“The Other” – What Does This Mean?

Greetings and Salutations;
I recently wrote a short entry on the works of Ayn Rand, the philosophy of Objectivism that she created,  and, how this philosophy is the tap root that feeds the attitudes and actions of the  Republican Party.   For the leaders of the Party to succeed, they must ensure that their followers will be motivated to support the Party without question.   To achieve this goal,  the leaders of the Party  have worked very hard at keeping the followers of the Party  so fearful and distracted that,  even if they have the intellectual skills to look at the Party’s actions and words,  they remain distracted by the shiny things, smoke and mirrors  waved in front of them.   This ensures that the followers will not actually look at what the leaders are doing; make rational decisions about whether they support these actions; or understand how those actions will affect them, personally.  Rather,  they buy into the Party Line, and  vote for the Party no matter what arguments against such a vote are presented to them or evidence showing this is a bad idea is available..
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“Tribalism”

My first topic in this article is “Tribalism.”  For as long as there has been life on the Earth,  related or similar creatures have  clustered together in exclusive groups.  This is true for almost every species from ants to humans.  There are benefits to this,  including better  protection against the dangers of the world,  an increased probability of finding and acquiring food,  and (once we  to the stages of individual, sexual reproduction)  finding a mate to perpetuate the group.  In the lower animals,  we call it herding,  being part of a pack, and similar terms.    When we reach the developmental level of the Human Animal,  we call it “Tribalism”     This grouping of people into tribes  is typically so deeply rooted in our instincts that it is usually automatic, and  invisible to us.   This happens in spite of the evidence available that shows that such exclusive grouping is NOT the best way of dealing with the world.    Throughout history, beginning with the earliest Hominids appearing on Earth,   groups  of people have gathered together and formed a Tribal Group,  for the above mentioned reasons.  A  MAJOR objective of the tribe is its own protection against attack and destructive violence (This instinctive need to protect the tribe was one of the roots of the appearance of “The Other”,  and often shows up in today’s world as an almost insane obsession with spending huge sums of money  on enlarging the Military.   More on this later).
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“The Other”

