Defined by who you're not

I was reading the Israel Derangement Syndrome II article and got to thinking.  I don’t often speak up publicly about my feelings about US-Israeli relations, mostly because I feel like the minute I open my mouth, I’m gonna get slapped with an anti-Semitic label before I get to outline how I feel.  I encourage you to read the article before you go on with reading what I have to say, as he does comment rather succinctly on some things.

But, I actually want to pull another thread — how we identify ourselves and with what subset of humanity.

I do it.  I’ll identify as a Virginian pretty quickly, even if in the 21st century, one would think that identifying by nationality would be the important thing.  There’s even some historical precedent.  If Bob Lee hadn’t identified as a Virginian first and an American second, there’s no way in hell the Civil War would have lasted as long as it did.

And that’s kind of the point.  I think we sub-identify too much.  Sure, sure, having your tribe feels good.  I enjoy going to parties full of geeks with similar tastes and viewpoints to my own.  It’s nice not to feel like an alien.  I like going to family gatherings for a similar reason.  The shared experiences, the shared viewpoint and history is a powerfully bonding experience and it satisfies our monkey brains on a deep level.

What I wonder is if it is possible, without some sort of outside reference, to have that sense of identity with being a human being and denizen of the Planet Earth.  I don’t know, really.  Science fiction is loaded with examples of authors postulating that a shared alien enemy will be the driving force to unite human beings.

Me?  I don’t know that I like the idea of being defined in terms of what one is against or what one is not.  The problem is that I wonder if this oppositional behavior and viewpoint is necessary for in-group bonding, and without it, we’re lost in a floating sea of aloneness.

I’d like to think not, but I have to wonder.

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