Experiment: Writing philosophically about a tough subject
Today was a bad news day. Terrible events took place. People murdered other people based on ideology.
I read too many articles today around the subject of the attacks. Philosophers lashing out about how even kind words of world leaders paint a picture of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Some wonder why more attention is garnered by deaths in Europe than in the Middle East. Maybe it is intentional but maybe it is subconscious. As human beings, discrimination is in our nature; We need to be able to tell the difference between people and instinctually identify danger. But the intentional ‘other’-ing of an identifiable group is what leads to violence.
Feminist thought about how women have been labeled ‘other’ may be helpful in understanding. Man is the standard and women are cast as different, separate, and unknowable. This in evident on a daily basis. In citations (Smith, 2013) is assumed to be a man. “I just don’t understand what she’s talking about” is a common theme of memes about women. Even women don’t tend to question that the male norm is what they measure themselves against. When we settle into a comfortable position, that ‘other’ is an acceptable label, we open up a space for violence. Feminist literature often identifies ‘intellectual violence’ and ‘philosophical violence’ of the everyday interactions that degrade oppressed groups. But physical violence is not far off.
I would argue that we must question our own perception of the ‘other’. Even statements like “I mourn for the people of . . . ” are built on the assumption that they are ‘other’. We should be mourning for us. We are the same. They are our people. We are their people.
Now, here is the difficult part; The people that commit these acts of violence are us as well.
The human beings that do horrific things are us. They have grown up in our society, with our governments, and our products. We are the same. They are our people. We are their people.
World leaders may subconsciously make statements that cast the perpetrators of these events as ‘other’ but they have to do this. To make any other kind of statement would acknowledge that it is our responsibility to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future by preventing it. That is incredibly difficult.
It is much easier to individualize the problem. To view our world as separate, to view other people as outside of our care or responsibility, to see only our backyard is easy. If events like this occur to ‘others’ or are done by ‘others’, then there is no immediate problem. To acknowledge that we are the same means that something needs to be done.
We are the same.
Something needs to be done.