Human beings are social. Most of us form groups. The problem is that while some groups are helpful and socially beneficial, others are socially toxic, and when a socially toxic group becomes powerful enough, the greater society always suffers. Sometimes, this is immediately obvious, as demonstrated by the white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville. Other times, it’s hushed up, as I discovered, months after the fact, when the president of my college alma mater “disinvited” a conservative speaker. While I scarcely agree with the views of the speaker, I don’t believe in disinviting speakers whose views don’t match those of an institution.

At the same time, I also don’t believe in violent demonstrations. No matter what the aggrieved partisans who feel disenfranchised say, violent demonstrations have no place in a democracy, particularly since they strengthen the opposition and weaken the cause of the demonstrators. Demonstrations, yes. Violence, no.

All of this, however, also obscures an understanding of a critical aspect of the problem, and that’s a failure to distinguish between perceived groups and real groups. Skin color and ethnicity don’t often, if ever, correspond to groups. Just look at Africa today, or Europe in the 1600s, or England in the Elizabethan era. Muslims in Afghanistan are killing other Muslims of the same ethnicity and skin color.

Groups almost always have an identity based on a belief of some sort, whether it’s a religious faith, a belief that members of the group are oppressed or otherwise disenfranchised, a sense of supremacy, or some mixture of beliefs.

Groups also have two basic goals/drives: first, to reinforce the identity of all group members as part of that group and, second, to become more powerful as a way of strengthening the group and its identify. These drives motivate all groups, from gangs and drug cartels to philanthropic organizations and political parties, even religious groups.

One of the ways groups strengthen group identity is by claiming some sort of superiority — moral, spiritual, physical, intellectual, cultural, or some combination thereof, but in the case of toxic groups that “superiority” is based on stigmatizing and minimizing non-group members. The “better” types of groups trade more on some form of superiority based on service, morals, cultural uplift, or another form of cultural elitism, rather than emphasizing the negatives of non-members.

But all groups trade on their group identity in some fashion, ranging from very slightly to the point that, in some groups, nothing matters to the group but the group.

Toxic groups are the problem, not ethnicity, skin color, wealth, poverty, degree of education, or so many other “indicators” that people so easily cite.

2 thoughts on “Groupthink?”

  1. Joe says:

    I find it frightening how each of these groups is treating the other as Untermenschen.

    Simply trying to understand what is actually happening, results in my finding myself ejected from my natural tribe in the U.S.

    Russians are Untermenschen (again) because they gave Trump the presidency (no evidence).

    Anyone who did not support Hillary, including Greens and Libertarians are Untermenschen because the pre-ordained one didn’t become president.

    The Southerners are Untermenchen for not wanting their history desecrated even if the North was far from blameless. I recently read this quote from Lincoln: “I am not nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races. I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people”
    ( )

    Immigrants are Untermenschen because they steal our jobs, even if all humans on this continent are immigrants.

    People who don’t accept every diversity initiative are Untermenschen because while racism (discrimination based on phenotype) is bad, diversity (discrimination based on phenotype) is good.

    I could go on, about the despicable “white men” who provided no benefits to their colonial subjects, the evil capitalists, the bad socialists, the terrible “Muslims”, etc. But I won’t.

    I’ll simply mention the unmentionable Untermenschen who we kill every day in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, etc and whose deaths we don’t even bother reporting.

    This violence against others can only lead to war. We need to cultivate Kindness and understanding of each other. And we need to remember why we invented the art of debate to resolve difficult questions.

  2. Tom says:

    Toxic groups can be violent and as Joe indicates these groups come from many sources. To me these groups are the ‘minorities’ that exert unwelcome and often irrational restrictions on the non-minority portion of society. A consequence of democracy which is not helped nor in anyway resolved by ‘democracy not being perfect is better than anything else’ statements.
    To a degree I can understand that violence can achieve an immediate goal but how can anyone possibly feel good via abuse of anyone that is weaker than they are?

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