Application of the Critical Theory
"Human nature must be defied to accomplish human unity"
by Kevin Mowrer
Unhealthy group affiliation is a problem that affects all humanity. It is human nature to identify with a group with which one shares attitudes and experiences. When this affiliation becomes extreme, major problems can arise. A look at America's own media reveals how deeply group affiliation is ingrained in society.
Stories of modern genocide similar to Stalin's slaughter of six million Russians who opposed him and the holocaust in Nazi Germany have received little attention from journalists - because the public doesn't care as much about these stories.
Observers of this phenomenon note that the lines on the globe determine the interests of the public majority. The first response may be to blame the conglomerates that provide America with news. But when one realistically takes the temperature of America's concern for current events, one finds the mercury level does not rise significantly when the action leaves America's back yard.
If one flips through the pages of American weekly news magazines like Time or Newsweek, international news is often given about as much space as movie previews or society gossip.
The news media is involved in the free market economy, and it must appeal to the nearsighted scope of the consumer to remain financially afloat. To decry the journalists supplying this demand is merely scratching the surface of a bigger dilemma.
The root of the problem is a human weakness that yearns for affiliation with a group of people who share common experiences and concerns. If a person does not feel connected in this way, interest outside one's own scope is minimal. The only way Americans care about Vietnamese 10-year-olds working 12-hour days is if it is for a big American corporation like Nike or a famous American celebrity like Kathie Lee Gifford. As the globe becomes more and more like a village through technology, people will have to expand their sphere of vision to include those outside their culture and society. If this transition cannot be made, the promising world community of the 21st century may fizzle before the new millennium dawns.
This is not to say, however, that group affiliation cannot have positive ramifications. When a group of people pulls together to fight a natural disaster or work together to help others, mankind benefits.
Breaking away from group affiliation must begin at the root, stopping individuals from identifying themselves proudly and solely with the groups with which they share everyday life.
People identify with a variety of groups ranging from fraternities, sororities and campus organizations on a small scale to nations and races on a larger scale. Most people are enthusiastic about displaying their group affiliation by sporting Greek letters on sweatshirts or flying the Stars and Bars high above the homestead.
But group affiliation can kill. In Ireland, Protestants and Catholics have waged war against one another since the Reformation; American street gangs have turned urban streets into military zones; and in the Middle East, Israelis and Palestinians continue to add to the body count.
Though exhibiting different passions, members of these different groups still have much in common and could have united to achieve unprecedented heights neither group could reach in conflict.
The intensity of conflict can be heightened by the pride members feel when success is met. T-shirts that exhibited the patriotic slogan "These Colors Don't Run" sold off the rack while the United States kicked Iraq around in the Persian Gulf War in the same way car flags proclaiming the success of the Detroit Red Wings hockey team flew from the stores last June. Both of these cases show individuals reveling in the success of the group with which they associate, yet having contributed nothing but their support to the accomplishment.
If the world does not take measures to lessen the danger of this problem of group affiliation in all its forms, the cost will be more than living in ignorance.
The price of nationalism and group affiliation will grow until all people will be forced to be brought together and drop their reliance on their associated groups and recognize that all people have the same basic interests in their hearts.
This evaluation is a call to action. Without a majority opinion or a creed already decided for them, how will individuals make decisions and experience happiness? Individuals will have to base their bliss and choices on their own success and intellect. The majority of human beings require group affiliation to remain sane. It would be possible for a privileged few to escape the chains of group affiliation were they not shackled by traditions and those who would oppose them.
If individuals all over the world can commit to this change of mindset, media coverage will not be limited to the back yard of the reader. More importantly, citizens of planet Earth will have fewer obstacles to tackle when they fight problems like pollution, depletion of natural resources and war. By transcending nationalism and other forms of group affiliation, someday human beings can grow to take pride in affiliating with every individual in unity.
Kevin Mowrer is a Contributing Columnist at WMU Herald. This article was published in the Herald on September 8, 1997.