I was totally set up to write a blog about something sales-related this week, but I can’t get what happened at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh out of my mind. So, if you only want to hear about business from me, skip this week’s blog.
And if you are reading this line right now, thank you.
The sadness of such random violence has reached a tipping point for me.
I know we live in a 24-hour-news-driven culture, with an almost non-stop barrage of negativity. But it certainly seems to me that evil is abounding.
The pain we inflict on ourselves in this country, let alone the pain we inflict on ourselves around the globe, is simply abhorrent.
Which has me wondering – is it avoidable?
That’s where my head (and heart) keeps going.
Is it avoidable?
Can it be attacked?
Can it be diminished?
Can we make it go away?
I’m a psychology guy. I even have a master’s in it. And I am reminded of social identity theory. It’s the theory that describes “us vs. them” thinking. And I think it’s essential to the question.
It was primarily developed by Henri Tajfel, who – as a Polish Jew – had avoided the Nazis in Poland, joined the French Army, and was captured by the Germans early in WW2. (Trust me, the irony that a Jewish survivor of Nazi Germany created this theory is not lost on me.)
Basically, the theory states that we all seek social status for the group(s) we belong to in order to create/protect our sense of identity. In other words, the more status I can achieve for/with my group, the stronger my identity will feel. And if my identity feels weak, I should seek to increase the status of my group.
In a mostly benign way, this is why New York Yankee fans are so obnoxious. 🙂
If you support the Yankees, you likely feel superior to other fans (even though you never even played pro baseball). And if your team has lost to the Yankees, you likely hate their fans as well. Even though none of them played against your team.
Now, insert other group definitions. Like race, political party, gender, generation, sexual orientation, religion, etc.
And it gets toxic quickly.
We see whole groups of people attacking other whole groups of people. The words alone are vicious, bitter, and hurtful.
All in the name of making our group superior to theirs. Of lessening their status. Which ultimately leads to making our sense of identity feel better. Stronger. Grander.
But here is the twist. The need to feel superior is driven by a feeling of inferiority. Of feeling weak. Of feeling insignificant.
In other words, healthy people don’t feel the need to be superior. But unhealthy people do.
And this makes me wonder – is our real problem basically a society-wide inferiority complex? That we have reached a point where the collective is so insecure, and thus angry, that people are now acting out in groups to physically hurt others?
If this is true, this would mean that groups like Antifa and the Alt-Right are not exceptions, but the growing norm.
And the only way to fight this is to not fight it. Because attacking someone who is violently insecure will only spread their insecurity. Will only reinforce their insecurity.
I am certainly not saying that we tolerate the violence. Or the racism. Or the inequality. Or whatever evil is done in the name of “us vs. them.”
No, I am saying that Dr. King had it right.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
I mua. Onward and upward.
By Tim Ohai