December 21st, 2019

Me 2012

Maybe It's Not About Me

Human beings don't have much in the way of instincts, but we do have some. We are social animals, and we act to protect members of our group because instinct says that a threat to the herd is a threat to us as individuals.  Like most instincts, it's a survival mechanism with a rational basis in reality which, nonetheless, does not adapt well to modern society. 
 
I am thinking about this today because one of the people I follow on Twitter posted a link to an article about the cruelty of certain politicians in PoliticalGroupZ and how this is a human bonding tactic: attack the out-group to bond with the in-group. A lot of the comments to the tweet were on the lines of this:
 
TwitterUser22018: 'I am not a terrible person! Why would you link to this article that says I am?'
 
But the article didn't say 'TwitterUser22018 is a terrible person.' It didn't even say 'all members of PoliticalGroupZ are terrible people.' It said that certain politicians and their teams, who are members of PoliticalGroupZ, were using cruelty as a bonding tactic. Maybe it doesn't work on all people who are in PoliticalGroupZ.  Maybe some people are members of the political group despite this and would rather it stopped.
 
Maybe it's not about you.
 
But it's interesting how many people felt that it was about them, and moreover that their reaction wasn't even 'this article's examples about A, B and C are wrong for reasons X, Y, and Z' but much closer to 'this article is mean and you're mean for linking to it.'  It's a visceral response rather than a rational one. The whole chain comes down to 'I'm in the same group with these people so I have to respond to things about them as if they're about me and it's not true about me and therefore it's just wrong entirely.'
 
As an example of 'attacks on one of my groups': I'll see articles about 'white women weaponizing their tears', using examples of white women who did something racist, then became publicly sad and upset at the backlash, portraying themselves as victims. White people in general get called out a lot for perpetuating the racism that still permeates American society. I could take these as personal attacks: I'm white! I'm not doing those racist things! 
 
Or I could just go: maybe this isn't about me.
 
Or I could think: maybe the reason I think it's about me is that I do those things and perhaps I should, y'know, stop doing it instead of defending my right to do unpleasant things, or caviling about how it's not really *that* bad, is it?
 
Of course, it's not always inappropriate to defend my group, or other members of it. I have to stand up for what I believe in. But it's good to stop and think about the reason for my reaction. And to remember: not everything is about me, and I don't need to make it about me, either.
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