You ain’t different
This is a guest post from Trevor Perry.
Humans are a fascinating species. We are tribal by nature, with a strong need to belong. This can be a blessing and a challenge. As unqualified as I am in cultural sociology, I have been a silent observer of human nature for all my years and today, I get to offer my perspective. Agree or disagree with me, we need more conversations about human nature.
In the cultures I have lived, children are raised in tribes. Their tribes might be family, school friends, church, sports teams, etc. They strive to belong to one or more, sometimes with disastrous results. Often, at some point, children decide they need to be “different” from one of those tribes, resulting in some form of unusual behavior. When I was younger, I had a few friends who decided to become goth. Some dressed like punk rockers. Some started smoking to please some group of other “wayward” children. As long as you were “different”, you had found some sense of purpose, some sense of independence, some sense of self.
It took me a long time to understand that this desire to be “different” was simply a rebellion against some authority, be it parents, teachers, or other tribe leaders. This rebellion did not result in the individual being “different” in themselves, rather, they now belonged to a new tribe, where they were the same as the other tribe members.
In these current times, this has evolved into an interesting social media phenomenon. So many social media posts appear in my feed with a declaration that the poster is “different”. I am never sure of the cause of this desire, but it seems to be fruitless when you are claiming the same thing as hundreds of other social media posters.
From these observations, humans seem to have both a desire to be different and to belong. These two characteristics would, on the surface, appear to conflict. I plan to spend more time learning about this phenomenon, but for now, I have a different question.
With such a strong desire to be different, why are people so scared of other people who are different?
This might be people of a different race or culture. It might be people who are differently abled, or differently gendered. It works all ways, but there is a common theme – ignorance. Actually, the dictionary definition of ignorance, meaning lacking in knowledge.
Consider how you felt the first time you encountered someone in a wheelchair. Or someone deaf. Or a transgendered person who does not look like the stereotype you have in your head. Or someone who has different political beliefs than you. Someone from a different culture. How about someone who has little grasp of your own language, even though you have zero grasp of theirs.
So many people who are different. So many people who belong to a different tribe than ours. So many people who do not meet the expectations we have based on available information in our own small brain. The easy path is to fight back, with prejudice, bigotry, or even attacks. This is normal human behavior, however, with knowledge and wisdom, we can be tolerant and supportive of “different”.
I ask you to search your own heart. Find those times when you have encountered “different” and examine your own behavior. Did you run away? Did you stand up to your immediate discomfort and address the situation with care and humanity? Did you sling arrows to that “different” person, hiding behind your own insecurities and lack of self-awareness? There are many reasons we might be uncomfortable in any of these situations.
It is time, however, for us to be ONE tribe – humans all of us.
Hit reply and let me know what you think.