Many of the problems that exist in the world today are the result of one group of people feeling that another group is “less than” they are. Less important, less significant, less valuable, less worthy of being treated with justice, love, opportunity or freedom.
The world has a long history of treating immigrants and newcomers as if they are less than those who were born there, ironically even if they were immigrants themselves. For example, the Irish who immigrated to America in the 1800s treated the Italians who immigrated in the 1900s as less human and deserving than they were, only a generation before.
In today’s world, when one group of people feels another is less important than another, it becomes easy to fear, hate and persecute them. The Russians are taught to hate the Ukrainians making them deserving of invasion, conquest and inhumane treatment. This is also true of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, which has existed for generations and we see exacerbated today in the horrible violence in Southern Israel and the retributive bombing in Gaza.
Much of the violence we see at home comes from racism, class resentment, fear of one group over another and consequential hatred.
It will be difficult to overcome generations of institutional hatred between groups of people that exists in the world today. Yet, I contend that much of the world’s conflict will never be resolved unless we can do so. Elimination of hatred between groups of human beings can only be accomplished if we humbly see groups unlike ourselves as fundamentally the same. Certainly we are all physically constructed of the same biochemical substrate, and motivated by the same human emotional and spiritual needs. We are all, depending on one’s faith tradition, children of God, rendering one of the most horrific examples of fearing the “other” particularly absurd - religious persecution - whether it is Christians vs. Muslims, Catholics vs. Protestants, Fundamentalists vs. Reformers or the horrible rise in worldwide anti-semitism we see all too much of today.
The necessary shift of humans to see each other as equals deserving of love and acceptance, must begin with each of us individually. But how? In all of our relationships - romantic partnerships, between our friends and contemporaries, families, with those with whom we work and in social groups - we must treat each other with love, equality and acceptance. Sounds idealistic, I know, and it may be impossible, but we must try to bend the arc of world history in the direction of justice, and to do so we must try to treat each person in our midst with compassion and empathy, not “less than” If enough of us can do this, we can change the world.
With thanks to Dr. Lissa Rankin, the inspiration for this column.
Dr. John Monaco