Thursday, May 12, 2022

The Power of Us

 In a university course we were taught that one of the triggers for prejudice was pride in our own group.  If your group is so good it must mean they are better than other groups.   In other words a bias can lead to a prejudice.  The authors contend that we get our social identity by the groups we associate ourselves with.

We are who we identify as.  We have multiple identities, but some give more conscientiousness.  We have a need to belong, but many of us want to retain some distinctiveness and others want a higher status.  Group identity can help direct us to do things co-operating.

The inter-net has enabled more people with the same interests to find each other.  Once aware connections are much easier.

You belong to a wide range of groups, some of which are taken for granted and others that you are fervently proud about.  You have a gender, a racial/ethnic background, an education, an age, etc. etc. and all of these and many more are groups you a member of.

Sports fans allied to teams feel good when their team wins.  Fans can even accept transformations if they are winning.  A good example might be Mohamad Saleh who joined the Liverpool soccer team and subsequently hate crimes were reduced in the area.  In Iraq after ISIS impacted area there had been fear between Christians and Muslims.  Adding some Muslims to Christian teams lessened tensions and again winning helps toleration.

Apple users originally felt a little rebellious and perhaps a little smug.  I became one of them by the fact that an employer used them.  I found them easier to operate than a PC.  We notice and took pride that the Apple logo is a product on display on tv. shows and movies

Some groups seem crazy and believe things that the rest of us find bonkers.  The key to facing countervailing evidence is social support.   Erich Fromm is quoted"An illusion shared by everyone becomes a reality."

Groups often have a hierarchy.  There are no leaders without followers meaning everyone has some power Pointed out by Mark Van Vugt.

Trump told his base that they were victims.  Others were to blame.  His base group consisted partly of those who felt outsiders were to blame for their diminished circumstances while others felt that others were threatening their rising standards.   Sometimes it is easier to form a group that is against something than is for something.

Sometimes it is easier to manipulate groups.  Robert Mueller uncovered that Russians did interfere in the 2016 election by using Facebook to encourage rallies for and against Trump as they wanted to inflame conflict.  To cross a divide it is better to avoid inflammatory words and allow for interaction that lessens antagonism

Groups tend to make better decisions when people can express divergent views.  If a leader encourages all views a sense of fairness will also tend to better decisions.  Opposing views are more likely to be accepted if they can be made in the long term interests of the group.  Leaders can help make everyone feel they belong and can help guide in a positive or negative direction.

Inequality is increasing.  The richest 10% control 85% of the wealth.  The pandemic not only increased inequality, but exposed the illegitimacy of it.  We need a leader like Nelson Mandela.  It has been suggested that like Republicans have linked gun rights, abortion, racism and homophobism the Democrats could unite environmentalists and human rights advocates into one group that benefits everyone.

Climate change initially encountered a lot of skepticism, but over time gained some credibility, but lately losing ground.  Conservatives do not accept that human caused climate change is real and increasing.  Vested interests are funding misinformation and are finding a receptive audience along partisan lines.   We are all earth beings, but few of us see it that way.

Astronauts for the first time in human history got a different perspective.  They got to see the earth as a whole and realized they were a part of it.  We all are.  Some problems such as pandemics and climate change are global in nature and we can deal more effectively if we all see ourselves as earth beings.  How we get more attention to solve global problems is to expand our concept of a group.

E.O. Wilson is quoted   "The real problem of humanity is the following:  "We have a paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology."

There are many dimensions to being a group member which are explored in this fascinating book.  Their last words were to point out that the future depends on what we do as group members to make a better world.

Acknowledgements can be revealing.  The two authors did not initially like each other, but  had been assigned to the same sub basement room in the University of Toronto psychology department.  Circumstances conspired to make them find their commonalities and learn to work together (as a small group).

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