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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Impersonal Is Defeating The Personal In America

On our last date day, the wife and I saw the movie Gifted. The basic plot of the movie consisted of a contest between the personal vs. the impersonal. Will not spoil the movie by saying which one wins, but we should note the conflict because this is what our nation is going through.

The war between the personal and the impersonal in our nation is being fought on two fronts. Martin Luther King Jr. observed the first front when he, during his speech against the Vietnam War,  told us that we are a thing-oriented society rather than a person-oriented society. According to King, being a thing-oriented society means that we value gadgets, profits, and property rights are treated as being more important than people.

The second front on which the personal and the impersonal are slugging it out could be seen in several cities in our nation today. The May Day celebrations brought out this second front. That front isn't necessarily political, though politics are included here. Rather, this second front consists of the ever increasing tribalism in our nation. As our loyalty to our own groups grows, our objectivity in seeing both our own groups' faults and the other groups' merits decreases until we see no faults in our own groups and no possible contributions being made by the groups we oppose. Thus, we can speak down to the people from those other groups and treat them as being less than ourselves. And we do that in the name and the glory of our tribe.

The reason why this second front is more evident on a day like May Day is because political/economic ideological tribes, which are Capitalists and Socialists, often confront each other in the streets.  Nothing is gained while each group simply yells derogatory comments at the other. In fact, I told a counterprotester

that the greatest threat to our nation is that we don't listen to each other. And that means that our groups compete to see who can control the nation. And while we can easily see the members of our own groups as people, it is getting more and more difficult to see the members of the other groups the same way. This tribalism can revolve around political ideology as was demonstrated today on May Day. But it can also be based on national identity, language, religion, a particular theology within a religion, and ethnicity.

With tribalism, as group loyalty grows, the more we canonize the members of our own group and the more we minimize the humanity of those from other groups. Because we don't see other groups as having any merit or anything to teach us, we act as if they don't deserve to be listened to. We silence them. And that is because we have dehumanized them. Yes, we recognize the personal that exists in those who belong to our own groups. But we don't do the same for those from other groups. Our group loyalties enable us to see those from other groups as being less than ourselves, less than human in some cases.

To show that the impersonal wins in tribalism, just reflect on how the verbal exchanges between two opposing groups have escalated. We saw this during the election, and many saw it during May Day. Each side was only trying to insult the other side enough to get under their skin, to make them mad. Why? Because while we allow the personal  to soar within our own group, we feel justified in silencing those from all other groups whom we believe to have nothing to contribute to either us or the general public. Sometimes the depersonalization of the other simply consists of simple verbal abuse. At other times, it can escalate to physical abuse. In either case, the goal is clear. Make sure that the other group(s) are marginalized in society.

The result of this tribalism is that groups compete to rule over all others. That eliminates the need to listen to, cooperate and collaborate with each other. And in trying to rule over all, the needs of many outside one's own groups are overlooked and neglected.

Allowing tribalism to help the impersonal win over the personal can be just an offshoot of the impersonal beating the personal when a society is more thing-oriented than person-oriented. We should note that Martin Luther King Jr had said that while we are more thing-oriented than person-oriented, we will have to deal with racism and war. In either case, we are minimizing the humanity of people whether it is people in general or those who belong to groups that oppose our own. Is it any wonder when the people in those opposing groups return the favor on us?

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