• Sue Steiner

‘Us Against Them’ in time of Trumpism


‘Us Against Them’ in times of Trumpism

And the Destruction that Follows 

This blog’s origin and the name came from celebrating diversity: Why A Multi-Colored Life? 

If you are anything like me, you have had it up to here with the negative, divisive and destructive environment our current politics have created in the USA.  My intent is not to add more gloom and doom to your newsfeed.  I actually began reflecting on the topic of division vs speaking out as a way to give more direction to my own actions.  I really do not want to react on a gut level anymore- even though my gut is screaming at me to do so!!  I should rephrase that.  I no longer want to respond in a reactive manner.  I want to respond in a pro-active manner.  I want to respond from a place of positive change and not from a ‘dragging down’, name-calling and blaming manner.  I DO want to be civil.  I DO want to speak out.  I do want to advocate for others.  I DO want to voice my concerns over our current administration.   What I don’t want to do is create more division, more name calling, more blaming, more creating an ‘other’ in which to project my dissatisfaction on.  What do I mean by an ‘other’? How does one create an ‘other’?

An ‘other’ is a group of people classified in any number of ways- by social class, geography, race, nationality, religion, language…. or even something as mundane as their favorite sports team, if they ride a motorcycle or even the color of hair, or height or hairstyle…. or what clothes they wear or their accent …..  or the street they live on…. employment status or political party … or any other of the million ways in which humans group other humans.  We all do it.  We (collectively, as in all of us) subconsciously group people into categories in our minds.  This is a very ingrained, human trait that was derived, inherited or evolved possibly for survival reasons.  If we learned to recognize our ‘tribe’ maybe our chances of survival increased.  This is called the Social Identity Theory.

However it started, it is not always a help to us now.   A built-in bias is created each time a group of people, large or small, is identified or labeled as the ‘other’.  This means every time we create distinctions between people, whether due to political views, race, nationality, gender, sexual identity, cultural, religious beliefs, we also create an ingrained bias in our minds.  Granted, we will likely never be able to eliminate this habit of human nature but we don’t have to let it take root in our thinking and run rampant in our discussions and decision making.  We can be aware this is a part of human nature and critically think thru our assumptions about people groups. 

How do I to counter my own bias? 

  1. Be aware it is there.  Be aware you are not immune to creating an Us vs Them dynamic.  

“stereotyping (i.e. putting people into groups and categories) is based on a normal cognitive process: the tendency to group things together. In doing so we tend to exaggerate: 1. the differences between groups 2. the similarities of things in the same group.” 1
Know that you may not even know your own motives (which counters the above) Underlying Causes to Our Behavior, The Elephant in the Brain, TED Talk by Robin Hanson
  1. Question Your Own Assumptions.  Broaden Your Perspective.  We all live in a social sphere.  Find ways to get out of your social ‘bubble’.  Travel if possible.  Read.  

  2. Practice Empathy,  Practice Listening, Avoid Blaming, Name Calling, Find Common Ground.  – In conflict resolution, it is often said one should listen to understand rather than listen to respond.  Here are more conflict resolution skills.  http://www.edcc.edu/counseling/documents/Conflict.pdf  

  3. Tell Your Story.  No one can argue with your own experience.  Telling your story and how you got to where you are is helpful.  Also, know that your experience may not make it true for someone else because they have a different starting place then you do.  For example, you may have worked hard all your life and were able to take yourself from a poor situation to something better.  ‘Working hard’ may not be all that is needed for another person because there are a lot of variables and influences at work in what may have elevated you and oppresses someone else.  Your story is still important to tell but may not apply to someone else’s situation exactly.  What telling your story does is enable people to find common ground, feel empathy toward another and can make a policy, belief or assumption personal and not abstract.  

~~~~~~~

I am by far not an expert on this subject.  I am just an artist… but one of the gifts of being an artist, I believe, is the ability to shift perspectives easily and to ‘see’ many options when others may view things very black and white.  I write this because I need to learn more about this myself and writing this was helpful in that respect.  I also think that is always good to find a balance whenever you can and the 2 extremes of the left and the right in political views have more in common in destructive ways.  I am trying to check myself in not thinking in extremes and hope this encourages you to do the same.  I have included some links and resources below if this piqued your curiosity in ways you can make a difference.  

Some Resources:  

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/top_10_strategies_for_reducing_prejudice

https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2014/07/incorporating-social-identity-theory/ Social Media and Social Identity Theory https://psychologenie.com/social-identity-theory-explained-with-everyday-examples

https://www.newslaundry.com/2018/04/21/why-we-tend-to-hate-the-others-robbers-cave-social-groups As much as competition for resources produces bias and conflict, sharing and pooling of resources towards common goals can help mitigate the same.’ http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2004-13697-016

http://policelink.monster.com/education/articles/88372-avoiding-the-us-vs-them-mentality

https://www.alternet.org/belief/us-vs-them-simple-recipe-prevent-strong-society-forming

https://www.fastcompany.com/3025378/overcoming-us-vs-them-challenges

  “ It is important to remember that
  1. Your competition is not within your company.

  2. In-fighting and power struggles don’t lead to better outcomes for your customers.

  3. Self-inflicted damages ultimately cost you in market share and profit margins.” 

https://www.theemotionmachine.com/the-us-vs-them-mentality-how-group-thinking-can-irrationally-divide-us/

(1) https://www.simplypsychology.org/social-identity-theory.html

(2)  http://www3.psych.purdue.edu/~willia55/392F/EllemersSpearsDoosje.pdf

About me: I am an animal lover but also love people.  I love cheering for the underdog.  I work in the mental health field with people in crisis when I am not painting.  I enjoy learning about behavior in people and animals, social issues and in addition to painting, love to go trail riding on my horse and be out in nature taking photographs. 

If you, are anyone you know, are interested in a pet portrait or painting of your horse, please take a look at my work and website. I would love to talk about what you have in mind. I specialize in dogs, cats, horses, horse and rider, pet and owner, farm animal and wildlife paintings. I work from small custom stall signs to Life-Sized! Find me on: Facebook https://www.facebook.com/FreeReinArtStudio/  Etsy https://www.etsy.com/shop/FreeReinArtStudio  Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/sue_steiner/  Instagram https://www.instagram.com/freereinart/  Twitter https://twitter.com/saveaface  Website: https://www.horseartonline.com

#trump #trumpism #socialidentitytheory #usagainstthem #trumpandconflict #socialmediaandsocialidentity #conflictresolution

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