(((Billy))) has a great post on his blog, that I hope you’ll read, concerning human’s inexplicable subconscious ability to revert to tribalism. He noted that we seem to have a tendency to see people who are different than us as outside ourselves, which allows us to treat them and think of them as less than us, i.e. less than human. At least, that’s what I got from his post.
I was reminded of his post today while watching CNN’s reporting on bullying this morning. For those who’ve missed it, a 15 year old girl in Massachusetts committed suicide back in January after being bullied repeatedly by classmates. She was an emigre’ from Ireland, so presumably had an accent. She was picked on by her classmates over matters adults would consider innocuous, and after one incident, she went home and hung herself. Nine teenagers have been charged with various criminal complaints.
I’m no expert on this, but I can’t help but wonder if children are somehow subconsciously acting out this tribalism reflex that may or may not have been hard wired into us (e.g.. genetically, environmentally or socially). Here you have a child who clearly is a little different than the rest of the students in her school, coming from a different country, with outward signs of difference (speech). Are they treating her as one of (((Billy’s)))) “others”? Can they help themselves?
I’m just wondering if anyone else sees this sense of tribalism behind the ability of unsophisticated, immature near-adults to gang together and pick on someone they subconsciously fear? A couple of other questions come to me in this context:
- What role do you think religion or superstition comes into play, if any?
- Is there much difference between children bullying other children based on perceived differences, and supposedly rational adults demonizing homosexuals, in the process denying them basic human rights they would not deprive themselves of?
- What role do you think education can have in fixing the problem?
- Is humanism, however you define it, something that could play a role in the process?
Rather than spouting off with my own beliefs, I’d like to get a dialogue going.