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Now,  let us look at the concept of “The Other“.  This concept is strongly rooted in “Tribalism” and,   is a basic tool used in  philosophical  and sociological schools which examine the broad range of ways that we,  as humans,  look upon and interact with other humans.  “The Other”  has a large  influence on our building of  a self-Image.    As we mature, everyone builds a self-image  that defines us to ourselves and to the world.   Much of that self-image is generated,  and re-enforced,  by a comparison with someone else –  “The Other”.     Early on in our path to maturity,  this creation and feeding of the Self-Image is powered by our demonstrating how they are less than we are…and thereby, building ourselves up.   We all do it to some extent:
  • My dress is a LOT more elegant and well cut than hers is (So I have better taste and fashion sense)
  • I  am the champion Quarterback on the Team (so the other Quarterbacks were losers)
  • I have been to College and have a Master’s Degree in English and a Doctorate in Astronomy (so this  guy working as a stock boy in Walmart must be an idiot);
  • I own the company and make a ton of money so I am much better than the losers that work for me
 Hopefully,  as we mature,  we disconnect our self-worth from how we compare to others,  and,  grow it
  1. by traveling and continuing to explore new areas of knowledge,  so as to expand our horizons
  2. by interacting with a more diverse group of people
  3. seeking  out new experiences
  4. adding to or increasing our skill set
  5. by self-study and understanding we achieve greater self-awareness.
On this,  more positive path,  we cease to look at “The Other”  and say “I am so much better than that loser”.   Alas, none of us achieve this goal to perfection,  but with luck, work, and an increased understanding of ourselves we can move towards it.
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In the less developed members of  humanity,   “The Other” is looked upon with suspicion, and fear.   Since the survival of the The Tribe depended on its ability to gather sufficient food,  find a protected environment,  and reproduce safely,   any stranger that showed up was viewed with suspicion.  They were “The Other” – an unknown part of reality and the tribe would not have any idea if the stranger was here on a peaceful mission,  or was looking to take any, or all of their three parts of survival by force.   Today,  alas,  these same,  quite primitive instincts remain in place, and, too often, control our actions.  “Otherness” (as discussed Here ) takes many forms. The Other may be someone who is of…
  • a different race (White vs. non-White),
  • a different nationality (Anglo Saxon vs. Italian),
  • a different religion (Protestant vs. Catholic or Christian vs. Jew),
  • a different social class (aristocrat vs. serf),
  • a different political ideology (capitalism vs. communism),
  • a different sexual orientation (heterosexual vs. homosexual),
  • a different origin (native born vs. immigrant).
The primal and instinctive fears we still harbor within us  can be inflamed by invoking any of these “Othering”  factors.  Then,  the resulting emotions can be used to motivate followers to action,  and blind them to the results of those actions.   Let me take a moment to give some concrete examples from the current political world.
  1. During the campaign,  the donald undercut his opponents in the race to the Primary Election   by emphasizing their differences,  and by claiming that they were “Low Energy”, stupid,  or “Flip-Floppers” –  implying that his Republican opponents were old,  feeble, or untrustworthing,  and so unable to deal with the pressures of the Presidency.   For his one Female opponent,  he derided her for her appearance – saying with contempt that she was so ugly she could NOT possibly be considered to be presidential material.
  2. During the race to the General Election,   he exaggerated Sec. Clinton’s state of health, implying she was about to keel over dead at any moment;  He pushed the misogynistic view that it was impossible for a woman to be President;   He and his campaign staff would inflame the audience members at rallies to chant “Lock Her Up”,  in spite of the fact that after 40 years of investigations by his own party,  NO criminal acts had been uncovered.
  3. During the Campaign,  the donald said, over and over again,  that the ACA was failing,  was likely to disintegrate in a year or less,  and was a total failure.   He said  HIS plan was to cover all Americans with a better plan, and make Premiums go down quite a bit.  He also NEVER used the act’s real name –  The ACA – Rather he continually called it “ObamaCare.”  to appeal to the latent racism in the hearts of his followers.   This claim of his was, of course  a lie,  but by repeating it many times and being careful to avoid any questions on exactly HOW “his GREAT Plan”  was supposed to make these changes to the Health Insurance situation,  he distracted many Americans who were unhappy that their Premiums HAD gone up, and by connecting the ACA with “The Other”  of President Obama,   got their votes.
  4. During the campaign,  the donald KEPT pushing the theme of “Radical Islamic Terrorists” flooding into the country.  This, in spite of the fact that almost EVERY terrorist attack in America since the events of 2001/09/11  have been done by citizens of the country who have been radicalized by the war that George W. Bush dropped us into shortly thereafter,  or have nothing to do with Islam or the Middle East at all – being perpetuated by White Supremacists against people of color,  and the like.
  5. Throughout the campaign,   the Republicans in general,  and the donald in specific,  characterized the news media as “The Other”   There were unsubstantiated claims that they were lying about him.    He claimed that the responsible and ethical journalists were creating “Fake News” about him.   He even went so far as claim such falsehoods as this:
  6. “A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are — they are the enemy of the people,” Trump told the annual Conservative Political Action Conference  While praising some reporters as honest, and pledging fealty to the First Amendment, Trump claimed that “the fake news media doesn’t tell the truth.” He said reporters should not be allowed to use anonymous sources, and “we’re going to do something about it.”  These comments and many more like them over the past couple of years,  are an obvious attempt to make the Press into “The Other” –  A danger to America,  and to destroy their legitimate role in society as a watch dog of the government.

The Concept of The Other permeates other parts of society too.  The Black Lives Matter movement has been vilified since its beginnings with a variety of unsupported claims.   It was created when the institutional racism which has been growing in America for the past few decades reached a point that it appeared to the people of color in our society that it was open hunting season on them.   Having tried petitions and filing complaints about blatant racism exhibited by the government on all levels from the leaders down to the LEOs who seem to be the strike forces for that racism,  and had NO positive results from them,  people of color have taken to more energetic activism.   For this,  they have been peppered with claims of being Vandals whose only goal is to destroy businesses and loot them (in spite of the proven fact that only a tiny percentage of outside agitators in the crowds were doing this,  and a huge majority of the protestors were peaceably exercising their First Amendment Rights).   They are accused of raising a war against Whites or cops, in spite of the fact that they  NEVER say “Black Lives Matter More than Other Lives”.  They are  threatened and arrested when filming examples of police abuse of unarmed civilians,  in spite of the fact they are doing nothing wrong and are not interfering with the events.   They are called “Thugs”  and “Animals”  to the extent that many White folks automatically lock their doors when a person of color approaches their car.    The fact is that a vast majority of people of color are no different from you or me.   They are people of good will, who worry about their children, and try to teach them good values.  They are trying to do the best job at work they can,  because they take pride in doing a good job.

