Them and Us: the things that set us apart

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We humans all belong to one species, Homo sapiens, but that seems to be as far as our unity goes.

There are many groupings within humanity. Most of the time members of one group get along peaceably with members of other groups, but sometimes they don't.

It's a pity that we allow our membership to our particular group, whether that group be based on religion, race, language, ethnicity, nation, or anything else, to come between us.

A part of the problem is that we often tend to be selfish rather than working at our ethical standards and trying to be better people.

This page was started 2024/02/24
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©


The photo on the right shows three girls; the two of them on the left apparently of the Hmong Vietnamese ethnic minority, and on the right a majority ethnic Viet girl. They seem to be friends.

I saw them on the streets of Sapa in the hill country in the north of Vietnam.

Ethnicity (or race, or skin colour) is just one of the things that can set one lot of humans apart from another lot. And sometimes members of one group are not as friendly to members of another group as these girls seem to be.


What sets we humans apart from each other?
  • Language
  • Ethnicity
  • Race
  • Skin colour
  • Ancestry
  • Nationality
  • Social class or cast
  • Level of wealth or poverty
And then there's Religion: one of the greatest dividers and causes of conflict. Just some of the devisions within religion:
  • Christianity
    • Catholicism
    • Eastern Orthodox
    • Gnostic (one of many that are extinct - exterminated by main stream Christians)
    • Pretestantism
      • Anglican
      • Lutherism (There even were or are several separate Lutheran congregations in just one small South Australian town, Tanunda. It seems that, even though they were all Lutheran, they could not agree on how they should worship.)
      • Uniting Church
      • Seventh Day Adventist
      • Etcetera, etcetera
  • Islam
    • Shia
    • Sunni
  • Hinduism
    • Indian
    • Balanese
  • Buddhism
    • Mahayana
    • Vajrayana
    • Theravada
  • And more...
Why do we sometimes not be bothered by these differences and at other times allow them to set us against each other?

What got me started on this subject?

For many years I've felt, for a number of reasons, that religion has been a disaster for human society. Also for many years Israelis (predominantly Jewish) have been fighting with (predominantly Muslim) Palestinians in the Middle East. Over the few months to the time I started this page the killing of Palestinians by Israelis in Gaza has been called, with justification, genocidal. The Israeli government says that they have the right to defend themselves from Hamas murderers who killed and kidnaped many Israelis without provocation; the act that set off the present bloodbath.


Would non-violence be more productive for the Palestinians?

I've discussed on another page whether non-violent methods, as were used under Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi when Indians were pressing for independence from Britain, might be a better course than the terrorism used by the Palestinians.
Why can't they live together peacefully? The answer to that I've no doubt is complex. Both groups claim 'ownership' of the land that they are squabbling over. The Jews see it as their homeland from Biblical times, the Palestinians rightly say that they have been living there for generations.

Israelis and Palestinians are physically very similar. Both groups had their origins in the Middle East. But they are dissimilar in their religions and their languages - Palestinians are predominantly Arabic speakers, while the national language of the Israelis is Hebrew.

If they were not separated by their religions and their languages would they be more inclined toward friendship? Indeed, if they weren't separated by language and religion would they have any reason to think in terms of 'them and us'?

Selfish or altruistic?

I've written about personal selfishness as opposed to altruism on another page on this site, but on this page I should discuss whether a selfish or altruistic point of view is relevant to the 'them or us?' question.

Instead of looking at situations from a small, local, personal, tribal or national point of view, if we could try to consider it from a more generous, universal or altruistic point of view perhaps we could overcome some of the problems that arise when we look at them from a 'them or us?' point of view?

Perhaps we could try to be like Socrates? Instead of thinking as an Athenian or as a Greek, we could try to think as a citizen of the world? Instead of looking at a situation from the point of view of a Christian or a Muslim, we could try to think from the point of view of a non-Christian and a non-Muslim, even the point of view of an atheist? Try to be as inclusive in our consideration as we could?

Instead of looking at the narrow view, we could try to see the bigger picture.

Could we put aside our differences?

I have written on another page about 'dying languages'. Loosing minority languages is usually seen as sad and unfortunate, but I've pointed out that it is a step toward the unification of humanity and toward us all speaking the same language. If we all spoke the same language we'd have less reason to think of 'us and them'.

Socrates once said "I am a citizen, not of Athens or Greece, but of the world". I'm don't know the context in which this was said, but I can't help thinking that if we all thought of ourselves as members of a universal group instead of a distinct smaller group we might be more united.

I have written on another page on this site about a woman politician who went exactly in the opposite direction. Apparently she has some Australian Aboriginal ancestry, but she didn't identify as Australian or as an Aboriginal (or First Nations person), she identified with a particular Aboriginal tribal group. In this way she accentuated her perceived separation from the larger groupings, rather than her membership of humanity as a whole.

As I have written on that page, I don't seem myself as English (although my ancestry is mainly English) or Anglo-Saxon or Caucasian (while I am Anglo-Saxon and Caucasian in ethnicity); rather I see myself, like Socrates, as a citizen of the world.

References/related pages

Related pages on external sites...

Related pages on this site...



Christian virtues and values

Whatever happened to civic pride?: we are all a part of our community and should work for the good of that community

Don't just walk by, do something