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  • Writer's picturemonettevanlith

Moving on from ‘us and them’ to 'just us'. (#2 of 12)

When I try to imagine a pre-historic family I think of a small group of about 25 people largely biologically related, foraging and hunting for their subsistence. A band like this would at some point have united with other bands to become a tribe. Belonging to a tribe or small community provided protection from predators and hostile ‘others’. The individual families were now united with other families to form a greater whole.

Next, settlements formed around sources of water and agriculture and the domestication of animals provided surplus production which allowed for a growing population and more complex societies. Higher levels of unity were possible when city-states were formed: urban centers surrounded by villages which eventually gave way to larger organizations of society still, including empires and nation-states. Today, the world is made up of countries and territories with in most cases, internationally recognized and secure borders.

Of course this is a highly simplified summary of tens of thousands of years of a complex process of human social evolution but, what I’m trying to get at is, that humanity has evolved over time from small groups of people united around kinship, to ever larger groups united around shared interests, needs, culture, and belief systems.

The pattern that emerges throughout history is one of expanding circles of unity, with growing numbers of people inside the circle but still a presence of those who did not belong and who were considered outsiders and ‘other’. In some cases part of the identity of the insiders was based on their perception of what made the outsiders different, possibly dangerous and therefor to be feared and kept out.

If we are to continue to follow this path of human social evolution, the natural next stage of that growing circle of unity would be to embrace the notion that there is only one world and one human family.

We have already experienced the geographical and physical oneness of the world especially in recent years, and we’ve come to realize that there is no more us and them. There is only us.

‘We’re in this together’ is a phrase that is now commonplace and can be heard around the world.

As I continue to reflect on the role of the family in building a just society, I am exploring what the principles and patterns of thinking and acting are that will help remove the barriers that stand in the way of recognizing that “the earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens”*, not just obstacles we see in the world around us, but in our hearts and minds as well.

Changing the age-old patterns of thinking in terms of ‘us versus them’ can start in the family as a new generation grows up in a society that has to come to terms with this new reality as well. The family as the building block of that future society is where the attitudes and patterns of thought can be cultivated and a sense of belonging to the human family and the world, in addition to one’s own country, race or nation, can be tested out and given shape.

* Bahá’u’lláh

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