 

Yet…they are changed into the “Boogie Man” because the Republicans need an enemy  to focus the emotions of their followers on.   Look at the picture of the Black society in America as painted by the Republicans.    According to the donald,   all people of color live in inner city ghettos that are filthy,  deteriorating,  and filled with violence.   Added to that,  many Republicans portray them as parasites,  working only to get benefits from the Government,  so they can live the good life without working.   They portray them as sexually promiscuous,  producing many children they cannot afford to feed, and continually aborting inconvenient fetuses.   They are portrayed as criminals,  flooding the Perfect World of White America with drugs and prostitutes.

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Another example of “The Other”  is the LGBTQ community in America.   Again,  the Republicans scream out unsubstantiated claims about them,  and,  almost every legislative body from states up to the Congress has passed or tried to pass laws which remove the basic rights for Citizens as laid out in the Constitution.   Some of these laws have taken root and are still there.  Most have been thrown out by the courts.   The current tempest that the Republicans are using to stir up their followers is the amazingly silly,  but emotional,  fears over which gender bathroom that TransGender folks use to relieve themselves.   The rhetoric on this is amazing,  as it is so far out of left field that one wonders what planet the folks that produce it live on.  There are a huge number of people who claim that if trans women are allowed in woman’s bathrooms,  they will sexually molest small children.   There are some who say that allowing this will enable sexual predators who are NOT Trans  to claim “To be women today”,  head into the bathroom,  and engage in perverted acts.   This view is unsupported by reality and has NEVER been shown to have any evidence of being the truth.   The fact is that Trans folks have been using the facilities next to Cis folks for hundreds of years,  without problems.    Yet…by invoking “The Other” as a danger, the Republicans rile up their followers,  build support and get votes.

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The last example of “The Other” I will touch on here are the immigrants and migrant workers who enter America.   The Republicans have been painting every Refugee and immigrant that is not White as a possible terrorist.   They produce a continual drumbeat of fear over a flood of Muslim Terrorists slipping into the country and destroying our infrastructure, and society.   They  have pushed the idea of “Muslim Terrorist”  so hard that many of their followers believe that is one,  not two,  words.   There are approximately 1.7 billion Muslims in the world.   Less than 200,000 are the fanatical fundamentalists who are engaging in this (ultimately futile)  war to take their society back to a mythical time when the Caliphate ruled,  and all Muslims supported Religious Purity!

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The fact is that,  since 2001/09/11,  there have been a few, fairly small  acts of terrorism,  but almost all of these were not perpetuated by immigrants,  but,  rather,  were by Citizens or legal residents of the country whose basic,  fundamentalist views of reality  had been inflamed and radicalized by the treatment of Muslims  in America since that day.

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The issue of migrant workers is another use of The Other.   The Republicans  have, for as long as I can recall,   trumpeted how terrible these people who snuck into the United States to live and work are.   As the donald said in his FIRST speech when he stepped into the ring to run for the Office of President:

 When Mexico sends its people,  they are not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us.  They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

The bottom line is that the concept of “The Other” is a useful tool for the Republicans to keep their followers stirred up.   Their view of America is of a lily-white population,  and a society of bucolic peace rather like the fantasy presented in “The Andy Griffith Show”.   In order to achieve the goal of controlling their followers,  they, rather cynically,  use the concept of “The Other”  to give Americans an enemy – a Boogie Man – to hate and look upon as the Enemy of their culture.   Alas,  this is delusional on their part,  for a variety of reasons.

