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The ‘othering’ of humanity, a divided world and the global rise in terrorism

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25.03.2019

Among the most pressing issues of the 21st century, “othering” and “belonging” have become common themes. These are part of the broader issues of nations and nationalism, and homogeneous identities which strive to create an “us” against “them” mentality. They require a sense of “separateness” through which our “belonging” is defined.

Who is “the other” against which almost everything in our lives is defined? This “othering”, which results in the exclusion of “others” from the realm of “us”, happens through thought control and official ideologies, policies, rules, laws and culture.

“We”, of course, have superior values and worth than the “others”, who are lesser beings with fewer rights and stand to be discriminated against by “us”. As Staszak explains, “othering” takes place through stereotypes and with a sort of reassurance “that serves to comfort the ‘Self’ in its feeling of superiority.”

READ: Muslims raise over $65,000 for Jewish victims of far-right Pittsburgh terrorist

The “other” is everything we don’t understand or do not want to understand. The “other” is different, although everyone is different; nobody is exactly the same as anyone else. Nevertheless, society often sets out to define the collective and ignore the individual. The former seeks to limit human experience by grouping humans and thus guiding our choices, and influencing our thinking and behaviour; in the process, the “other” is made the scapegoat for all of the problems and ills faced by the “self”, and provides justification for a controlled and rigid society.

Since the New Zealand terrorist attacks, I have been thinking about what it means to be the “other” and why our world is so divided. The summary of my recent research is that we live in a highly politicised world, where everything is part of a political project, from the food we eat to the choices we make; the education we receive to the words we speak. Our perceptions of people around us are also based on these politically charged ideas.

People lay flowers........

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