Still Committed to Us and No Them

With the remembrances today of the events of 9/11 a decade ago, I want to call out something that I think is an important part of the continued processing of that event and the path forward from it into a new century of human development. In my previous piece, “Moving Beyond Us and Them to Only Us”, I wrote about what I see as the key transition we humans are going through…

That transition is what I often describe as from “patriarchy to partnership”, or alternatively from “hierarchy to a circle of equals”. If those terms don’t resonate with much meaning for you, maybe our human societal evolution could be described at its most basic as moving from “us and them” thinking towards thinking instead that there is no “them” and there is only “us”.

Though I don’t think I know anyone that was killed or injured on that day, watching and pondering that day’s events brought great sadness to me. I had such hopes for the symbolic power of a new century, a new millennium even (arbitrary markers, I know) to inspire us to look and move forward from the massive wars (hot and cold) and genocides of the 20th century. It had felt to me that with the fall of the Berlin Wall, perhaps the last remnant of the negative trajectory of nationalism, colonialism and calculated violence as a tool of power – that culminated with World War I, leading to World War II, the Cold War, and so many systematic exterminations of people – was finally over. There was no longer “us and them” and now only “us”.

But the events of 9/11 and the subsequent events they catalyzed seemed to dash those hopes and create a new “Axis” of evil, and a new 21st century over-arching violent conflict between world-views. Lives would be lost, others ravaged by severe injuries, and so much of our resources and psychic energy would be focused on the conflict and its collateral damages rather than continuing to build the human infrastructure and understanding to move forward. It was depressing for me to contemplate that perhaps we humans were not as far along on our evolutionary path as I thought we were.

From my reading of history, just as World War I had demoralized the world to the extent of bringing on the Great Depression, 9/11 and the subsequent wars on “terror”, Afghanistan and Iraq again crashed our human civilization’s “immune system” and brought on the Great Recession.

The “Great War” was a conflict that had no compelling justification behind it (as far as I can see) and was instead a calculated exercise of organized technologically-enhanced violent statecraft leading to the senseless slaughter, particularly of an entire generation of our young men who were bravely “serving their countries” as soldiers. There were no winners of that war, only guilty or naïve losers left alive in the wreak of human civilization as we had known it. It is no wonder in my thinking that the self-perceived disability of human civilization would lead to economic collapse, genocide, “round two” of total war and a new ideological divide of the world into hostile camps. (I am at least grateful that we did not have “round three” with all our nuclear weapons!)

With the fall of the Iron Curtain and renewed hopes of a new era beyond all that, the events of 9/11/2001 and the subsequent invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq in response again took their psychic toll on all of us. The perpetrators of the carnage of 9/11 and subsequent attacks against civilian populations, were in my opinion engaged in their own cruel and calculated “statecraft” of sorts.

For years now we have lived with every new day bringing more of our courageous young people dead or maimed, and our government encouraging us to “keep shopping” despite the carnage. Perhaps many of us medicated ourselves by turning our homes into ATMs and allowing unscrupulous practitioners in the finance industry to exploit that fact until it became psychically unsustainable. Finally it all crashed with the “Great Recession”, nearly a century after the “Great War”, but not an unrelated legacy of that earlier conflict. 1914 to perhaps 2014 (hopefully), a hundred year story arc and a lesson hopefully learned.

Again from my earlier piece…

Looking at “us and them” thinking in our human history, it was all about how we divided people up by age oar gender, clan or tribe, and later by more abstract concepts such as race or nation. However the dividing was done, there was an in-group within which there was at least a degree of mutual respect and care surrounded by outsiders that generally engendered fear. To mitigate that fear, often the in-group would define itself as somehow privileged or otherwise superior to the outsiders and justified in exercising a degree of separation from and control over (including violence against) those outsiders.

I am hoping that we can at least begin to be done with this! I for one am ready to accept that there are no “them”. The religious extremists, the jihadists, and the tyrannical regimes are all “us”… and we have to come to grips with that!

Easy for me to say… since I have not been personally and deeply wounded by loss of family, others close to me, or the entire ancestry that I am born from, in these cataclysms, and really don’t have the proper “standing” to speak. There is still so much justice and restoration that still needs to take place, the continuing legacy of violence and particularly calculated and organized violence.

3 replies on “Still Committed to Us and No Them”

  1. If you’re not standing on the side of love, seems like you’re pretty much athem. Unless you see seem middle in today’s UUism’s binary approach to people.

  2. Sure…

    …UUA and many UU’s tell us they stand on love’s side (which sounds a heck of a lot like God’s side) and that puts a great many people on some other side that’s unloving I suppose. A pretty rigid us-them model.

  3. Bill… very good point, that the “side of love” implies that there is another side (presumably “hate”) that the “them” in this equation are standing on. As you say, a fairly rigid “us and them” model.

    Perhaps better than saying that you “stand on the side of love”, say “reaching out to all with love”.

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