May 2, 2009
Them and Us
It seems there is an “us” vs. “them” mentality everywhere you look, sports, business, schools, countries, religion, gender, ethnic backgrounds, politics, and even lifestyles. The "us" always think they are superior to the "them". There is even a song by Pink Floyd titled “Us and Them”. The lyrics say “Us, and them. And after all we're only ordinary men” (Pink Floyd, 1973). Despite the fact that it is true we are all ordinary men, “us” versus “them” permeates all parts of the globe. This tendency to believe that “us” is superior to “them” is called ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism happens when one culture or nation thinks they are superior and places itself on the top of an imagined hierarchy of cultures and nations and then assigns other cultures and nations a lower place on the imaginary scale. The belief that one nation is better than the other is formed by beliefs and tradition carried on into the population generation by generation until it becomes a commonly held belief that they are superior and have always been and always will be the best. Ethnocentrism is learned (Levinas). It is created through culture and most people don’t even realize how or why they began to think the way they do. It is not unusual for a person to consider that whatever they have been taught to believe is correct.
Philosopher Emmanuel Levinas spent years researching the theory of “the other” which is the “them”. He says that a person's definition of the “other” is part of what defines himself. This theory has been used in social science to understand the processes in which some societies and groups exclude those groups that they do not think fit into their society (Levinas).It is no surprise that the theory of “the other” has made an impact on literature. Following the tragedy of September 11, 2001, American’s collectively became the “us” and we soon went to war with the “them”. Author Judith Butler, wrote a series of...