humans could be more united than they are
commentary • 17.05.08
I'm not that interested in the idea of race or of a people: Christians, Muslims, Jews, Arabs, Americans, Russians, Blacks, Whites, Capitalists, Communists and so on to infinity. The categories into which you can be stuffed are endless. If you were to try to list all the groups in which you could be a member you would tire of the exercise long before running out of groups.
In a sense categories are in the mind. All the nations, communities, tribes, sects, clubs and cultures etc. exist every bit as much in the heads of people as they do in fact. Pointing out that categories are mostly psychological is not to demean their value. They still have substantial value. It is just that the value is internal and often contingent. To think otherwise is itself a category error.
Being a part of a group seems necessary for survival. It would certainly have been the case historically that without the tribe life would have been very precarious indeed. Material survival depended on staying close. Early societies were made up of many tribes containing fairly small numbers of people. Tribes were invariably at war with each other.
This primitive mentality has maintained throughout civilisation's advances and still manifests. On a daily basis conflicts of every shape and size proliferate. They are often this group against this other group. Jews and Palestinians have been hostile to each other for decades ostensibly over land occupation. Although it seems deeper than that. It seems rooted in hatred of difference. And yet humans are not that different to each other. Even with all the contrasts, differences are slight when compared to other life forms. Our supposedly closest relative, the ape, is so significantly different as to be a whole other entity.
I make this point to push for the possibility that humans could be more united than they are, given that their similarities hugely out-number their differences. Tribalism exists in the primal mind and was necessary for early survival. In a world where the elemental needs are increasingly taken care of then the primitive mentality associated with group identification could take more of a back seat. Not to say people would stop being grouped, just that they would not over-identify with the group experience. They would be sufficiently comfortable in themselves as individuals within the wider group of humanity.
That I am Scottish, British and European is only relevant to me as geography. It is the place I inhabit. It is not my land or anyone else's for that matter. It just happens to be where I am and where I was born as a matter of fate. The same goes for any other group or community of which I am a part. Group identification is something I do, not something I am. I am an individual within the broad human context.
The idea of a people opposed and different to another people is as dangerous to humanity as it is beneficial. We should unite and do our utmost to downplay this age-old notion.