  • America has NEVER been a homogenous society.   it has always been a melting pot  from its origins with the Landing of the Pilgrims, until today.   The country is too big,  and too diverse to be the sort of society that much smaller countries,  such as Japan,  or Norway  exhibit.
  • They are blind to the fact that immigrants bring strength to the county,  and are NOT tearing it down.   Diversity is the best survival tool on Earth.   As a botanical  example of the importance of diversity,  let me tell this story.     Back about 40 years or so ago,  The Tennessee Valley Authority  wanted to perk up the park lands near one of their flagship dams,  so it would be more attractive to tourists.   So,  being a bureaucracy,  they had crews come in and plant hundreds of pine trees over the entire park.   This looked great for quite a while  as the saplings rapidly grew into large shade trees. But,  after a decade or so of growth,   we had a massive infestation of Pine Borer beetles.   They must have thought they were in heaven when they landed on the grounds around the dam,  as there was nothing there but pine trees.   Over a two year period,  the infestation killed off EVERY one of the pine trees.    Had the TVA paid attention to the forestry experts around the area,  they would have ended up with a mixed species forest that would have likely made it more difficult for the Pine Borers to survive – because the pine trees were far more scattered out –  and would have ensured that the appearance of the Reservation would not have been seriously impacted if the pine trees HAD been lost.
  • The fact of the matter is that the ACA, while it does have problems, was a huge step forwards for Americans.  It shielded them from many of the abusive treatments that the Health Care Insurance industry profited from in years past.   it  ended up getting 20 million Americans who had not had insurance before covered so they could have a net in case of catastrophe,  and,  could access preventative care – cutting the number of people in Crisis that showed up at the E.R.   The Republican alternative, as it is turning out,  essentially returns us to the bad old days of unregulated Industry,  promising to kick 24 million people off their coverage,  and likely causing rural hospitals to have to close their doors.   This is a moment where the folks that voted for the donald are getting a cold chill down their spine.  Many of them have just realized that the “Obamacare” they hated is the same package as the ACA – which is providing them with life-saving medications and treatments.  So…when the Obamacare goes away…they will be out in the cold again!   A perfect example of “The Other”  distracting the voters so they will not realize that light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.
  • As I have pointed out earlier,  not all Muslims are insane,  fanatical fundamentalists;   all but a tiny percentage are living life just like everyone else,  trying to rear their children to be good people,  trying to keep food on the table,  and trying to keep danger and violence out of their lives.
  • Migrant workers do not come to America with the goal of putting Americans out of work.   They come here because even the crappy wages they are paid are much better than they can get in Mexico,  which allows them to live here, and still send money back home to help their families.   They come here as undocumented workers because there is a huge demand on the part of Americans for cheap labor to pick the produce,  clean the houses and hotels,   run the restaurants,  and build the buildings here.

What can we, as Liberals/Progressives do to fight  against this use of “The Other?”   That is a difficult question,  as I have demonstrated here,  the concept of “The Other”  is a basic instinct that cannot be eliminated.   However,  each of us DOES have the ability to look at these instinctive reactions,  and choose not to allow them to control us.   So,  I suggest that ways to help push back and keep the Republicans from exploiting this instinct include the following:

  1. Continue to be aware of the basic concept of “The Other” as a tool of control,  and look at every statement from a politician with care.
  2. Be aware of the images their words generate.   If it feels like those images are of faceless,  scary enemies…step back and do not accept what is being said without question.
  3. if you run into people on Social Media who are caught up in this madness…politely and calmly interact with them,  with the goal of confronting them with the truth,  in the hopes that this will bring them to see reality again.
  4. If they are ranting about “The Other” of the day – The Muslims,  folks from the LGBTQ community,  “Libtards”,  etc,   give it a shot.   However keep in mind that  sometimes there will be no “dialogue” or possibility of dialogue.  As I have pointed out elsewhere,   dealing with Right-Wingers who are caught up in that beau monde of delusion  can be frustrating  because they seem to be immune to facts.    In that case,  I suggest stating the truth,  and moving on.
  5. When you run across a person like this,  remember it is a waste of time and energy to attempt to argue with them,  as that is like playing chess with a pigeon.   The pigeon may always lose, but, it will just strut around  crapping on the board and knocking pieces off it,   and will claim to have won anyway.

God Help Us All!

 

Bee Man Dave

(A) http://anthro.palomar.edu/hominid/australo_1.htm  –  Early hominids (5.3 million years ago)
(B) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Other
(C) https://othersociologist.com/otherness-resources/   The concept of “Otherness” as it applies to the tribe,  and how it is often controlled by political movements.
(D) http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/cs6/other.html  The other as it applies to other tribal groups
(E) http://www.yiannisgabriel.com/2012/09/the-other-and-othering-short.html  The other and “Othering” – a short introduction
(F) http://www.academia.edu/5033172/The_Construction_of_the_Other_in_Saids_Orientalism_and_Fanons_Black_Skin_White_Masks
(G) http://bigthink.com/risk-reason-and-reality/how-tribalism-overrules-reason-and-makes-risky-times-more-dangerous

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One Response to “The Other” – What Does This Mean?

  1. Kitty says:

    powerful and insightful.  Thank you.  Also your number 5 there is so true.  I see it especially with Trump supporters. They are right as long as they support Trump.  They can’t even admit he sometimes lies.  It’s very confusing and does not much good….

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