder form it crops up all over the internet in blogs, posts, memes, and commentary. The majority of those who exhibit and spread the behavior are unaware of it and the effect it has on them. They don’t see how this behavior feeds on itself. They don’t know that when you put out a little, you get a lot back in return.
This behavior is “Othering”. Othering is mentally classifying “others” of some group to be fundamentally different than yourself. Othering denies the basic humanity of the “Othered”. Othering combines prejudice, bias, objectivism, and more into a toxic mental process and supersedes rational thinking and balanced judgment.
But the true danger of Othering comes from its appeal. It has the ability to make those who use it feel be good. It justifies their beliefs. It creates camaraderie. It solidifies bonds. Othering bypasses the “thinking brain” and speaks directly to the emotional brain, thus it makes it easier to get your opinion across to susceptible listeners. Othering allows you to skip the need to use time consuming accuracy, facts, and logical statements. You get your supporters to agree with you because it “feels” right to them.
Your supporters in turn, spread your Othering message. Those with opposite opinions, react emotionally to the Othering. Many of them will have their thinking brains become dormant as they formulate their own Othering based response. Othering begets more Othering creating a feedback loop of emotional thinking. Othering creates a backlash. No matter how worthy the cause, the use of Othering provides short term satisfaction and long term harm to both your cause and humanity.
Othering can be hard to spot. But once you understand the concept, you will start to see it in many places and forms. Overt prejudice is easy to identify as Othering. It is the Othering that is hidden in the writings of the “educated” that takes a little practice to recognize.
The method to combat the evil of Othering in all its forms is to first be able to identify it. Next, it must be treated as both contagious and a contamination. That requires quarantining the piece and removing the voice of those that Other from spreading the behavior. Once you spot Othering in a post, writing, article, or speech, the chances are that Othering has inflected the entire piece. Othering is like a cockroach, if you see one, you know there are many more hidden in the shadows.
The antidote to Othering is to recognize the essential human nature of all people. Those that Other should not be Othered either. Most of them, truly believe they are helping their cause. They see themselves as passionate promoters and activists. Some consider themselves so oppressed that “the ends justifies the means” no matter what.
In my opinion, Othering is the root of human evil. Due to the harm Othering has caused throughout history, the use of wide spread Othering is not justified no matter how righteous the cause. Those that knowingly Other are short sighted and destructive to humanity at large. Those that do it unknowingly need to be educated on the error of their ways before it’ too late.